RADIO interview - 2CC Canberra - Aged Care Royal Commission


SUBJECTS: Royal Commission into the aged care sector, Scott Morrison’s cuts to aged care.

TIM SHAW, PRESENTER: Senator Helen Polley’s the Shadow Assistant Minister for Ageing, she watched the program last night and Senator Polley joins me now. Thank you so much for your time Senator.

Thank you for your interest Tim.
SHAW: Does Labor support the Royal Commission?

Yes we do support the Royal Commission. We have been saying for a very long time that the aged care sector was in crisis and I think that’s been brought out by the reporting last night. And can I say that my heart goes out to those families that have been affected and I want to personally thank those workers who have come forward to tell their stories. It was so sad last night and I was ashamed to be an Australian to see us as such a wealthy nation being beholden to aged care sector that is not meeting the needs of older Australians.

Bill Shorten called it out on Sunday on the Insiders program. He’s deeply concerned about the lack of staff to patient ratios, he’s also concerned about the pay that some of these workers are receving or the lack thereof. Is Labor supporting longer training, better skilled workers and predominantly as many Australian local workers to be paid well and to be protected in the sector. There seems to be potential of bullying within the sector particularly with some of the evidence given on the program. Just the use of sanitary pads for goodness sake. Senator they had to beg just to get sanitary pads. To be able to assist those patients. This is third world, but this is Australia we pride ourselves on looking after people but there seems to be a lack of love, decency and care in these facilities?

Well the government and the Minister has at least 14 reports that have investigated and taken evidence in relation to what is happening in the aged care system. There is no excuse for the government to have not known what was going on. I was involved in an inquiry by the Senate Community Affairs Committee looking into the workforce. We had evidence given to us about the issue around sanitary products and them being limited. We have heard the horror stories about food. I’ve actually worked and walked in the shoes of an aged care worker a couple of years ago and there is no way you can give the sort of respect and decent care and quality care we should be aiming for with the amount of staffing that is available. So Labor wants the Royal Commission look into staffing, the training because we know there have been a lot of issues with providers. We know that providers have to re-train staff once they take them on; but what we also have to acknowledge is that there are some very good providers and a lot of very committed staff that do a wonderful job every day. What we need to do is raise the standard to  a better level and use the model of care that is being delivered every day by these good providers and what we have to do is get rid of those providers that don’t have the commitment that they should have because after all these older Australians are our mums and dads, our nans and pops and grandparents. They deserve respect and the highest possible skilled staff looking after them. And we know that there is a shortage of staff already and we know that in the next 20 and 30 years we are going to need to triple the amount of people we already have working in this sector. We have to get it right and what I really don’t want to see Tim is this government stall restoring the funding that they have cut because you can’t fix the system as you continue to cut. And over the last 4 years this is coming from the sector itself, Sean Rooney from Leading Aged Care Services Australia CEO, where he says $3 billion has been taken out of the aged care system by successive governments over the last 4 years. Things have to change now and it has to start now. There is no reason why the Prime Minister and the Minister responsible can’t start enacting those recommendations from those 14 reports that are sitting on his desk.     

Did Greg Hunt lie yesterday? He said we are up to $20 billion from $13 billion now in funding and it is going to go to $23 billion in the forward estimates. Are you saying the cuts of 2015 are trying to play catch-up?

They are still trying to play catch-up but in this last budget they told the community that they had invested more money into the sector in home care packages but what they did was cut 21,600 residential aged care places. All they did was rob Peter to pay Paul. What they need to do is do something that is going to have a real positive impact on older Australians. They need to deal with the 108,000 Australians that are waiting for a home care packages and 88,000 of those packages Tim are people living with dementia. This is a disgrace, these figures go back to March. They delayed for 3 months before releasing them. We are now waiting for the June figures and I expect that to have increased further. They should hang their heads in shame.

Senator thank you for your time please stay in touch and we will see what flows from this Royal Commission and those terms of reference are announced. Senator Helen Polley thanks.

Thank you Tim and thank you very much for your interest.