PETA MURPHY MP
MEMBER FOR DUNKLEY
ABC, CAPITAL HILL
MONDAY, 24 AUGUST 2020
SUBJECTS: Quarantine; Remote Parliament; Aged Care.
JANE NORMAN, HOST: I'm thrilled to welcome our panel, who for the first time in about six months are actually with me here in the studio, New South Wales Liberal MP Jason Falinski and Victorian Labor MP Peta Murphy - who's just been freed from two weeks in quarantine.
PETA MURPHY, MEMBER FOR DUNKLEY: You think you're excited to have people in the studio.
HOST: You're excited to see people!
JASON FALINSKY, MEMBER FOR MACKELLAR:Where did you quarantine?
MURPHY: At home in Frankston.
FALINSKI: With your family?
MURPHY: Yeah, with my husband and my two puppies.
HOST: All right. We'll get to that in one second. I just want to tell our viewers, that
FALINSKI: I didn’t mean to take over the interview.
HOST: But just for our viewers at home, we are conducting this interview under COVID-19 restrictions, one point five metres apart, and in a room that adheres to the one person per four square metre rule. But now we had the formalities out of the way, what was two weeks in quarantine like?
MURPHY: Look, it was a it was a bit of an imposition, to be honest. But so many people going through so much worse, you know, in Melbourne and elsewhere that I just don't think it's right for politicians to complain.
HOST: Yep, but you weren't actually allowed to leave your house for two weeks.
MURPHY: No, no. I mean, the people that found it the hardest, I guess they're not people, I treat them like people, were my puppies.
HOST: They just had their house to do their walks in.
MURPHY: Bert and Ernie – seven-month-old Labradors.
HOST: Oh, gosh, a lot of energy. But actually, it's going to get even harder for MPs as the year progresses because from October, Parliament’s sitting basically every second week. So, there are some who might actually self-quarantine for months on end.
MURPHY: I think actually we're going to have to very seriously look at not only the sitting schedule and thankfully we're now able to video in which is 2020 - thank goodness we can actually do that
FALINSKI: We think, fingers crossed.
HOST: Question Time is the big test.
MURPHY: I think our colleagues are better than the House of Lords.
FALINSKI: Well, have you seen the technology review? I mean, I kept falling over. I mean,
HOST: Oh, has it?
FALINSKI: The committee’s that we’ve had where we’ve used the WebEx stuff, it falls over all the time.
HOST: And why, is it the technology or is it the Internet?
FALINSKI: I’d say it’s the servers inside there. I mean, we didn't expect to be doing this. We've given priority to security.
MURPHY: I’m tempted to blame the NBN because your government messed it up.
FALINSKI: Hang on, wasn’t it Kevin Rudd's idea?
HOST: Anyway, we’ll get away from that because there is some serious business of parliament to actually discuss. But actually, just to quickly ask you about that, do you think that we do need to be looking at the sitting calendar if it is the fact that
FALINSKI: Oh, absolutely
HOST: So, to have it more spread out?
FALINSKI: It's just not right. I mean, I know there's sort of an argument, which is MPs, we're expecting other people to self-isolate for two weeks. But people who we expect to cross borders, like truck drivers, etc, we're not expecting them to self-isolate every time they do that. And I understand the reasons for that. We're actually forced to cross borders. I'm not I'm in New South Wales, but we're actually forcing people to cross borders.
And I don't think it's right on families, on friends, on members of parliament and our staff as human beings to make people isolate between every period. What you're basically asking people to do is come to Canberra for six months. And I think that's tough.
HOST: Well, it's a big ask and obviously was something you could do?
MURPHY: Six months, no, particularly not in normal circumstances where you actually need to be in your community. And again, at the moment, we're in a different circumstance in Melbourne or in Frankston, of course, because there isn't any community activity. If I needed to come here for four weeks at the end of the year to be able to be here for the budget, which is a really important sitting and other weeks, then I would I would do that.
But I think that next year is going to be a whole new ball game and there's going to have to be a lot of thought put into maybe a month would be
HOST: Like a month of sittings?
MURPHY: I mean perhaps, but we haven't talked about it. I mean, that's one of the problems. There are so many issues that need some planning. You know, sittings of parliament are just one of them.
HOST: Yep, well, we've got remote sittings done, so that's the first cab off the ranks.
FALINSKI: But the other thing I was going to say, and I'm sure, Peta's been here a year, I've been here four years. I've never seen our community need us more at the moment, especially with people trying to get out and then more importantly, get back in. We are needed in our communities more than ever. So to say to MPs, this sort of idea that we're only working when we're in Canberra at the moment in particular has never been less true.
HOST: All right. Well, let's turn to a topic that I want to talk about today, aged care. Jason Falinski, it’s a policy area that you're familiar with. Now, the government has said consistently that it put plans in place. It gave guidelines to aged care facilities. Knowing what we know now, though, more than 300 deaths in aged care facilities, do you think that you can confidently say those plans were comprehensive enough that they've actually worked?
FALINSKI: Look, Jane, that's a really complex question. And I don't want to deal with it sort of with a sound bite. But the answer to your question is, are there learnings from the plans we put in place? Absolutely. Are there international learnings or learnings from other jurisdictions? Absolutely, as well. Aged care, though, is a microcosm of our community. If you have community transmission, you are going to, unfortunately, have transmission in aged care.
