By Tanya Plibersek

04 February 2022






SUBJECTS: Peter Dutton; Scott Morrison's aged care neglect.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us live now is the Shadow Minister for Education, Tanya Plibersek. Tanya, good morning to you.
STEFANOVIC: Well the Government is certainly sharpening its spears. What do you make of Peter Dutton's comments about yourself last night?
PLIBERSEK: Well, it's the sort of desperate stuff that I expect as an election comes closer. And I certainly wouldn't take any criticism from Peter Dutton, who cut $200 million from the Australian Federal Police when he was their minister. I'm not going to take lectures about national security from him. I think the really sad thing about this is that instead of a government that's prepared to lay out its vision for the future, or run on its record, you've got Minister Peter Dutton out there just wildly making accusations about people.
STEFANOVIC: Would you stand up to bullies if you win, ie China?
PLIBERSEK: I think people who know me know that I'm very tough.
STEFANOVIC: Not weak as water as the commentary goes.
PLIBERSEK: Well, I mean honestly, Peter Dutton, who cares what he thinks?
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Now I'm going to stay with Peter Dutton, because this morning he is said that the ADF may well be brought in to help the aged care sector. Would that be a good move?
PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it is all hands on deck at the moment. But the reason we need all hands on deck is because this government has comprehensively failed residents of aged care. And this is a government that still has 60,000 residents of aged care who have yet to receive their booster shot. And this is a government that is presiding over an aged care system that is dangerously understaffed because aged care staff are not able to rapid antigen tests when they need them, they're not able to get the personal protective equipment that they need, and many of them are off sick, or off isolating. Residents have been locked down in their room, some of them for weeks at a time. My mother-in-law's in residential aged care and my husband and I are beside ourselves worried about her. Families across the country are beside themselves worried about their family member in residential aged care. And while all of this is going on, Scott Morrison's minister is off at the cricket. This is a government that even before COVID-19 hit, had cut Labor's Living Longer, Living Better aged care measures that increased funding and improved staffing in aged care. And the result is the catastrophe that we have right now in residential aged care.
STEFANOVIC: If Richard Colbeck were to resign, would that actually change anything?
PLIBERSEK: Well, it'd show that this government knows that it's failed the residents of residential aged care. It would be at least an admission that they'd got it wrong to catastrophic effect. I don't understand why Scott Morrison is so allergic to taking responsibility. When you are the Prime Minister it is your responsibility to make sure that areas like residential aged care, looking after some of our most vulnerable Australians, are probably run. His minister has failed to do his job. It's up to Scott Morrison as Prime Minister to show some leadership, admit that, sack the minister, put someone who's interested in doing the job in place to make sure that we lift standards in residential aged care and protect people. How is it possible that into the third year of the pandemic we still don't have a system in place that has efficiently offered booster shots to every resident in residential aged care? And one other thing I have to say. The workforce in residential aged care - all of us say they are heroes, they are angels, right now this government is arguing against a pay increase for this workforce before the Fair Work Commission. How on earth do they think the operators of residential aged care will find the staff they need on the poverty wages they're paying.
STEFANOVIC: If you win in May Tanya, do you concede that you won't be able to completely fix the aged care crisis though? Because problems were so well entrenched before the pandemic.
PLIBERSEK: Well, one of the reasons we took the approach we did when last in government with our Living Longer, Living Better package was we knew there were already problems in finding and keeping a residential aged care workforce. When Tony Abbott got in, he got rid of the extra money that we put on the table and the workforce plan that we had put on the table for residential aged care. And the result of eight years of neglect is what you see right now in residential aged care. It will take some time to fix. We were up for that work when we were last in government, we will be up for that work again.
STEFANOVIC: Can it be done in one term though?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we need to do it as quickly as we humanely can and that means recruiting and retaining a skilled aged care workforce to do the really important work that happens in residential aged care. That will have to include pay increases, it will have to include training new people to come into the industry, it will have to include measures to keep those people who have been working for years and decades looking after vulnerable Australians, to keep them in their jobs.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah. Okay. Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Minister -
PLIBERSEK: I've got to say one other thing, sorry, just one other thing.
STEFANOVIC: Yep, go ahead.
PLIBERSEK: The Government have talked about extra funding, but that extra funding needs to go to making sure that residents in aged care get properly fed, that they get properly looked after, that the wages for the workforce go up. It shouldn't just be going into the pockets of some unscrupulous aged care providers as profits.
STEFANOVIC: So, can you actually commit to increasing the base rate of aged care staff though? Is that something that you can do and would do?
PLIBERSEK: Well, we've said the extra funding that we put in, any extra dollars, should go to improving the working conditions, improving the pay and conditions, and improving the quality of life of residents in residential aged care. I don't know if you've seen some of the reports of the sort of food that's being fed to residents in residential aged care that came out of the Royal Commission - we're talking about people who are malnourished.
PLIBERSEK: People who had untreated wounds weren't changed. It was shocking.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah, no doubt about that. All right Tanya, appreciate your time as always. Thank you, we'll talk to you soon.
PLIBERSEK: Good to talk to you