RADIO INTERVIEW - ABC RADIO NATIONAL BREAKFAST - TUESDAY, 31 MARCH 2020
BILL SHORTEN MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT SERVICES SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE NATIONAL DISABILITY INSURANCE SCHEME MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
E&OE TRANSCRIPT RADIO INTERVIEW ABC RADIO NATIONAL BREAKFAST WITH FRAN KELLY TUESDAY, 31 MARCH 2020
SUBJECTS: Retention bonus for disability carers; PPE Shortage for disability sector; Essential services; Expanding JobKeeper payments.
FRAN KELLY, HOST: Well as we’ve been discussing this morning the Morrison Government is in on this all out effort to save jobs which are absolutely being wiped out at a rapid rate by the COVID-19 virus, but one group of low paid workers who are feeling a bit left out are people working in the disability sector. Unlike aged care employees, disability staff aren’t being tested for the virus and nor do they have access to the protective equipment, neither do they receive the special retention bonuses that are being received by those caring for the elderly in nursing homes, Bill Shorten is the Shadow Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, welcome back to breakfast.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG:Good morning Fran.
KELLY: Disabilityworkers aren’t slated to receive the Retention Bonus, which is worth up to sixteen hundred dollars, that’s on the book for residential and home care workers, what’s the case for extending that payment to the disability sector?
SHORTEN: Well disability carers are essential workers like aged care workers, there are big number of people with disabilities who have reduced immunities who are therefore more susceptible to Covid-19 if they contract it, the consequences are much more devastating, so I think like aged care workers, disability carers, and a lot of them overlap in terms of tasks and skills, we should be including disability with what happens in aged care.
KELLY: How much would it cost, have you done that sum yet?
SHORTEN: No, but at this point we, how much does it cost if someone gets sick and dies? I think to be fair to the government even they recognise this is now a public health emergency first and foremost.
KELLY: We’ve spoken to the disability sector, we’ve spoken to Senator Jordan Steele-John about the threat to people at home with complex disabilities if their carer doesn’t turn up for work. Are we already seeing this amongst the disability sector? That the workforce is thinning and what are the contributing factors to that?
SHORTEN: I get anecdotal reports of this, disability workers are amongst the lowest paid workers in Australia, and so with this increased dole, there is almost no point in working. Now disability workers are motivated by more than their pay, otherwise they wouldn’t do it, but I think that we shouldn’t take advantage of their emotional commitment and a retention bonus seems to be sensible, as well as looking at the conditions they get paid. So a simple proposition - aged care workers are receiving the retention bonus because they’re working with vulnerable cohort of people, they’re an essential service and they’re low paid, the same proposition extends to disability. I’m just speaking up for people with disability and their carers. The other two things I hear a lot of and no doubt you’ve heard of it, is that there is a lack of PPE for people with a disability.
KELLY: That’s personal protective equipment, that’s masks gloves and that kind of thing.
SHORTEN: Masks, gloves and gowns, and now I mean there is a longer conversation to have how this country doesn’t make any PPE in numbers that we can supply in an emergency, but we want to make sure that disability organisations and carers are not at the back of the queue, same with testing, if people working in group homes with older people are getting access to testing, people who work in group homes, people who work with disability should get it, so what I’m saying here in a nutshell, we’ve just got to broaden the definition of essential services like aged care to disability care, it’s a straightforward proposition, it’s sensible and its supported, I think by a whole range of people who work with vulnerable Australians. There is a lot of fear out there.
KELLY: There is a lot of fear of course there is, are you, is there a point that the JobKeeper payment, the fifteen hundred a fortnight, if people working for disability providers are eligible for that payment if they’re kept on there kept working, that actually some of them could see essentially their entire wage hold-up or improve for some?
SHORTEN: I don’t know about improve. What happens is that the subsidy is not aimed as a pay rise, but it’s aimed at helping people with the cost of keeping people on the books, that is, it is a good idea, I mean Labor has been calling for this so I think that is a good idea. The challenge we have with disability is their pay is so low that the retention bonus I think is a necessary development. In other words, it’s not an either-or, the other challenge of course with disability organisations is just attracting and getting people to do the work.
KELLY: Just to remind us the retention bonus is two payments of eight hundred dollars, not just a bonus of eight hundred.
SHORTEN: Yes, two quarters, eight hundred per quarter additional for people working direct, it’s six hundred dollars for people working in home care.
KELLY: It will make a difference, sounds like a good idea to me, Bill Shorten thank you very much for joining us.