We're seeing the best way to do it is to simply put an aged care facility in a bubble, not allow people in or out. The problem with that is that you've got people who are coming towards the end of their time on this planet and who want to see their friends and family. These are really difficult issues and it shouldn't be treated as a political football as it has been. And I really think we have the best aged care system in the world.
HOST: It's got falling, though. You don’t think this crisis actually shows just how frail the system is?
FALINSKI: Absolutely not, quite the opposite.
HOST: So back in April, the government was handed a report on the Dorothy Henderson lodge, the first cluster in an aged care home. And that said the biggest problem aged care facilities will encounter in the event of an outbreak is workforce. Approximately 80 per cent gets knocked out, but none of that's taken up by Victoria. Look at St Basil's, they lost their entire workforce in a matter of days when there was a COVID outbreak. So, you say there are learnings, doesn't look like the lessons were learnt.
FALINSKI: Look, I think when you say that, that's in a very difficult position. There are now, I think, over 400 surge workforce available to go in, people can say that's too little, too late. I would argue that as we went along, we made those learnings. The report from the Dorothy Henderson House actually was that there was a person working in that facility for five days who was asymptomatic and spreading it. And once it's in an aged care facility because of the nature of the facility, because of the nature of the people in there, because of the nature of the work, it's going to spread.
I don't know how to explain this any better. We have the best aged care system in the world. When you look at the rate of deaths in Australia compared to overseas examples, when you look at how we look after our citizen’s end of life, there is no nation that does it better.
HOST: Do you agree that we have the best aged care system in the world?
MURPHY: I've let Jason speak. We have an aged care system where the prime minister called a royal commission because of the failures in the aged care system. The people that work in our aged care system are heroes, they are amazing, the workers. But you can't call a royal commission because of failures and then say there's nothing wrong and you can't sit and watch what happened at Newmark House and other places and not say that what is happening now is an absolute tragedy that should have had a proper plan. Guidelines are not a plan. Money for a surge workforce that doesn't actually get rolled out properly is not a plan and it's a broken system.
HOST: OK, so we have a royal commission handing down its findings in February next year. I mean, I suppose if ever there was
FALINSKI: I'm sorry, I've got to say that royal commission, though, what they did the other week where they basically called the chief medical officer a liar where they have gone on and on and on, they have little proof, I'm not entirely sure that a royal commission coming up with policy solutions to aged care was a good idea in the first place. But even saying that
MURPHY: So your government called a royal commission and now because they don't like what it has says they’re actually undermining the royal commission and Counsel assisting.
HOST: Royal Commissions have, though, put forward policy solutions to problems in the past. And the royal commission itself has identified problems here. So if we are going to have reforms to a sector, what an opportunity to do so. So, what kind of changes do we need to see?
MURPHY: One of the real issues is insecure work and casualised workforce. And Jason talks about turning an aged care facility into a bubble. And you're right that it is so distressing for the families of people who are in there and people who are in there that they can't see each other. But one of the issues about the transmission is you can't make it a bubble because the workforce is so fractured that people can't give up shifts at work because they need them to be able to feed their family.
HOST: How do you solve the issue of having a part timers?
MURPHY: You actually have a proper plan. You don't just have guidelines and you don't say, well, actually it's our responsibility, but it's a public health crisis, so it's the state's responsibility. You know, it's a matter of putting real money…
FALINSKI: The issue is people working across multiple facilities, It's usually been within the same group also that there is a large part of the workforce, no provider, no operator of an aged care facility, wants to have people who are not full time because of the way that they need to operate their shifts, the workforce makes the choice that they would prefer to be agency nurses or agency carers.
MURPHY: That is not true.
FALINSKI: That is true.
MURPHY: I don’t know how many of the nurses you've spoken to.
FALINSKI: I have spoken to a lot of nurses. I spent 15 years in this industry.
MURPHY: Can I say something because I let you say quite a lot. I've had nurses from my electorate, you know, who are very concerned and were concerned at the very start because they were doing shifts in GP clinics or in hospitals and also doing shifts in aged care facilities because that's what they had to do to be able to earn enough money. And they are amazing people. No one thinks that anyone in the system wants people to suffer but there are clear problems in the system that have to be fixed.
HOST: And were certainly in the Newmarch House, sorry the Dorothy Henderson Lodge review, that said that the staff were distressed and frightened as I think a lot of health workers would have been. Jason Falinski, just to finish, so you don’t believe there needs to be any wholesale reform?
FALINSKI: Oh no, absolutely not. Sorry, I do not mean to suggest in any way, shape of form that the system is perfect. There’s no such thing as a perfect system.
HOST: So how would you improve it?
FALINSKI: I think that you need to undertake, I think the Humanitas system in Holland is a very good program that we need to look at and roll out. That looks at actually making aged care facilities more multi-functional than they are. We’ve now got clear evidence that co locating childcare facilities with aged care facilities has an enormous impact on the residents inside that. If we’re talking about this crisis at the moment, there are absolutely learnings, surge workforce is certainly one of them. These are facilities by the way that are experts at infection control.
MURPHY: Can we also just before we move from aged care, I know we’ve sort of alluded to it, but we do need to acknowledge the people who have died and their families. And its an absolute tragedy. And it doesn’t matter at what point in their lives they were at, their families weren’t ready for them to go and they weren’t ready for them to go in these circumstances and fundamentally that has to be the point.
HOST: I’m very sorry, we can’t even move on because we’ve run out of time. Question Time is in about four minutes time, so I’m going to have to leave it there today, thank you for the very passionate debate about a really important policy area.
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