SUBJECTS: Aged care crisis; one year since Aged Care Royal Commission; floods in Southeast Queensland and Northern New South Wales; Labor’s policy agenda; climate change; Ukraine.
PETA MURPHY, MEMBER FOR DUNKLEY: Hi, everyone. I'm Peta Murphy, the Federal Member for Dunkley, and welcome to beautiful Frankston, which is beautiful even on a grey day. I welcomed to Clare O'Neil and Anthony Albanese here today on the first anniversary of the report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care, because it's an issue that resonates so deeply across my community. We hear, time after time, of people whose loved ones are in aged care facilities and there just aren't enough staff. So, people aren't getting fed, they aren't getting looked after as well as they should be, they're subjected to chemical restraints, and their loved ones can't get in and spend quality time with them. So, today, we're really privileged to have Michael and Gwen and Eva to tell us about their experiences in local aged care facilities. And to have some amazing nurses, and Karen, who's an educator, to tell us about how hard it is to do their job in the conditions they have to do it in to make sure that some of our most vulnerable Australians get the care that they deserve. So, thank you so much, both of you, for being part of it today. And I'll hand over to Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Peta. It's great to be back in Frankston for my fifth visit as Labor Leader to the electorate of Dunkley. And Peta Murphy is an outstanding local member who's always speaking up for her local community here. And it was a privilege to hear from workers from the aged care sector, as well as family of aged care residents, about one year on from the Royal Commission, about whether anything has really changed. We had a Royal Commission in which the interim report was titled 'Neglect'. That should have been an enormous wake-up call. It spoke about how more than half of aged care residents were literally starving, not getting the nutrition that they needed. It spoke about wounds being untended for. It spoke about the pressures that were there on the aged care workforce. And then when we had the final report of the aged care Royal Commission, it was titled 'Care, dignity respect'. Three little words. That is not too much to ask for our older Australians who built this country. Care, dignity, respect. One year on from the Aged Care Royal Commission handing down its final report, with very clear recommendations on issues like workforce, we've seen no action from this Government. We've seen a Government that fails to put in a submission to the Fair Work Commission saying that Aged Care workers should get a pay increase. Instead of that, what we have is two payments in the lead-up to an election, the last one of which will be on the eve of the election in May. One-off handouts based upon a per rata payment to aged care workers. That doesn't even seem to recognise that one of the issues in the workforce is the lack of permanency, is the lack of full-time work, is people working in multiple facilities on a part-time basis. We still have aged care residents who simply aren't getting enough support. And we have a circumstance whereby nurses aren't necessarily in nursing homes. We used to call these facilities nursing homes for a reason. Because nurses were required to provide care. And it's expected that they would be there 24/7. But we know that that's not the case. What we have as well is a Minister who still has his job. What does it take to lose your job under this Government? Richard Colbeck is incompetent. He has been shown by his own words and his own actions and his own absence to be incompetent. And yet, he keeps his job at the same time as aged care workers are working their guts out, out of their passion and their care for their fellow Australians, for vulnerable Australians in the later years of their lives. We need to do better. And on this anniversary of the Aged Care Royal Commission, we expect to see some announcements, some increase in funding, something from the Government going forward. Because that is what is required. Today, we've heard firsthand the concern that is there from aged care workers and families of residents who are doing it so tough. And we need to make sure that they're respected.
