“Fixing aged care will be a central priority of an Albanese Labor Government”
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese talks to The Lamp about his commitment to improving aged care and public health.
You’ve signed the ANMF/NSWNMA pledge to support reform in aged care. What motivated you to make this commitment?
I have had the opportunity to meet many ANMF/NSWNMA members in the aged care sector. You are hardworking, dedicated and inspirational in your commitment to quality aged care.
Labor appreciates you but we don’t just want to say ‘thank you’ – we will show our appreciation in a real way.
Would you expect the rest of your team to sign up to the pledge?
Your pledge has my support and the support of my Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, Mark Butler. We encourage all of our caucus and candidates to get on board because Labor is committed to the principles of reform ANMF/NSWNMA mem-bers are campaigning so hard for.
Nurses have been campaigning hard for many years to improve the care of older Australians in the aged care sector and despite the numerous inquiries and commissions not much has changed. What sense of urgency will you bring to this task?
The challenges the aged care sector faces are not new – as you know better than anyone. However, the combination of the Royal Commission and the coronavirus outbreak can leave no question in the mind of any Australian that we have a crisis on our hands.
And this isn’t a theoretical concept – most Australians have a loved one in aged care or headed towards it. This is a very real experience for us all.
We are working with the ANMF/NSWNMA and other aged care unions on finalising our aged care election policy, which will address the priorities set out in your pledge.
Fixing aged care will be a central priority of an Albanese Labor Government.
The Gillard government in its last days linked aged care funding to staffing and wages to ensure taxpayers’ money was allocated by providers as it should be. Would an Albanese Labor government consider a similar approach to make the sector more transparent and accountable?
Labor agrees that transparency and accountability measures are needed to ensure resources devoted to the sector are translated to better patient outcomes, and not greater financial returns for unscrupulous providers.
Mandated staffing, increased care hours and better skills are at the heart of what nurses at the frontline see as necessary to provide proper care for our elderly. Do you share that analysis and how would your government respond?
We absolutely need minimum staffing ratios in residential aged care so that residents get the care they deserve. In its response to the Royal Commission recommendations, the Morrison-Joyce Government failed to properly address ratios or any workforce matters.
COVID has wreaked havoc on the economy as well as on public health. Do you recognise increased investment in public health as an economic imperative as well as a public health necessity?
It is very clear that if you don’t get the health response right, it has a consequence for the economy and for jobs.
We are seeing businesses unable to open because staff are isolating.
There has been a massive withdrawal of economic activity as a result of the Morrison-Joyce Government’s failure to get the health response right.
All Australians are suffering because of the Morrison-Joyce Government’s failure to plan.
What lessons have you derived about our public health system from the pandemic?
Above all that you – on the frontline – are heroes and the world’s best at what you do.
Our public health system has been let down by the Morrison-Joyce Government – we know nurses, doctors and health workers are exhausted, and we know hospitals are overwhelmed.
Further, it is clear that primary health care has been neglected by this Government.
Only Labor can be trusted to have Medicare at the heart of our health care system.
What is your assessment of how the federal government has handled the COVID crisis? What would you have done differently?
Australians are still paying the price for Scott Morrison’s “it’s not a race” approach.
Scott Morrison had two jobs last year: a speedy effective rollout of the vaccine and quarantine. He failed at both.
At the start of 2021 he said his number one priority for the year was to ‘suppress the virus and deliver the vaccine’. If his failures weren’t so serious, it would be laughable.
It is inexcusable that in the third year of this pandemic we have such serious testing and vaccine rollout issues.
The Morrison-Joyce Government has been complacent, particularly in aged care and once again we are seeing aged care residents struggling to receive their booster shot.
If I were Prime Minister, I would have taken responsibility. I wouldn’t have waited until there was a crisis to act. I would have secured vaccines earlier – as we said at the time.
If we had done that, people would have received their booster shots well and truly by now.
What’s more, Labor would have made rapid tests free right at the time that we needed them the most. Nobody should be denied a test because they can’t afford one.
We are only months away from a federal election. What would you like nurses and midwives to know about you before they vote?
A Labor Government will not allow older Australians to grow old alone, deprived of proper care and dignity.
We will not forget the dedicated, mostly female staff who care for our elderly, almost uniformly understaffed and underpaid. We value you.
Thank you for work during pandemic. Labor will rebuild broken aged care system. Labor will put Medicare at the centre of the health system – only Labor can be trusted to strengthen Medicare.