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08 February 2022

SUBJECTS: Staffing shortages in aged care and disability services; NDIS participants left behind on booster roll out; Labor’s chances at the coming election. 
LAURA JAYES, HOST: Welcome back to the program, well besides COVID, aged care and the crisis engulfing it is one of the most important public policy issues right at the moment. We know the problems; we've known them for quite some time. Now we need to start not only talking about the solutions but enacting them. Joining me live now is the Shadow Government Services and NDIS Minister Bill Shorten, thanks so much for your time. We've heard from Mike Baird this morning, the NDIS and the aged care sector are both competing for workers at the moment. This is not a new problem. Why isn't anyone talking about a huge recruitment drive from overseas? That seems like the best short term immediate solution, doesn't it?
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: Well, I have identified this problem that we don't have enough workers in disability care and of course, that flows on to aged care. I think bringing some people from overseas to help is a strategy, but we've been doing that for a while now. I think the issue is making work in disability care and aged care more attractive to Aussie kids and to Australians seeking to retrain. So, you know, sure, Mr Baird's contribution is fair enough. But I think that some of our solutions are within our grasp here in Australia. We should be encouraging people, perhaps when they want to change careers, to look at a career working in aged care or disability care. And I also think we've got to make it more attractive. And if you want to get people to work in the sector, I would say you've got to pay people more, provide them with better conditions, better quality training and some fair dinkum ratios and rosters so that people don't burn out.
JAYES: Yeah, you're right to point out, look, it's a very competitive jobs market at the moment. You need to attract people there with better wages, absolutely. But that's more, you know, if you need to upskill people, it's kind of a medium-term solution, isn't it? What about right now, the aged care facilities that are twenty five percent down on their staff? I mean, isn't that immediate solution to get people from maybe other sectors here, yes, but get people from overseas who are qualified and want to come here?
SHORTEN: Well, you’ve got to open the borders to do that. I accept that some proportion of our workforce in the care sector could be supplied by attracting people from overseas, but you know, the Government's always waking up every morning as if it's Groundhog Day and they, you know, see the same problems and then they're always mystified every day about them. I mean, it's good that the ADF is helping out, but that's a stopgap measure. The reality is that we need to encourage people to come and work in the sector. And you know, I know it's never easy to talk about the longer-term solutions, but until we start making it easier to go to TAFE, until we start providing people with better conditions, you can attract people to the sector one day, but they'll leave the next day. So, unless you deal with the fundamentals, we'll always be chasing our tail on this.
JAYES: Look, these aren't new problems. 
JAYES: As we talked about at the very start of all of this, Mike Baird had a good point this morning, I think his underlying point is that simply politicians do not get how bad it is. He says that some of you should do a buddy shift, walk in the shoes of these nurses and carers. Would you be willing to do that?
SHORTEN: Yes. And I have to say that when I was the disability spokesperson in the Rudd Government, I absolutely went out and visited and spent time with carers and people with disability. So again, that's not a new idea, but I do think it would be good for politicians to understand what people go through. I'm fortunate with my background as a union rep that I've spent my adult life looking at how people earn their living and then arguing for them to get a better deal. But you know, I think for some politicians, maybe they've never set foot in a care facility, or maybe they've never tried to help people with disability get ready for the day or prepare their meals.
JAYES: You put focus, rightly so, on the booster shots that are trailing behind the rest of the population in the NDIS sector. That is super important, but in many ways when we focus on that, are we taking away the focus where it should be? And that is on the quality of living for some of these people at the moment?
SHORTEN: Well, it's both, and I think that the fact that for profoundly disabled Australians, that the rate of booster shots is behind other vulnerable groups in the community, it actually is the metaphor of the example of the deeper point, that people with a disability are not at the front of the queue in Mr Morrison's Australia. So, if you like the lack of booster shot rollout, the poor rollout, is symptomatic of the greater problems that people with disability are experiencing in Australia.
JAYES: Well, in a couple of weeks we could be in an election campaign. It looks like Labor is running the smallest of smallest target strategies. Is it working?
SHORTEN: Well, before I get into the issue of disagreeing with you about the smallest of small targets, it is fair to say that Labor is competitive, but as we've seen, what matters is the result on election night, so you can't take anything for granted. I also accept that at the last election, I and Labor put out lots of policies and that attracted some people, but that also became red meat for dishonest scare campaigns. So, you know, I think Labor's strategy is getting it right. But I will say that we have got a range of policies that we've outlined. You know, we've got a future made in Australia. A better deal for working families, secure jobs. We've promised to set up an Anti-Corruption Commission. The Government has abysmally failed on that point, as they have on climate change initiatives.
JAYES: Sure, but where's the big, bold vision? I mean, at the moment the Government is trying to paint Anthony Albanese as weak. Is that cutting through?
SHORTEN: No, I don't think it is, I think the Government is busy shooting itself in the foot, to be honest. They are consumed by their internal fighting. You know, at one level, the politicians texting complaining about politicians. That's not exactly a hold the press story, but at another point it’s - 
JAYES: No, it’s not. And can I pick you up on that? I mean, I said earlier on the program, earlier this week that, I mean, there'd be the same text flying around the Labor Party in many ways, wouldn't there?
SHORTEN: Oh, I don't know. Perhaps they fly around Sky? I don't know.
JAYES: Probably.
SHORTEN: Anyway, probably. The point about it is this is the Government, though, are really sinking the boot into each other. And if they’re putting their energy into that, they're not putting their energy into solving the aged care crisis. They're not putting their energy into making sure that we're COVID proofing our schools or that we're helping with the reconstruction of the country. This Government is consumed by itself, and it's forgotten the people who put them there to represent the people, not themselves and their own ambitions and hatreds.
JAYES: We should do another segment here, maybe instead of mean tweets, we can read out mean text. Would you have any material?
SHORTEN: Well, it depends if you’ve sent me any, but I'll see what you’ve said.
JAYES: Ok, now we know that you do have some special insight about campaigning and what did and didn't happen last time around. Are you part of the inner strategy circle this time around?
SHORTEN: No, my job is to be the spokesperson in terms of NDIS, be the champion for people with disability and Government Services, that will be where my focus will be. But sure, we'll travel all over the country. Everyone in the Labor team is focused on winning. Everyone is united and we want to make sure that we get our message out to as many people as possible.
JAYES: Do you think you can win?
SHORTEN: I think we're competitive. Absolutely think we're competitive. I think we've got the better policies. I think we've got the better frontbench. I actually think we've got the better backbench. I think this nation gave Mr Morrison the benefit of the doubt at the last election. They didn't know him very well. But now he's got to run on a three-year record and from not holding a hose during the bushfires to, I think, a pretty slow reaction to COVID, I think the people have worked out that Mr Morrison is all front, but not a lot of substance.
JAYES: We will see. Bill Shorten, thanks so much for your time. 
SHORTEN: We will. Cheers.