Aged care workers deserve respect - Transcript, Press Conference

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP

CANBERRA

WEDNESDAY, 20 JUNE 2018
 
SUBJECTS: Turnbull’s comments telling aged workers to get a better job; Labor’s plan for bigger, better, fairer tax cuts for working Australians; Telstra job losses; US leaving Human Rights Council.
 
ANDREW LEIGH, MEMBER FOR FENNER: Good morning everyone. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Federal Member for Fenner and I'd like to welcome you to this aged care facility in Ainslie. We've been here meeting today with a range of aged care workers. Among them, Abbie, Kerul, Lorraine and Lise. They're among the thousands of aged care workers across Australia; talented, hardworking and deeply caring. Aged care workers that deserve the respect of every Australian.

I'd like to thank this aged care facility for taking the time to have their staff meet with Bill Shorten and Julie Collins and I today. We greatly admire the work that they do, the support that they provide to the residents here and recognise that all of us need great aged care workers because any of us could well finish up in a facility like this and we would want to be looked after by people of the calibre of Abbi, and Lise and Lorraine and Kerul.

Let me hand over now to Bill Shorten.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody, it's great to be here at this facility. It's very important we came here this morning because the people who work in our aged care sector are fantastic people. They're not paid as much as Government Ministers but they still do an incredibly important job. And I've said for a long time that this is an out of touch and arrogant government, but nothing showed how out of touch this government is than the behaviourWhen he was challenged about what
 
of the Prime Minister in Question Time yesterday. a60 year old aged care worker would have to do, to get the sort of tax break that Mr Turnbull is offering other people, the Prime Minister replied that this 60 year old aged care worker should get a better job. We're here today to tell the aged care workforce of Australia you don't need to get a better job, you're doing a great job, you just need to get a better government, you need to get a better tax break and you need a better prime minister. Aged care workers are not well paid. That is why Labor is putting forward a tax cut plan which will deliver $1,000 a year near enough, to people who work in the aged care sector. A tax refund – so it means across the first three years of a Labor Government, for the workers we met today, they will get a tax refund of about $3,000. Mr Turnbull by contrast, is just offering these people $1,500 over the next three years, but he's even blocking that tax cut so he can hand other people who are doing better, bigger tax cuts in seven years' time. 
 
Let me be very clear, this government is making promises to spend money it hasn't got, based upon forecasts it can't possibly justify, all to play a silly political game. He's got to be joking, Malcolm Turnbull. We believe that the aged care workforce don't need to get better jobs and change industry, they just need to get a better deal from their leadership in Canberra. That's why Labor can say confidently we're not going to ask aged care workers to get better jobs. We promise you a better deal, a better tax refund, better pay and outcomes and more respect from the government in Canberra. 
 
I might just ask Julie Collins to talk further about the importance of the aged care workforce rather than simply denigrating them.
 
JULIE COLLINS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGEING: Thanks Bill. What we heard today here from the aged care workforce and from the residents themselves is just how valuable aged care workers are. Just because they're not paid as well as an investment banker, doesn't mean their role in our community is not as valuable. And to say to them they should aspire to get a better job is an outrageous slur, it is appalling behaviour from our Prime Minister and he should apologise to the 360,000 people that work in aged care today. It is not okay for the Prime Minister of Australia to make comments like he did in Question Time yesterday. The workforce here at this facility don't appreciate it, and the residents certainly don't appreciate it, because they place a very high value on the workers indeed. 
 
What we've seen from this government in aged care is waiting lists for home care blow out, we've got more than 100,000 older Australians currently waiting for a home care package as at December of last year. We've got new data from March about how many Australians are waiting for home care, that the government is sitting on that it won't release, probably because there's more people been added to that list. We've got a government who in the budget tried to pretend that it had done something for older Australians in aged care, it did not. There's not one new cent over the forward estimates for aged care in this budget and this comes on top of years and billions of dollars being ripped out of age care for facilities, for workers and for residents like we have seen here today. 

You cannot rip billions of dollars out of aged care and it not have an impact, and for it not to have an impact on the work force like we've seen today. The Prime Minister needs to apologise for his comments yesterday, aged care workers are incensed about it, you've got the sector putting out media releases saying how disappointed they are. We need to treble the aged care workforce in Australia, it's one of the fastest growing job industries in this country today. We need to be encouraging people to work in aged care, not telling them to get a better job. It's not okay Prime Minister, and you should apologise. 
 
