Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 14 April 2023

FRIDAY, 14 APRIL 2023 

SUBJECTS: Aged Care 

NATALIE BARR: Well, the closure of aged care homes is already escalating with another provider saying it’s being forced to shut its doors. In the latest case Perth’s Brightwater Care has decided to stop operating three centres. They are blaming new national staffing requirements that demand a registered nurse 24/7. 

Sydney’s Wesley Mission has also cited the Government reforms as one of the reasons for closing three of its sites. 

Let’s bring in Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley. Morning to you. 


BARR: Jason, have you got these reforms right if aged care homes are being forced to close their doors?  

CLARE: Well just remember, Nat, where this all comes from. Remember the Royal Commission that showed neglect of elderly Aussies on an industrial scale. Maggots in wounds. Elderly Aussies not being fed. We had cases of elderly Aussies left in soiled nappies for hours. I’m sorry if people are having breakfast, but that was the reality. People who were dying in aged care because they weren’t being looked after and the Royal Commission recommended that there be a nurse on site 24 hours a day. I don’t know about you, Nat, but if my mum was in aged care, I’d want there to be a nurse there. We’ve said that we will make this happen. We are now at the point where 80 per cent of aged care centres have a nurse on site 24 hours a day. That’s a good thing. There’s about another nine or ten per cent of aged care centres where they’ve got nurses on site but not 24 hours a day. There’s about another ten per cent of centres where they need more time, and they need more support. 

And what we’ve said is if you need more time, if you need more support, then we’ll work with you to do that. You can’t be fairer than that. 

BARR: Yeah, Sussan, we’ve now got a situation where the nurses are saying this sector needs 10,000 nurses to meet these requirements, and that’s going to take five to ten years. How do we solve this problem?  

SUSSAN LEY: Nat, this is absolutely devastating with closures of aged care homes in Sydney, in Perth and the Nurses Association, as you’ve just mentioned, warning that there could be more. 

Now the sad thing this didn’t need to happen. It’s directly as a result of the new rules that the Albanese Government is bringing in. Of course we agreed with the Royal Commission. We said nurses in place, as they recommended, by 2024. Now, the Labor Government brought that forward and these are the consequences. 

And my mum is in aged care, and I cannot imagine how awful it would be if every one of those residents was asked to find somewhere else. To move from what is effectively their home, the disruption of some of our most vulnerable Australians, is absolutely something that we should not have to face. And I come back again to the nurses’ warning that they simply cannot provide the workforce. And we were absolutely, Nat, in line with the Royal Commission’s recommendations. I think this is really serious. Anthony Albanese has had a week’s holiday, totally understand that. It’s time for him to come back to work and actually deal with this crisis, because we cannot leave it in the hands of an Aged Care Minister who is clearly missing in action and not supporting homes. 

They are closing their doors right now. This is pretty, pretty awful. 

BARR: Yeah, exactly. You’ve got hundreds of families in six centres and their, you know, their loved ones at the moment, have nowhere to go so there’s obviously a problem here. We know it was a recommendation from the Royal Commission, Jason, but when you’ve got your minister meeting with Wesley Care two weeks ago. Them not mentioning it, there’s a fall down in the system here and not communication with your government, you’ve got to admit that don’t you?  

CLARE: It’s pretty suspicious when Wesley meets with the Government two weeks ago and doesn’t say they’re intending to do this. And if they’re shutting the centre because they say they can’t put nurses on site 24 hours a day, why didn’t they tell the Government this two weeks ago. If this is not about selling ‑‑ 

LEY: I think it’s pretty awful ‑ Jason, I think it’s pretty awful ‑‑ 

CLARE: Hang on, Susan, I didn’t interrupt you. 

LEY: ‑‑ if you’re blaming the aged care home. 

CLARE: I didn’t interrupt you, please. 

If this is not about selling the site for a property development but it’s about this, they should have told the Government. The way you do this is not shove a note under the door of a 100‑year‑old in the middle of the night saying, “get out”. That’s not the Australian way to go, and they should be talking to the Government, because the Minister, you know, this rubbish, Sussan, about being in hiding, the Minister did a press conference with me about this yesterday, so I’m not going to hear any of this rubbish from a former Liberal Government that neglected this ‑‑  

LEY: We were warning about this for months. 

CLARE: For ten years you let this neglect happen and a Royal Commission exposed the neglect on your watch. When you were the Health Minister, apart from anything else ‑‑ 

LEY: You’ve been hiding from the reality ‑‑ 

CLARE: ‑‑ so I’m not going to cop the argument from the Liberal Party ‑‑ 

LEY: Of this coming straight at us all. 

CLARE: ‑‑ that you’re in a sense not responsible for this, because this happened under your watch and just like health care ‑‑ 

LEY: I don’t like the blame game, Jason.

CLARE: ‑‑ in aged care, when we get elected ‑‑ 

LEY: I don’t like the blame game. I just want to look after vulnerable Australians. 

CLARE: We’ve always got to clean up Liberal’s mess. 

BARR: Okay, look, I both think you’ve had your say. We know this is a huge problem that’s why we had the Royal Commission. It’s not fixed yet, a lot more to say. We’ll talk about it again. Thank you.