By Tanya Plibersek

09 May 2021


SUNDAY, 9 MAY 2021 

SUBJECT: Federal Budget; COVID-19; Mother's Day.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION & SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN: Thanks very much for coming out today. We notice the Government has made some announcements regarding domestic violence and women’s health, in the days leading up to Budget. Of course any extra support in these areas is welcome. But we will have a very good look at the details. When it comes to women’s health, it’s hard to forget that this time last year the Prime Minister, when asked about women giving birth by the side of the highway because their local maternity services had been closed, boasted about the fact that he’d upgraded the highway. When it comes to domestic violence, this is a government that until just a few weeks ago wanted to ask women escaping violence to drain their own superannuation to fund their own escape from domestic violence. This is a government that has spent as much over the last eight years on government advertising as it has on domestic violence. This Prime Minister is great at grabbing a headline and then he’s all “T&Cs may apply”. He’s a classic ad man. He’s very good at the flashy headline but then you have to read the fine print afterwards to see what’s really going on. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: The Health Minister has announced almost $354 million for women’s health in Tuesday’s Budget. Is this funding to address areas that the Government has been overlooking in the past do you believe?
PLIBERSEK: Look, we haven’t seen the complete details around the women’s health package. But I have to say that a lot of what’s been announced looks to me like business as usual that any government would be doing. As we get more advice from our health professionals about new tests, for example, that become available, new medicines that become available, new treatments that are discovered - it is usual to include those in health spending. So I’m not sure that there is anything in this announcement that is highly innovative. But we will look at the detail over the next few days. So far it looks like business as usual.
JOURNALIST: Is that figure, the $354 million nationally, is that tokenistic considering that we are hearing, as you say, that this year’s Budget will have a strong women’s focus?
PLIBERSEK: We are really yet to see the details of the health package. But $354 million in a budget the size of our federal health budget is not a huge amount. It’s correct to say that.
JOURNALIST: And the Treasurer says there’s going to be more than $10 billion over four years for aged care, is that enough to fix a broken system in your view?
PLIBERSEK: Aged care spending is desperately needed, and desperately overdue. And we won’t forget that this Prime Minister was the Treasurer who cut billions from aged care, and was warned that it would prompt a crisis in the aged care sector, and went ahead and did it anyway. We welcome extra spending an aged care. We are yet to see whether this will begin to address the serious crisis that has developed in this sector.
JOURNALIST: What do you think needs to be in it to address the problems?
PLIBERSEK: We need to see better support for people to be able to remain in their own homes for longer. We know how many tens of thousands of people are waiting at any one time for homecare in their own homes, to help keep them safely at home for longer which is what most people want. We also know that residential aged care desperately needs better funding. We saw the sort of meals that are being served to people in aged care, with about half of people experiencing malnutrition. With staff who are desperate to look after the residents in their aged care facility properly, those staff feeling absolutely run off their feet because of poor staffing levels. All of this is a vital investment. And don’t forget, aged care is a federal government responsibility. We saw during the early days of COVID how badly the Federal Government has looked after residential aged care, with hundreds of people dying in residential aged care because of the concentration of COVID-19 cases in residential aged care. This is a sector in desperate need of extra investment. I think it’s worth noting that the interim report of the Aged Care Royal Commission was entitled ‘neglect’, I think that said it all. We saw horror stories about neglect in aged care facilities with untreated open wounds, the level of malnutrition, and the distressing stories of staff who told how under time pressure they weren’t able to properly look after the residents they were caring for. Of course extra investment is needed.
JOURNALIST: And just to COVID, we’ve just learned that there will be another week, that the restrictions for Sydney will be extended for another week because they haven’t found this mystery source.
PLIBERSEK: Sydneysiders absolutely have to follow the directions of our health officials. We’ve done so well in Australia because we have been disciplined, we have been kind to each other, we’ve followed the scientific advice, we’ve listened to our experts. I know it’s hard to go back into these sorts of restrictions. But it keeps us all safe. Even if you don’t worry about your own health, if you think ‘I’m young and fit and strong and I’ll be ok’, think about the health of the vulnerable people around you and please follow the instructions of our health professionals.
JOURNALIST: Happy Mother’s Day!
PLIBERSEK: Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Have you been spoilt?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think I’ve been doing more spoiling than getting spoilt. My mum is almost 90, my mother-in-law is almost 90. So we’ve been looking after the nannas and grandmas today. But I’m being taken out for dinner tonight. so that will be lovely. I know that actually Mother’s Day is a really hard day for people who miss their mums, and people who have tried to have children and never have been able to. So I think about those people on Mother’s Day as well. I think about them too. Thanks.