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten on the income tax cuts, Pauline Hanson's just been speaking in the Senate. It looks like she's leaning towards supporting the government's Bill. If it does pass the parliament is it still Labor's position to repeal them at the next election?
 
SHORTEN: I've just got a message for Pauline Hanson. Pauline remember who voted for you, you're meant to be this champion of Queensland battlers. 1.9 million Queenslanders would be better off under Labor's tax plan than the government's. But it seems that now she's come to Canberra she's forgotten who's put her there. That's a recipe for disaster. I'd just say to Senator Hanson back the battlers, Labor will, let's back them together. 1.9 million Queenslanders will be better off under our tax proposals, our tax refunds than the government’s. Please stop just doing everything the Liberals ask of you and instead, let's just stand up for Queensland and stand up for 1.9 million Queenslanders who are better off under our plan.
 
JOURNALIST: Would you repeal those cuts though? Stage two and three?
 
SHORTEN: They haven't got through yet, but we think this is very poorly designed, the later stages of their scheme. Very poorly designed.
 
JOURNALIST: Just -
 
SHORTEN: Just let me finish the lady's question. On this issue, when I say it's poorly designed, let's have a look at it. This government is promising tax cuts in seven years’ time. Turnbull and Morrison aren't going to be there to keep that promise. The fact of the matter is that they can't afford to pay for the promises they're making, this is $140 billion. This is a government who's making promises they can't afford based upon forecasts they can't possibly justify. It's a silly political game, he's got to be joking. I mean look at the forecasts in the budget, this Prime Minister has said that wages will go up 3.5 per cent, yet wages have been at an all time low, and already since the budget they've had to confirm that the wage rises are not happening the way they said. So this is a series of promises on the never-never, built upon very shaky foundations in two elections time. No one thinks Turnbull’s going to be around to promise that.

JOURNALIST: One aged care, yesterday Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also said that he thinks working in aged care is a good job. Are you taking his comments out of context for political purposes?

SHORTEN: We were there, we were there. What we were doing was we were arguing saying - and the basis by which we raised aged care is, the fact of the matter is that aged care workers, very few of them earn more than $100,000. But they're very damn important. And so what we were saying is why is it that an aged care worker is only getting a $10 a week tax cut from Mr Turnbull, and do they actually have to become an investment banker to be able to get the $7,000 tax cut that Mr Turnbull is providing the lucky few? We didn't put the words in his mouth, he said that aged care worker should aspire to get a better job. What a snob. He thinks that aged care is not a better job; aged-care is a very important job.
 
And as Lisa, one of the ladies we met in there who works in the industry said, I wonder what it will be like whenMr Turnbull ever needs an aged care worker. Will he be telling the person who might be nursing him or caring for him you should get a better job if you want a pay rise, of course he won't. And we spoke to the people who live here. They know that for their quality of life, they need quality aged care workers. So rather than just dismissing some occupations and telling people if you’re getting low pay or low tax cuts from the government, get a better job, I've got a different set of advice for Mr Turnbull - why don’t we work together to pay aged care workers more; why don't you back Labor's proposal which will see those great workers we met in there - the physios, the exercise experts, the carers and attendants, we could give them together a $3,000 tax refund over the next three years. That's just a better plan.
 
JOURNALIST: On the flip side, are you burying the aspirations of everyday Aussies?
 
SHORTEN: No, not at all. I actually think that aspiration comes in all shapes and sizes. It's a legitimate aspiration to want to make more money, that's entirely legitimate and it is very important. But there are aspirations which go beyond that. I've got an aspiration to see that aged care is properly fund. Those aged care workers have an aspiration to get a better tax refund from the government than they're getting. Aspiration can also be for a parent who wants to make sure their kids can do an apprenticeship. Aspiration is for one of these Telstra workers to perhaps find a job more quickly than they might otherwise. Aspiration is to make sure that if you have a child with disabilities in the school system, that they get the support they need. Aspiration comes in a whole set of shapes and sizes, I don't let Mr Turnbull define aspiration purely by bank account.
 