I also want to make some comments just briefly about two issues. Firstly, the floods in Queensland and also in Northern New South Wales. The positions that we've seen in Northern New South Wales where Janelle Saffin, a good friend of mine, the Member for Lismore, had to swim to safety. It just highlights exactly how tough they're doing it in the Northern Rivers. We know that Ballina is being evacuated. We know also that places like Logan, Ipswich and Maryborough in Queensland are really doing it tough. I've spoken to the Queensland State Government today. I've spoken to Federal members, including Justine Elliott, this morning as well. And they're looking after their communities. And I want to say to people to stay safe, follow the advice which is out there. I'll be visiting Queensland this afternoon and going to the Emergency Response Centre tomorrow morning in Queensland. And I just also want to say that for those people who are continuing to put their own lives on their line and take risks themselves for their fellow Australians, we're seeing the best of Australia at the worst of times, as we always do. When times are really tough, Australians show their compassion and their care for each other. And we're seeing that in Southeast Queensland. We're seeing it on the Northern Rivers as well. So, a big thank you and shout-out to those people in emergency services, the SES, to volunteers, who are helping at this time. Government needs to do more. We think that Services Australia needs to be on the ground in these communities. At the moment, what is happening is they're having to log on, they've been told you can only apply online, they need a myGov account. We need to cut through the bureaucracy and make sure that the services are given where they are needed and when they are needed, which is right now. And I'd say to the Government, they need to ensure that is the case.
On the last issue, we continue to be dismayed by the scenes from Ukraine. The people of Ukraine are doing it so tough. But they're fighting for their national sovereignty. They are fighting against this aggression from Russia, which is totally unwarranted, totally unprovoked. And the bombing of Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine needs to stop and needs to stop now. Vladimir Putin's extraordinary comments about nuclear weapons, potentially, is just completely over the top, and I think is horrific for the world. This guy just needs to back off and needs to get the message that he is isolated in the world. And that's why we support the strongest possible action by Australia, in partnership with the United States, with the United Kingdom, and with NATO, to make sure that we hold Vladimir Putin to account and that we express our solidarity with the people of Ukraine at this difficult time.
CLARE O’NEILL, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SENIOR AUSTRALIANS AND AGED CARE SERVICES: Thanks, everyone. Well, it's good to be here with you, Peta, and with you, Anthony. And we heard some incredible stories about what's happening in aged care today. And now, we're heard by Anthony and Peta, two people who, in their absolute heart of hearts, care passionately about fixing aged care in this country. We're here today, one year on from the Royal Commission handing down its final report into aged care. This was a once in a generation opportunity for reform. But I challenge you to find a single person in this country who believes that anything has changed for aged care in that last year. In fact, what we see is that things have gotten significantly worse. That is due to the Government's total incompetence in managing aged care. And it's nine years of disgraceful neglect that has created a situation where two thirds of aged care residents today are malnourished, literally starving, under the care of their own Government. But it's not just about the Aged Care Royal Commission. It's about what's happened since. We have had a vaccine rollout that's failed, a booster program that's failed, we've had a Government that has kept in place Richard Colbeck, a clearly incompetent Minister, to manage the most vulnerable people in the country in the middle of a once in 100 year global pandemic. He should resign today. That will give us some indication at least that the Government was taking this seriously. Now, we have a roadmap for reform. 148 recommendations that told us how we can fix this sector. The Government has implemented fewer than 20 per cent of those recommendations. So, we have all the evidence we need now. Nine years of disgraceful neglect, a Royal Commission cast to the side, a pandemic incompetently managed. It is absolutely clear that if the Australian people want anything to change and improve about aged care in this country, they're going to need to elect a new government.
ALBANESE: Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: The Americans have expelled Russian diplomats. Should we do the same?
ALBANESE: One of the things I have been careful to do in this is to make sure that we're not looking for product differentiation. What we're looking for is unity. Because Australians are united against the Russian aggression that has occurred in the Ukraine. So, I think that the Government should take advice. It's important that there be a single direction going forward, as there has been up to this point. So, we would support any Government action, including action against diplomats from Russia, that the Government chose to take. We have said, very clearly, it is important that this be maintained as a bipartisan issue. Because all Australians are united against this Russian aggression.
JOURNALIST: The latest UN Climate Report has confirmed Australia is suffering greater impacts of climate change than any other advanced economy. What is your reaction to that? And how would your climate plans differ from the Government's in terms of reducing the effects?
