ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
WEDNESDAY, 26 AUGUST 2020
SUBJECTS: Federal Government’s response to COVID-19; aged care crisis.
DAVID KOCH, HOST: Joining me now is Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, Kochie.
KOCH: How much of the current crisis can you blame on Richard Colbeck?
ALBANESE: Well, Kochie, somebody needs to be in charge. And his name is Richard Colbeck. This is the guy who is the Minister for Aged Care. We had the interim report from the Royal Commission at the end of last year that was titled ‘Neglect’. That was a hint as to the problems that were there in that sector. We then had the Dorothy Henderson Lodge in March. We had Newmarch House in April. Major outbreaks. Six dead in Dorothy Henderson and 17 directly attributable to COVID in Newmarch. We had reports to the Government. Still, the Government was not listening and did not put in place the mechanisms that it should have. There has been no national response here. The Federal Government fund aged care. They regulate aged care. They are responsible for aged care.
KOCH: It is a bit confusing for average Australians though because you’ve got Health Department involved in aged care as well and making decisions. Also state governments too. Isn’t it a shared blame?
ALBANESE: What we had, Kochie, was the Prime Minister stand in his courtyard way back in February and he waved around document saying, ‘This is how we will deal with this’. It explicitly said of course that aged care was the responsibility of the Federal Government because it is on a day-to-day basis. The states run the hospital system, the Federal Government runs aged care. They regulate it, they fund it. They set up the accreditation agency. It is all a Federal responsibility.
KOCH: The Prime Minister is also saying 97 per cent of aged care facilities have had no infections at all. Is that a fair point?
ALBANESE: It is a heartless comment, frankly, Kochie. And I was shocked when he said that. I think it does not pay appropriate respect to the fact that we have 335 people who were in aged care residence who have passed. And their families are grieving. We have circumstances whereby, Kochie, I know, I will never forget saying goodbye to my mum. It was many years ago. She only lived to 65. But I got to say goodbye to her. These people are saying goodbye to their loved ones on FaceTime. And they deserve better than just the Prime Minister saying that 97 per cent is okay.
KOCH: What would you do to fix it?
ALBANESE: For a start you have to look at the workforce. You’ve got to look at what the Aged Care Royal Commission said in its interim report and what they’ve said since. Quite clearly, there are just not enough workers, be they nurses and carers in these facilities looking after people. Quite clearly, there are other issues with personal protective equipment that has not been available enough. We have to have an inspection system that does not ring up the nursing home and say ‘we will be there next Wednesday’, ‘You have got a week to clean up your act and to make sure problems are hidden from us when we they’re there’. There needs to be proper regulation. Older Australians have built this country. They deserve dignity and respect particularly in their later years.
KOCH: Can’t argue with that. Anthony Albanese, good to speak with you. Thank you.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Kochie.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.