JOURNALIST: Are the by-elections now a referendum on both major party’s tax plans? If you’re unfortunate or unlucky and you lose one of those by-election seats, what position does that put you in?
 
SHORTEN:  First of all, I think the by-elections are a referendum on the direction of this country, absolutely. And Labor's proposition is this; we will give working people in this country, 10 million of them, a better tax refund. But we won't just do that. Because of our priority not to give big corporations billions of dollars, to give the big banks billions of dollars, to give the top end of town more support from the government, we are going to be able to properly fund our schools and our hospitals. I will be in Caboolture saying if you want to see better funding for Caboolture Hospital, vote Labor. I'll be in Braddon and Devonport and Burnie and Latrobe saying if you want to see a better deal for your kids at school, more apprenticeships and make sure your hospitals and medical care is properly funded, vote Labor. So we're absolutely up for debating the direction of the nation.
 
JOURNALIST: What will you say if you repeal them at the next election if you’re successful?
 
SHORTEN: Sorry, we said that yesterday in the press conference -
 
JOURNALIST: Can you say it here today that you will repeal them?
 
SHORTEN: Yes, and just to answer further Jonathan’s question, one of the reasons is that we’ve got a better tax plan for 10 million people. Did you know that if Labor wins the next election those workers that we met, that you were filming, they're going to be $3,000 better off over three years and $6,000 better off over six years. That's the total time it will take before some of Mr Turnbull's much vaunted mythical tax cuts come in. The fact of the matter is that only Labor has a plan to look after 10 million Australian workers. Those aged care workers - let me be clear, stand to get almost double the tax refund under Labor that they do under Liberal. But the good news is because we're not giving away $17 billion to the big banks, because we've got our priorities in the right place, it also means there’ll be more money for aged care, means there’ll be more money for schools and for apprenticeships and of course all important for our hospitals.
 
JOURNALIST: Continuing on the tax cuts, so when Labor votes against this legislation, and it does pass through, are you at risk of you know, sort of voter backlash in the lead up to the election?
 
SHORTEN: Well first of all, there’ll be a clear choice at the next election. And we also need to actually put the voters first here, all of us. We need to recognise that both Liberal and Labor agree upon the first stage of the tax changes. So it's only Mr Turnbull who is threatening to hold up the first stage of the tax changes by demanding we vote for something in seven years' time. Come on. You know, this is a government - he can't predict with any certainty the economic circumstances in seven years. But he's running money up on the nation's credit card making promises so he can win the next election, for a promise he won't have to deliver for six or seven years thereafter. I think what we need to do is carve out the first round of tax changes, because they're the ones which take effect immediately, and then we can take to the next election our view and his view, and then let the people decide.
 
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) to Pauline Hanson as she's likely to be able to deliver low income worker a tax cut in joining up with the government?
 
SHORTEN: No, we'll do the same. Let me be clear, Labor is going to support tax reductions for lower paid workers, 10 million of them. But for the record we have a better plan. We're going to provide a tax refund, a tax cut, of $928 a year, you know, for most people. That means over three years, that's nearly $3,000. That is better. So if we want to have a debate about who is going to look after working people in this country, we'll make sure that they get a better tax refund, we'll make sure their schools and universities and TAFE are properly funded. We through our priorities, will make sure that hospitals are properly funded, that you can afford to go and see the doctor. You know one of the people in there we were speaking to said what really matters is family and health. Labor's got a plan to make sure that your health system is properly funded. Every day we stick with this existing government is another day down the path to the Americanisation of our health system. So there are plenty of choices coming up.
 
JOURNALIST: On Telstra Mr Shorten, Stephen Conroy argued the telco should have done this structural separation a long time ago. Do you think Telstra has made it worse by leaving it this many years?
 