ALBANESE: Well, this confirms what we have known from countless IPCC reports over the years, that Australia is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to our geography, our climate, our topography, due to the fact that some of our icons, including the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. But we're also particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events. We know in this country that we are the land of bushfires and flooding rains, tragically. And we're seeing that played out at the moment. And that's why Australia needs to take climate change seriously. We have a circumstance whereby when the Prime Minister attended the Glasgow Summit, he gave an empty speech to an empty room. He did that because Australia is isolated with countries like Brazil and Saudi Arabia in the naughty corner. Australia needs to join the global effort to tackle climate change. The good news is, if we do that, it will be good for our economy. Our plan will reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030. It will lead to $52 billion of private sector investment. It will create 640,000 additional jobs, five out of every six of them will be in regional Australia. By taking action, we will strengthen our economy and strengthen job creation, at the same time, joining the world, partnering with governments like the Biden administration to take action. This Government are incapable of doing so. We need to end the climate wars in this country. It's gone on for too long. The only way that you can end the climate wars and take action is by electing a Labor Government. And our plan has been endorsed not just by the ACTU, but by the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, the National Farmers' Federation, and mainstream environmental organisations. This is a plan that will benefit Australia. It is at the centre, one of the key promises and commitments that we're making. But it's a commitment that we're not making on behalf of Labor. It's a commitment that we're making on behalf of Australia, and in particular, future generations. Because climate change is having an impact. It's here right now. It's not some theoretical debate done by academics in universities. And people now are feeling the impact of the additional events. That's not to say that every extreme weather event in Australia is the direct result of climate change. We've always had extreme events. But what we know from the science is that the extreme events are more extreme as a result of climate change. That's what we know. That's why we had, with the bushfires over the summer of 2019/20, we had areas which burned of tropical rainforest that hadn't burned before in the last hundreds of years. That's why we're seeing flood events more regularly. The 2011 flood events in Queensland had catastrophic consequences. As are these ones that are occurring today. They're more regular, they're more extreme. It is yet again a wake-up call from the international community, from the scientists. And we listened to the science when it came to the pandemic. And that is the sensible thing to do. We need to listen to the science when it comes to climate change.
JOURNALIST: Minister Colbeck refused to say how much has been spent on food in aged care. What is your response to that? People say they are still getting 'disgusting meals'.
ALBANESE: Minister Colbeck is showing contempt for people in aged care by refusing to be accountable for doing his job. He can't do his job. So, he should resign from it. It's as simple as that.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible). How would you change the operation?
ALBANESE: Well, it's not. It's a nonsense. That's a lie. And it should be called out as such. The fund, the Emergency Response Fund, was established three years ago, with $200 million of funding to be expended each year. And for the interest to mean that the fund would stay at around $4 billion. If you go back and look at the legislation that went through, $150 million for disaster recovery, but $50 million as a result of Labor's amendments that were carried in the Senate to ensure mitigation works and preparatory works, disaster preparedness was undertaken. Now, none of that money has been spent. None of that money has been spent. And that fund is now $4.8 billion. The Government is treating it like it's a bank account, like a term deposit, not like it's a fund to help with disaster mitigation. And that's why Labor's Disaster Readiness Fund of $200 million has been welcomed by communities, has been welcomed by the Insurance Council. And that is what we would do in Government. They took money that was allocated for infrastructure funding, put it in this fund and kept it there like it's a term deposit. It is extraordinary that the Government is saying that they couldn't have found projects worth spending money on in order to prepare for natural disasters, be they bushfires, floods, cyclones. This Minister has already had to resign once. And it's not surprising that Bridget McKenzie doesn't recognise a program without colour-coded sheets to allocate funding on a partisan basis. Bridget McKenzie is incompetent. She has engaged in a misuse of taxpayers' money in the past. And she is now treating this fund like a term deposit.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the emergency payments (inaudible)?
ALBANESE: Well, the problem is that they're not getting to people. And the Government needs to make sure it has government service agencies on the ground, making sure that the payment is available.
JOURNALIST: Do you support Australia's travel advice to Ukraine?
ALBANESE: Look, the travel advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is to not travel to Ukraine. We'd urge everyone, as we always do, to heed that advice. People need to follow the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We have very good officials in foreign affairs. And we support the following of that advice. Thank you.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.