Panel with Natalie Barr and Clare O'Neil, Sunrise
24 May 2023
NATALIE BARR: Erupted in Federal Parliament over who's to blame for Australia's aged care crisis. The Opposition says the Government's 24 over seven mandatory nurses in homes requirement is to blame. But Aged Care Minister Anika Wells hit back, saying Labor is left cleaning up all the mess from the Coalition. It comes after it was revealed at least 23 aged care homes had closed nationwide since September last year. But more on the crisis. Let's bring in Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil and Liberal Senator Jane Hume Good morning to you, Clare. 23 aged care homes closed. That's just since September last year. That is not very long. How confident are you that adopting this 24 over seven nursing requirement is the right way to go and the time frame is right?
CLARE O’NEIL: Yeah thanks, Nat. So we arrived in government a year ago off the back of almost a decade of utterly shameful neglect of elderly Australians in the care of their government and you said in the front there, you know who's to blame? You don't need to ask the politicians about that. We've got a Royal Commission telling us that the former government subjected elderly Australians to shocking neglect. We saw widespread malnutrition in aged care homes. We saw elderly Australians being drugged because their behaviour couldn't be properly managed. We saw people falling out of bed in the middle of the night, unable to get care and lying on the floor in pain. And that all happened under the former government's watch because they cut funding and they treated this sector disgracefully. Now we have come into government with an ambitious agenda to do something very basic, and that is look after our elderly Australians with the dignity that they deserve. Now part of that is making sure that we have a nurse in every nursing home. The most basic thing that you would think would already have been provided in this country a long time ago. So what I would like to see from the Opposition is instead of trying to stand in our way, a little bit of contrition for how they contributed to this situation where we had people's grandparents, people who raised us in this country being treated in such a disgraceful way. We're not going to apologise for fixing up the mess of the former government. We are going to forge forward and make sure that we give these people proper dignity and care.
NATALIE BARR: We understand that. A lot of us remember Albo holding up the coin and saying this is basically what people are eating off in aged care homes and I think we all agree that this sector needs cleaning up. But Jane, is this government doing the clean up too fast?
JANE HUME: Yeah look, I think Clare is just propagating the problem here. I mean, let's face it, you're right, Clare. This is our grandparents. These elderly Australians deserve our respect. They're being forced out of their homes. They're being sent away from their communities, away from their families. And this is happening under your watch because of your decisions. We have been saying for months and months that by expediting the findings of that review and forcing a nurse into aged care homes earlier than the Aged Care Royal Commission recommended, you're actually forcing these homes out of business and it's the elderly Australians that suffer from that. The most important thing that the government can do now is plan for those workforce shortages that those aged care homes are experiencing and make sure that they have exemptions for homes that can't meet the requirements that you set, that you brought forward that they cannot meet now. That's why they're closing.
CLARE O’NEIL: We will do that Jane-
NATALIE BARR: Clare, hang on, Clare, Jane we agree that-
CLARE O’NEIL: But can we have responsibility from you for how we got here? Can we have a bit of responsibility and shame and contrition from the former government for what you did to this sector and how you treated elderly people.
JANE HUME: Actually, this was policy when you were the Shadow minister Clare. And now the homes are shutting.
CLARE O’NEIL: And it's a really good policy and you are saying that we should not have a nurse in every nursing home.
NATALIE BARR: We agree we need the nurses but I think Clare.
JANE HUME: We don’t think you should rush it. You’re rushing it.
NATALIE BARR: If I could just get in the Royal Commission I think recommended the nurses, but it's a year earlier. Are you rushing it? Are you bringing the nurses in too early and therefore in the time that it's taking to get the nurses in nursing homes can't hold on because of the cost.
CLARE O’NEIL: So really respectful of your views here. But what we are saying is that we've got a bold ambition to properly care for elderly people. We're going to do that as quickly as we can because every year that we wait, every month, every day that we wait-
JANE HUME: Your bold ambition is sending people broke. It’s pushing people out of homes.
CLARE O’NEIL: Every day that we wait, more people are being mistreated out of home. And Jane, when you from Opposition are saying we created this ungodly mess, we neglected elderly people in our country, but now you're fixing it too quickly. I just don't accept that it is really important.
JANE HUME: You politicised something and now the consequences are being played out for older Australians.
CLARE O’NEIL: I don't want the grandparents of my constituents, Australians not being cared for because the opposition isn't willing to be bold.
NATALIE BARR: Okay, look, I think you've both had your say and, you know, people can make up their own minds because this affects every family in Australia. And if it doesn't right now, it soon will. And then you'll know what everyone's talking about. We've had some magic scenes in Australia for the in the last 24 hours. Look at this reception. 20,000 people here to see the rock star of Sydney and India of course in the last 24 hours. Prime Minister Modi everyone yelling ‘Modi, Modi’. Was mania in Sydney last night. A clear this is something that, you know, every politician would love this kind of relaxed this kind of reception. I guess a reaction that you guys would love but important our relationship that Australia?
CLARE O’NEIL: Yeah, exactly. It's such an important relationship for us now and can I say Namaste to all of our Indian Australians who are watching and I know there's so many Australians who are thrilled that Modi is here with us. He's a great personal friend of our prime minister, and it is just such an important thing for our country going forward. So it's wonderful to have him here and I'm not sure if I'll ever be in a stadium like this but good on Narendra Modi, I'm not sure what's going on there. But he's obviously hugely popular and we're pleased about that.
NATALIE BARR: He is. Jane, nearly three quarters of a million Indians in Australia. If they weren't there, they were watching
JANE HUME: They certainly were and you can see the delight on their faces. But look, obviously while this is quite a big celebrity visit, it's also got national strategic importance. Modi is obviously a member of the quad as is Australia, as well as Japan and the US. That's a really important national security and economic ties that have been developed over many many years. And I think that that will play out this week. But while he is here, I think we should enjoy the celebrity factor as well.
NATALIE BARR: Yeah, it really was incredible, wasn't it? Albo basking in it and wearing his orange tie in tribute. Thank you very much. We'll talk to you next week.
JANE HUME: Thanks, guys.