MONDAY, 4 NOVEMBER 2019
SUBJECTS: RCEP; Aged Care Royal Commission; Gas; Election Review.
LAURA JAYES: Turning to our top story now as the Prime Minister is in Bangkok for the ASEAN Summit. In part to negotiate this massive free trade deal. Joining me now is Jason Clare the Shadow Housing Minister. Jason Clare thanks so much for your time.
First of all on this Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership - perhaps it needs a better name. Does Labor support it in principle?
JASON CLARE: We haven't seen the details on it yet, but yes Laura before the last election I made the point that if we'd won the election, it would have been a priority for us to be a part of that agreement – help seal the deal. Anything that brings together 15 or 16 countries of the Indo-Pacific into a trade agreement - help to create more open markets and more trade for Australian businesses - is fundamentally a good thing. We haven't seen the detail of it yet. There's talk this morning that India may opt out. That'd be disappointing given how big and important India is both to our economy and to the world. But hopefully we'll see progress over the next 24 or 48 hours.
JAYES: On Thursday we saw the Aged Care Interim Report, the Royal Commission. The findings were damning. I don't think you could say otherwise. How would Labor fix it?
CLARE: I'm the patron of an organisation called CLAN that represent people that were neglected and abused some sexually abused in orphanages when they were kids. Now those people for a long long time have told me how terrified they are at the prospect of going back into institutions going into aged care. When you see what was revealed last week you can understand why. The awful truth that people are being neglected and abused in aged care. It seems to me from the report the big recommendation is we need to keep people out of aged care unless they absolutely have to. So more funding for home care.
The number of people on the home care waiting list has increased, I think, by about 30 per cent in the last two years. There's more people waiting for home care at the moment than are actually receiving it. So what the Government should be doing is acting on the Royal Commission's top recommendation and providing funding right now to help more people to stay at home longer - rather than having to go into aged care.
JAYES: How much funding? It's been slated at perhaps $2.5 billion a year that it might cost to fix this sector. Would you argue with that figure?
CLARE: Well I'm not in a position to argue with that or to put a figure on it, but the bottom line is the Government's ripped money out of aged care. We need to put money into it. Principally to help people who need help to stay at home longer. For people in their 50s, who've got parents in their 80s, they must be terrified looking at the news at the prospect of putting their parents into aged care. I know what my mum went through when my grandmother got dementia and went into aged care.
I'm not saying that aged care doesn't do a good job. There are lots of aged care services who do a great job and the high care services for an increasing number of people with dementia are important, but we also need to do everything that we can to help people stay at home longer. Think about where you would like to spend your last days. I'm sure that if you could you'd like to be at home around the people that you know and love in a place that you know and love and home care services are an important part of that.
JAYES: It all comes down to not only costs but also training that the workforce. If it comes down to it is aged care funding more important than maintaining a surplus?
CLARE: I don't think it's one or another. The Government is projecting…
JAYES: Well if its $2.5 billion a year to fix it would be wouldn’t it?
CLARE: Well they’re talking about a $7 billion surplus. They're saying that they're going to have a budget surplus of $7 billion. But the key point I'd make is let's not wait until the MYEFO in December to do this. Allocate the money now and start putting people onto the home care system right now because every week every month that you delay that's an important service to elderly Australians. People in their late 80s people in their 90s who want to stay at home but may not be able to if they don't have that important service.
JAYES: OK a few other things. Joel Fitzgibbon this morning says the Victorian ban on fracking doesn't make any economic or environmental sense. Do you agree?
CLARE: Well we do need gas. We need gas for electricity. We need gas for manufacturing. We need it to be as cheap as possible. I don't think this is a Labor Liberal thing. Look at Queensland you've got a Labor government there that is in the business of coal seam gas. They have helped to expand that resource. You look at the Northern Territory and you can see the Labor Government there opening up the Beetaloo Basin. Then you go to New South Wales and you've got a Liberal government there not acting in Narrabri.
The bottom line is we need gas. And the further you need to transport it the more expensive it is. So if you've got to transport gas from Queensland to New South Wales or from Queensland to Victoria it adds an enormous cost. At ten or twelve dollars a gigajoule it will cost about two dollars a gigajoule to transport it. So if you don't get it locally either out of Bass Strait or on land in Victoria then the gas is going to cost more and that will mean electricity will costs more and manufacturers will end up having to pay more for the gas that they need to produce the products they make.
JAYES: We'll see that Labor election review this week. I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath. I'm told it's about twenty eight thousand words. What does that tell you?
CLARE: We lost an election that almost everybody in Australia thought we were going to win. There's a lot of mistakes that we made. It's important to make the point that Scott Morrison did a lot of things right. He ran a good campaign but we made mistakes.
JAYES: What was the biggest?
CLARE: Well I wouldn't identify one but I'd make this point, if you have a look at the seats that we lost, the seats that we needed to win, they are in outer suburban Australia in most of our capital cities and in the regions. And if you dig a little bit deeper and you have a look at those communities you'll see that in almost all of them unemployment is higher than the national average and they are places where wages aren't just flat, but in many cases in real terms are going backwards. Now in places like that, where people are really struggling, you'd expect them to want to kick the Government out. And I suspect many of them did. But they didn't. They decided to opt with the current Government rather than choosing us. We've got to make sure that come the next election they've got the confidence and trust in us to pick us next time because they certainly didn't this time around.
JAYES: Jason Clare thank you.
CLARE: Thanks Laura.
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