SHORTEN: Listen I'm not going to start evaluating the Telstra announcement today just from that angle. For me the biggest news I took out of this morning's announcement is that 8,000 people are told that their jobs will be ending. So the very first thing I want to say as Labor leader is to these 8,000 Telstra workers and their colleagues that this is a very tough time. To be told that after years and years all of a sudden you won't have a job, this is big news. I noticed that – and we'll be, I want to make them a promise. We'll make sure that Telstra pays people's entitlements, everything that people have earned and deserved has got to be paid. And we also want to make sure that people aren't treated as being thrown on the scrapheap, that there's proper transition. I noticed today that another Turnbull Government Minister was boasting today about his telco management experience on the television and he said, he just said, well this is what happens, this is what happens. Well actually, it shows you again how out of touch this Turnbull Government is; 8,000 jobs being announced to go is not another day at the office.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about aged care? What do you think the difference will be with the unannounced audits and how important are they to maintaining the standard of the aged care sector?
 
SHORTEN: What I am going to do is let Julie go into that first.
 
COLLINS: We have been calling on the government for some time to act on the recommendations of the Carnell-Paterson Report. The unannounced visits are important but the government announced not long after it got the report in October last year, that they would join up the accreditation agency and the complaints agency. We still haven't seen any legislation on that. It's supposed to be in on July 1 next year. The government has to take responsibility for some of this after ripping billions of dollars out of aged care over the last five years. It will impact the quality of care that people receive. The government cannot ignore pleas from the sector and from the industry for them to understand what their cuts to aged care have done to both residential care and we've all seen the waiting list for home care. The government needs to hold itself responsible for the situation in aged care because it is the one that has ripped billions of dollars out of the system.
 
JOURNALIST: Do we need to free up some of regulations with aged care to enable those who want to a choice to decide who they’d rather be with in the sense that, those that are doing a good job and can expand their services and eliminate some of those who have been failing in the sector? 
 
COLLINS: I have been calling on the government for some time to fix the My Aged Care website and the My Aged Care system so that people have an informed choice when it comes to aged care, particularly residential aged care. There's no reason why the government can't provide consumers and older Australians, their carers and their loved ones with information around accreditation failures, with more information about staffing levels in facilities, with more information about what those failures have been and whether or not they have been remedied. The government has an ability to act on aged care now. It's currently sitting on over a dozen reports on how to reform the aged care system and it is going very, very slowly and it's clearly not doing enough and this comes on top of ripping billions of dollars out.
 
JOURNALSIT: Can we just quickly ask, the US has announced that it intends to abandon the UN Human Rights Council. How concerned are you about that, and what does this mean for the country, for Australia?
 
SHORTEN: Ultimately America is going to make its own political decisions, but Australia shouldn't be leaving this council and we should remain in and maybe at some future point the Americans might change their mind.
 
JOURNALIST: Can I just get a better explanation on the tax - why can't you support all three tranches and when you're in government change it? Yesterday you said you'd only support one -
 
SHORTEN: Because if you did that, you would accuse us of being hypocrites. Let's unpack what you just said. Why can't Labor vote for something they don't believe in and then change it later -
 
JOURNALIST: Doesn't the government have a mandate?  
 
SHORTEN: Do you know, that's what turns people off politics. Politicians not saying what they actually think, doing one thing and saying one thing and doing another. I want to be very clear with the Australian people, we support tax cuts for 10 million working Australians. We can vote for that today. It's only Mr Turnbull playing his political games, his silly political games where he's attaching future changes in the tax system in five and seven years' time and demanding that unless we vote for this mirage of tax reform in seven years' time, that working people today won't get that change. No, Labor is very clear, and we've got a better plan. No one has yet said to me, why is it worse for Labor to give double the tax cut that the Liberals are giving, and when I think about this conversation, I feel like I'm talking to those aged care workers in there. Those aged care workers in there earn $50,000. Now, MrSo it's not a question of voting for their tax cuts or nothing. It's a question of voting for better tax cuts for 10 million people or lesser tax cuts, and I just want to finish this press conference again, as I promised some of the aged
 
Turnbull doesn't earn $50,000 and good luck to him. But for a lot of people in this country, on $50,000 and $60,000 and $70,000 a year, they're working very hard. And they actually deserve a better tax break than this government is giving them. carework force in there. This is an out of touch government because when we asked the Prime Minister yesterday, how can an aged care worker get a better tax break, his advice is, if you want a better tax break, get a better job. Not only was that grossly insulting to aged care workers, it just shows you how out of touch this government and this Prime Minister is with the Australian people and Australian society. 
 
Thank you, everybody.
 
ENDS
 
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra


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