RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC South East NSW, Breakfast with Simon Lauder
Tuesday, 2 March 2021
SUBJECT: AGED CARE ROYAL COMMISSION, SEXUAL ASSAULT ALLEGATIONS
SIMON LAUDER, PRESENTER: Well let's talk now with the Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain, Good morning.
KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good morning, Simon.
LAUDER: Thanks for joining us, what's the main message you get out the [Aged Care] Royal Commission?
MCBAIN: I think we all know that our age care system needs an overhaul. My mum worked in the aged care system for 15 years. So, you know, I've heard firsthand from her some of the difficulties that she had as a staff member, trying to deal with regulations, while making sure that her patients or the residents of her facility were front and centre in her care. So, you know, I think it's a system that definitely doesn't have the resident or, or the patient at the heart of some of the things that are required.
So, you know, there is a definite need for an overhaul, and we have an ageing population. So we have to get this right.
LAUDER: One of the recommendations in the final report is for a new Aged Care Act to underpin all of this - setting out the rights of older people, is that something that Labor is going to support?
MCBAIN: Speaking from experience, you know, the Aged Care Act is, you know, 25 years old, it definitely needs to be fit for purpose, and fit for the decade that we're now in.
There is scope and room for change. And that's what we need to see. But as I said, you know, we want to see, a system where the resident or the patient is at the centre of decision making, rather than, you know, the facility, or the provider at the, at the centre of the decision making.
There's $452 million announced yesterday, $300 billion of that went directly to providers. So I want to make sure that, you know, that the system that is going to change is a system that has a resident or patient at the centre of its decision making. And I think we've still got a long way to go yet.
LAUDER: And what the Royal Commission is proposing seems like it would provide universal funding for care services, including nursing, and obviously, there would be a lot more funding involved. Does Labor support introducing a Medicare style levy to pay for the overhaul?
MCBAIN: It's something that will need to be discussed in caucus, obviously, I mean, we only had to release a report yesterday, a lengthy detailed report, which is taken those commissioners years to get to.
So you know, it's obviously going to be something that we need to discuss. But, again, I want to make sure that we're talking about residents being the centre of care reform, rather than providers.
LAUDER: Do you have faith that this royal commission will lead to some meaningful change?
MCBAIN: Look, I do, you know, we've been through a pretty tumultuous period, you know, as seen deaths in aged care centres, because we weren't prepared for the pandemic.
You know, my own nan was caught up in an aged care system, where, you know, they pulled in a doctor from outside of the local area who was COVID positive and infected the entire aged care facility. That is just not good enough.
You know, as I said, we've got an ageing population, we need to get this right. And 2020 was the absolute precursor for us in making sure that there is change in the sector.
LAUDER: It sounds like you would definitely support some stronger, some stronger governance there, is there a particular change that would have prevented that situation that your family saw?
MCBAIN: Look, I think, obviously, staff to patient ratios is really important. I mean, we can regulate that for childcare centres, but we don't regulate that for aged care centres.
You know that there needs to be some, some real change in this sector. You know, planning is a huge part of it. And I want to make sure that, you know, we are getting to a stage where those people who wish to remain at home and be cared for in their own home, have access to those home care packages, so that they can age in place. The last thing we want to be doing is putting people in aged care facilities before that they need to be there and when they don't want to be there.
And you know, the waiting list has almost doubled in Eden-Monaro alone. So, you know, I think everybody's ready for some change in the sector. And we want to make sure that we get it right because our old people have contributed to and built this nation. It's on us now to make sure we get it right so that as the generations move through that sector, they are getting the best care in whichever setting they are in.
LAUDER: I'll turn now to the anonymous letter alleging the rape of a woman in the 1980s and in that letter, she accused someone who is now a cabinet minister in the Morrison Government. The Minister for Women, Marise Payne says her cabinet colleague accused of this historical rape should have the presumption of innocence. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed calls for the minister to be stood aside. What do you think needs to happen?
MCBAIN: I think there's two things here. One is obviously the potential criminality of that allegation and whether police continue to investigate that matter. But the other is also the ministerial code of conduct and your duty of care in a workplace.
And this is the issue I think that the government has missed. You know, the ministerial code of conduct is in place which says - serious allegations that may bring the house or the parliament into disrepute, then that minister should stand aside while it's being investigated. Now, that hasn't happened.
When we look at our sporting codes, we ask our sporting stars, to be role models, and to do the right thing. You know, the NRL has an integrity commission, which if there is an investigation underway, says “we're going stand you down. We're not attributing blame or fault. We actually want to investigate this and make sure we get it right.”
Now we haven't done that during the Brittney Higgins case. There has been no minister that has said - "Right I should have done something different. Let's investigate it and see what we could have done better."
Brittany Higgins is owed a duty of care by her employer, which was the government and they have failed to review or respond to what’s happened to her.
The criminality is one thing which will be investigated by police. And then if they determine - it will go to court. But your employer owes a duty of care, there are ministerial codes of conduct in place that should be making sure that if there is any serious allegation, then that minister should step aside until that investigation is complete.
LAUDER: What about what Marise Payne is saying about the presumption of innocence here?
MCBAIN: The presumption of innocence is in the courts, in the legal system. There's a presumption of innocence until it's tried in court.
And again, I think we're muddying the waters, the criminality aspect is one. But there's also an aspect within this workplace to make sure that we are getting the standards in the culture, right. And that's why the ministerial code of conduct exists.
LAUDER: Should this unnamed cabinet minister come forward and publicly identify themselves for the sake of the integrity of the government and his cabinet colleagues?
MCBAIN: You know, I guess it's a matter for him but what I would want to say in politics or in any profession, where you have people that are looking up to you to make decisions, where you have a role model aspect or a leadership aspect, is that if you believe you've done nothing wrong, then come forward and clear your name through the legal channels if that's how you wish to go.
But there should be no reason why the entire parliamentary system is bogged down because nobody believes anything that's being said there - to be quite frank.
LAUDER: All right. Kristy McBain, thank you so much for joining us. And just finally, you made a speech in Parliament recently about development in the regions. And I guess referring to the experience of the Merimbula town summit recently, what's the main point you want to make? What do our regions need at the moment?
MCBAIN: I think it's time for the three levels of government to be working together. I mean, we've got entire departments dedicated to regional development, but there's no overall strategy or plan to how our regions develop and in what we're trying to push in them.
So there needs to be a cohesive plan. And the Merimbula town summit, which was put on by the chamber commerce brought the three levels of government together.
It's been a community working group and they're looking at presenting a 10 point plan for what they believe Merimbula will need to actually get some development and investment for residents, businesses and visitors.
LAUDER: Kristy McBain Thanks for your time this morning.
Media contact: Ian Campbell, phone: 0417 482 171