Date published: 
17 September 2018
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public





17 September 2018



E&OE…



Topics: Aged Care Royal Commission.



GARETH PARKER:

Greg Hunt is the Health Minister. He joins me on the line. Greg good morning.



GREG HUNT:

Good morning.



GARETH PARKER:

Why call a royal commission now?



GREG HUNT:

Well, really, it’s about two things. One is increasing evidence that there are genuine cases of mistreatment and we know that the reports of the Aged Care Quality Agency have gone from two cases of serious risk in 2015 to 22 a year later to 61, so up 177 per cent in the last year alone. Secondly, a new Prime Minister who wanted assurance that these weren’t just isolated cases and wasn’t able to get it.



He said - I think we need to look at the present but also, with a population over 85 that will nearly quadruple over the next four decades, we need to look at the future and once and for all, to bring all of the elements in the system together. To care and protect and to expose any issues but also to work on the standards, the infrastructure, and the training right across the sector to make sure that every senior Australian is properly protected.



GARETH PARKER:

You’ve only just- I mean, the ink is only just dry on changes that you’ve made to the system. Why is it that the royal commission is now necessary? Why not- if the royal commission wasn’t necessary a few months ago- you’ve made the changes, you’ve announced the bringing forward of some funding. Why now?



GREG HUNT:

Well, there are really, again, that there’s ongoing reform. So, only last week as you say, we had new standards passed through the Parliament and also introduced new legislation for an Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner but at the same time, we want to look right across the system.



And I know that Ken Wyatt on his first day after having been sworn in under Scott Morrison and myself in my first week, each spoke with Scott about the long-term. He was one of the co-designers only a few months ago of the big budget package, More Choices for a Longer Life, because this is one of his areas of passion and he brings that passion to the prime ministership as well as the care and the strategic focus.



And in his early briefings, when we spoke with him and then his officials spoke with him about some of the individual challenges and he said - I can’t walk past this and we agreed that now is the time and now is the moment.



GARETH PARKER:

Are you confident that a royal commission is the best, most effective, most efficient, best-value for money way to make changes to get the system working properly?



GREG HUNT:

Yes, I am. And the first thing there is that the vast majority of residences and the vast majority of our nurses and carers and staff do an amazing job but we need to give them the support and the tools as well as the protection for families to make sure that they have all of the proper safeguards in place and the support.



So what does this mean? It means that evidence can be taken under oath. The commissioners can make whatever recommendations that they see fit and it will carry the weight of a royal commission so that’s impossible for any government to ignore and they’ll operate without fear or favour as royal commissions do.



And as Scott said, as the Prime Minister said, there will inevitably be some shocking and bruising cases and stories, which are human stories, and so we all need to be ready for that. But we need to know the truth and we need to therefore take that and plan for the coming decades in a way beyond anything that’s ever occurred before. We’ve got a demographic change, the likes of which Australia has never seen so that’s why we are doing what we’re doing.



GARETH PARKER:

A number of people have made the point that Scott Morrison as Treasurer made changes to the way that the aged care system was funding and the effect of those changes was to reduce the trajectory of funding by significant amounts, hundreds of millions of dollars. How much responsibility does the Government take for declining standards in aged care?



GREG HUNT:

Well, I think that we’ve actually- can I just gently challenge what you’ve said there? Our funding has gone up by approximately $1 billion a year, and it’s gone from $13 billion when Labor was last in power to this year almost $20 billion, next year $21 then $22 then $23 billion up…



GARETH PARKER:

But it has grown by less that it would have on the previous trajectory before the now Prime Minister made the changes in his budget.



GREG HUNT:

Well, I think you’d find that there are many other areas. We’ve only just put in $1.6 billion into high level home care packages and residential care at the last budget. So, all up, we’ve just added $5 billion at the last budget, so I wouldn’t fall for one of Labor’s lines here. They did not support a royal commission.



GARETH PARKER:

Well, it’s not just a Labor line, it’s not just a Labor line. The facts are what they are. I don’t really want to get bogged down in the premise, I want to ask you about the question, which is: to what extent does the government take responsibility for the situation aged care now finds itself in. It’s so bad, apparently, that it needs a royal commission?



GREG HUNT:

I think one of the things is we’ve shone a light into places where there hadn’t been a light before. So the current aged care quality agency has gone from two to 22 to 61 reports of serious risk over each of the last three years - 177 per cent increase in just the last 12 months. In part, that may be a change in what’s actually happening.



But in particular, I think, the fact that we’re putting more resources into compliance, into standards, into scrutinising what’s occurring, is exposing things which have been there and that’s our task. And so, our job is to find any breaches, find any sub-standard care, but to give the support to the amazing workers- and I don’t want to lose sight of the incredible care and compassion of hundreds of thousands of aged care staff and nurses across the country.



GARETH PARKER:

Okay, I’d like to hear from people this morning 9221 1882 about aged care - your experience, your family’s experience. We’ll take the good, the bad, and the ugly, to be quite frank. I wonder the extent to which these problems are widespread. I’d like to hear your experiences. I’d like to hear whether you think that a royal commission is the best way to address them. My guest on the program is the Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Greg, the timing of this, is it in any way related to the fact that the ABC’s about to drop a big investigation on aged care via Four Corners?



GREG HUNT:

No, it’s primarily driven by the fact that there is a new Prime Minister. And in his first days and weeks of briefing, raised with him by both Ken Wyatt and myself. He thought about it, he asked a lot of questions of his officials, he came back and tested with us, tested with his leadership group, tested with the Cabinet.



I do welcome and thank Four Corners and any other investigative body for their work. I think the more we know, the better it is - not the worse. I think it is important, so I welcome that. It’s been driven really by the fact that you have a Prime Minister working with his Ministers, working with his officials. And above all else, as a local member and as the son of older Australians, he’s just intensely engaged in this space.



GARETH PARKER:

Okay. So, if people have family members in aged care right now, can they be confident that they’re being looked after?



GREG HUNT:

The absolute overwhelming majority of Australian in aged care have magnificent care and quality, but there are clearly cases- clearly, which is why we have called a royal commission- of substandard care, of unacceptable care and treatment, and we need to know how far that is, and how broad.



And we also, above all else, want to make sure that we are putting in place all of the steps. So, we won’t stop what we’re doing in terms of the new standards, the new commission, up the new funding for compliance. But at the same time, this gives us a chance to bring it all together and to provide justice and care for those that need it, but to have a unique, broad, systemic look at the future of aged care and, I think, bring the whole country together behind that.



GARETH PARKER:

Appreciate your time this morning, Minister.



GREG HUNT:

Thanks Gareth.



(ENDS)


Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Hastings, Victoria.