SENATOR THE HONOURABLE CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS

Transcript

2CC Breakfast Show, Stephen Cenatiempo

5th August 2020

SUBJECTS:

Aged Care System, Australian Government, The Productivity Commission, Interim Royal Commission

E&OE …

Stephen Cenatiempo:

Preamble    

A former Coalition Minister has slammed the Federal Government’s handling of Aged Care and called for major structural change in the submission that exposes years of failure to help older Australians and we’re seeing that in Victoria at the moment aren’t we.

Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says that the Federal Government has not had the political fortitude to fix the sector after spooning cause for action when it took power. She’s made a submission to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safely. Which she says the Government squandered a chance for a reform. The Senator joins us now. Senator Fierravanti-Wells good morning.

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Good morning Stephen.

Stephen Cenatiempo:

You were the Coalitions spokesperson for Aged Care for four years and you put the policy together that the current Government took to the 2013 election. What went wrong?

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well really Stephen, it was an issue more about not having promised reform and then we didn’t deliver – but I guess it fell into the pattern of non-delivery from reviews. I mean let’s not forget the Interim Royal Commission has highlighted the continuation and so many reviews and more reviews on top of those inquires, and its conclusions make it very difficult not to be critical of successive governments failures to fix aged care systems, and this is where it’s really hit the point there.

And the other point that the Royal Commission Interim Report is saying is that you can’t escape the conclusion that aged care services and the people who receive them, have simply not been seen as a priority by successive governments.

So, Stephen in 2011, the Productivity Commission did a major report called Caring for Older Australians. A major report. And that was very much the background against – which I did the work I did right across Australia where I travelled extensively, I spoke to many, many people – but of course I had my own personal experiences because at age 23 I was founding board director of a nursing home in Wollongong.

And that of course combined with all the work that I’ve done in many, many years and then subsequently my own personal experiences with both my parents, and most especially in the culturally diverse space and aged care issues, has given me a unique perspective – if I can put it that way. And so, I thought it appropriate time for me to put forward those views and be honest and forthright about where the problems lay.

Stephen Cenatiempo:

Given all of that experience. Why did they take the portfolio off you?

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well Stephen as you know, you’ve been involved in politics in the past and it’s the prerogative of a Prime Minister to allocated portfolios as they see fit. But it wasn’t just the allocation of the portfolio. What also complicated the situation was that Aged Care was then moved from Health and Ageing –which is where it should be – over to the Department of Social Services.

And of course that meant thousands of public servants were moved, valuable resources were sucked up, in terms of all of the things that happen when you move a whole department, and I believe that was money better spent on the front line. And now eventually in 2015, our Ageing went back to Health where it should be. But of course, then combined with that, you’ve had this revolving door of Aged Care Ministers both under Labour, under Labour, and then of course continued under us.

So, all of this creates a lack of stability. It doesn’t create the environment within which you need to do reform and we should’ve done major reform in the Age Care Sector. Especially after the Productivity Commission Report highlighted so many of the problems and repeated many of the problems that existed in the past. And of course, now you’ve got the Interim Royal Commission which is being guided also by the Productivity Commission Report.

The good thing about that Productivity Commission Report was that it just didn’t look at the systemic issues in Age Care – but it actually went to the core of broadening the funding base and making sure and looking at that appropriate balanced between public funding and private funding. Which we know is a very sensitive issue. It’s a very complex issue. But you’ve got to find that appropriate mix because in the end – the reality is – that Australian’s will have to pay more for the care of older Australians because our population is ageing…

Stephen Cenatiempo:

…yeah…

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

… but of course, we’ve also got a Baby Boomer generation that is now coming into that area of potential care. So, the system now needs to be such to meet the demands of the Baby Boomer generation but also a generation that is more financially able to contribute.

But of course, the key thing in all of this, Stephen, is let’s not forget the number of people of working age for every person aged 65 and over and, and today it’s about 4.2 but in 2050 it will be down to 3.1. And that means the people of working age, people of working age for every person over…

Stephen Cenatiempo:

…yeah…

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

 …age 65 and of course contributing to the cost of aged care.

Stephen Cenatiempo:

Well Connie, which leads me to my next question which is, well a couple of things that have sort of fallen into one. Given that we’ve had this Productivity Commission Report – why did we need a Royal Commission when we knew what the problems were first of all but secondly the Prime Minister has copped a bit of flack I think unfairly from the Victorian Premier over the situation in Victoria at the moment but he quiet smugly says, “Well that’s why I’ve brought in the Royal Commission”. Is this just another buck passing exercise?

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well the problem is the Royal Commission is on top of other reviews. I mean there have been – and the Interim Report of the Royal Commission comes following countless reviews an inquires by different governments. I mean the problems are clear, the challenges are the same. But know if we continue to only tinker with a flawed system then the consequences will be the same. So that’s why the Royal Commission has now said that we will be recommending comprehensive reform and a major transformation of the aged care system in Australia. We have to chart a new direction and we have to design a system that really does two key things.

One is that it really does give older Australians the care that they need, when they need it and where they need it. But it also has to be that mix of services – bearing in mind most Australia’s want to stay at home – but a system designed to meet that waxing and waning to use the parlance of what the Royal Commission is saying. So, the ups and downs, sometimes you need more services, sometimes you need less services.

But that flexibility is not in the system, Stephen, and that’s really what I did back in 2013 before that election. To look at the Productivity Commission, to road test what it actually would mean if you rolled it out. And this is what I am now presenting, is those ideas to say, well you know, this is an important discourse at this particular point in time. And this is what I think is a good blueprint to ensure that we put those important relationships about care above very much what is a regulatory transaction or system.

Stephen Cenatiempo:

Connie, Joel Fitzgibbon joins us every Wednesday on the program and he’s come under fire recently for having a crack at people within his own party. What’s been the feedback from your side over this?

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Well Stephen I think you know me well enough to know that I’ve not been afraid to be the tip of the spear. Particularly in calling out Beijing for its skulduggery and its activities in the past and this is very important issue and I don’t – I’m not afraid to be the tip of the spear here because this is important. Not only to many of my constituents here in New South Wales but it’s important for all Australians and the dignity that we show our parents, and our grandparents and as I said, very much what I’m doing is guided by my own personal experience.

I mean my father passed away after a long battle with dementia, my mother passed away earlier this year in the very age care facility that I helped found almost forty years ago. So, I know that this is important. I also know that this is very important for many of our special need’s communities, the cultural, our culturally diverse communities, our Indigenous communities, our homeless.

So, when we start talking about age care, you have to design a system that is going to meet the needs. That deals with the systemic problems that the Aged Care Royal Commission once again is highlighting but making sure that you’ve got a system that meets those day to day needs. As I said people want to stay at home so you’ve got to deal with a system that has the flexibility to be able to deliver those needs when people needed it, where they need it and whenever they need it.

Stephen Cenatiempo:

Connie Fierravanti-Wells. Thanks for your time this morning.

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells:

Thanks, every much Stephen.

 

[ends]