TUESDAY, 2 MARCH 2021
SUBJECTS: Royal Commission into Aged Care; sexual assault allegations against Cabinet Minister; neo-Nazi attack on Channel 9 security guard.
SYVLIA JEFFREYS, HOST: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has responded to the report with an immediate 452-million-dollar funding boost snap inspections of nursing homes and a promise to consider every one of the 148 recommendations to fix the broken system. I'm joined now by Shadow Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten. A moody morning there in Melbourne Bill, and Chris Smith from 2GB and 4BC here in studio. Good morning to you both. Bill, this made, I think, every Australian sick to the stomach yesterday. The detail is absolutely horrific. Elderly Australians dying in pain, suffering terrible neglect and assaults. What did you make of the PM's response yesterday?
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Well, first of all, the system is in crisis and it's shocking. The Royal Commission report said that a third of our people, elderly people, are just not getting the attention they deserve. Two thirds in resi-care are malnourished. Listen, the Prime Minister's got to look at the recommendations. So does Labor. But we owe older Australians better. That's the first thing. The second thing is I've met with a lot of aged care staff and they’re very committed, but they simply don't have the time to get the jobs done with their current numbers. So, I certainly hope part of the response is more staff and more training and perhaps even a better deal for them.
JEFFREYS: We've known about these issues for years though, you know aged care advocates have been on this show for years, talking about the chronic understaffing in aged care homes. Can we afford Chris, to wait one more day to change this broken system?
CHRIS SMITH, 2GB & 4BC: No. And Australia has to work out exactly how they want to pay for this. That's the key point here. Something big has to be done. This is an opportunity, not necessarily just a challenge, for Scott Morrison. He is under more pressure than any other leader before him. He's the one that has to say righto, we are going to fix this and fix this once and for all. But the opportunity is there for him, how they afford it - will Australia be prepared to pay extra, for instance, in the Medicare levy to ensure that the elderly don't suffer anymore? I actually think there's been so much done on this, so many brave people talking at the Royal Commission that I think Australians might be prepared to fork out to make sure that their relatives, their friends don't have to go through this ever again.
JEFFREYS: Every single one of us is going to get old. This is a problem we all face
SMITH: And more of us as well.
JEFFREYS: So, should we all foot the bill? I suppose, Bill, is the question. The PM is considering a new Medicare style levy worth one per cent to fund the system. Would you support that?
SHORTEN: Listen, Labor hasn't got a final view, but personally, we have to make big change. I agree 100 per cent with what Chris said. And the only way we're going to make change is you can't do this system on the cheap. But I also want to raise that maybe we've had too much privatisation. Maybe you can't have a system which relies on the operators making a profit and providing care. I mean, the best of them manage to do both. But I just saw during lockdown, again, maybe we've got to say what's more important people or the profit motive and maybe we have to realise you can't do both. And as Chris says, maybe Australians have to pay for the system we want to give our older people.
JEFFREYS: Why doesn't Labor have a final view on a Medicare style levy or any of the changes that should be implemented or should be put into place here?
SHORTEN: Because we got the report yesterday. Listen, I campaigned even before Mr Morrison said about the Royal Commission that there was a problem. We've now had this Royal Commission. I've got very clear views and Labor had clear views at the last election. But we think the staff issue is important. We think that - you know, I spoke to aged care workers last week in parliament and we met a couple of really amazing ladies and they are simply wrung out. They can't do they can't look after 60 and 70 people in a shift, just a couple of them. So, I do think what Chris said needs to be on the table. Will we need to have a Medicare levy to help pay for the system? What we've got to do if we say that is not turn it into a left/right tit for tat political Punch and Judy show where we say oh, it's a new tax, it's a new tax. I think what we've got to do is say what's in the best interest of the nation, what's in the best interests of our older people. And then, what are the best answers?
SMITH: Yeah if both sides come to the party, you’re right, Bill. Both sides came to the party on a new levy, it's a new tax. yes. But you both agree, and it doesn't come across as a new tax. It comes across as a rescue package for elderly people.
SHORTEN: That’s right.
JEFFREYS: We've got to move on to another issue facing the PM this week. He's under a lot of pressure, refusing to stand down the cabinet minister accused of an historical sexual assault. Bill, should the minister in question resign from cabinet?
SHORTEN: Well, the first thing I just want to say is that I feel for the woman’s family and her friends. It's been an incredibly painful journey for them. I think what's important is that her story is heard. I think what's important is the police thoroughly investigate it. I think it would be good of the Prime Minister and sensible to reassure the Australian people that the cabinet minister will thoroughly cooperate, fully cooperate with the police enquiry. I think that's probably the most useful thing I can say.
JEFFREYS: OK, Chris, your thoughts?
SMITH: You can't create a precedent where based on allegations, especially on allegations from someone who's no longer with us, that you stand down a minister that then becomes a tool in other situations and circumstances to be used to get rid of parliamentary ministers. I just think that the way it's been handled now is right. It doesn't sound right. It doesn't sound nice, but look, the injustice of this doesn't make it right, and I know we're all feeling the injustice for this woman who's no longer with us, but it doesn't make it right. And sadly, you can't start smearing someone who's not tested in a court of law as a criminal.
JEFFREYS: We have to look at the fundamental issues in the legal system that prevent victims, survivors from coming forward and having their cases heard in the first place, don’t we? Quickly, I want to ask you both about the shocking attack on the Channel Nine security guard at our offices in Melbourne last night. A neo-Nazi furious at being exposed by A Current Affair. Here was the moment.
JEFFREYS: It is so disturbing, Bill.
SHORTEN: What a cowardly scumbag. You know, our grandparent’s generation thought they had, I think they would be shocked to realise we're still arguing about Nazis. I'm sure the police will do their job and catch this bloke. I feel for the security worker. I mean, I just hope he's okay, frankly. But the rest of the story speaks for itself. What a coward.
JEFFREYS: Chris, your thoughts?
SMITH: Arrogant, entitled moron. And yeah, scumbag rightly describes it. Let's just hope we jump on him and stupid mates who think that this is the way to carry on.
JEFFREYS: Well, the security guard is recovering in hospital. We, of course, wish him a very speedy recovery and hope he's doing well this morning. Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us this morning. Have a great day.