Sky News AM Agenda – Aged Care; child care; JobKeeper; international travel

Monday, 10 May 2021

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Joining me live now my panel, Labor MP Amanda Rishworth, and from the Liberal Party, Julian Simmonds, to thrash out this and what we already know about the budget. It’s a pretty big spend, it’s pretty clear priority of the government’s, aged care.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well it should be a priority. We’ve had 22 reports now, with damning evidence talking about the neglect in aged care. Of course, what I’d like to see is a proper blueprint from the government about implementing all the Royal Commission’s recommendations. That’s a critical part of it. And I guess when we look at this spending, there have been estimates that to implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations it will take more than this. But of course, the details are yet to be out. But obviously a priority needs to be Home Care Packages. And I hope what we will see is the waitlist completely removed when it comes to Home Care Packages.

CONNELL: It is a lot of money. But it is also a long way short of what the Royal Commission called for.

JULIAN SIMMONDS, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: It is a lot of money, it’s a comprehensive response. But you know, what it shows is that our government has been good economic managers, that we can make sure that we use taxpayers money wisely and put it to where we need to. And after the Royal Commission for Aged Care and those stories that came out of it. It’s clear that this is a sector that needs more money to get more people into work here so that we can improve services.

CONNELL: So if it does end up, we don’t know everything yet, but if it does end up falling short of what the Royal Commission called for in terms of funding, do we at least need an explanation from the government as to why?

SIMMONDS: Well this isn’t a line in the sand, alright. So this isn’t a package and we say all right, that’s it, we’re done with the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission gave us a lot of comprehensive recommendations that we will continue to monitor over a long period of time. This is a good funding injection, $18 billion. But what we want out of the aged care sector is of course the highest possible standard for aged care, and to get rid of some of these stories. And that’s going to be an ongoing process.

CONNELL: So when you said it’s not as much money as the Royal Commission called for, is Labor saying it would tip in any extra?

RISHWORTH: We need to see what the government’s planning and where the government’s priorities are. And Anthony Albanese will outline in his Budget Reply, along with up until the election, our priorities. But it is the government that needs to respond to the Royal Commission and needs to outline how they’re doing that. And you know, if the government falls short of that they’ve got to answer to the people.

CONNELL: We’ll find out soon enough. We do know the government’s plan on child care. Will Labor support the legislation in Parliament?

RISHWORTH: Well we haven’t seen any legislation at the moment –

CONNELL: You know the plan –

RISHWORTH: Well the start date is 2022, July 2022. That will be after an election. So for the government to be playing politics on this issue is quite frankly embarrassing. And do you know what this is Tom, this is more about quelling the disagreement in their own party room. We have LNP members, many from Julian’s State, saying they won’t necessarily support this package.

CONNELL: I’m just asking what Labor will do.

RISHWORTH: We will need to say the details –

CONNELL: We know what they’re doing.

RISHWORTH: Well, we don’t know. No the government has said they plan to start this in July 22 –

CONNELL: Is that your only criticism?

RISHWORTH: Of course Labor has a better plan on the table. At the moment, Tom, we have two plans starting on the same date. Labor’s plan that will support more families, with more money, for longer, and the Liberal Party’s plan. If we see legislation, if we see a date change, we’ll have a look at it. We haven’t seen any of this. If the government was planning to do this properly, then they would have had all their ducks in a line by now.

CONNELL: But the date change was a strange one, the Minister saying I will try to get it done earlier, but it’s the IT systems. We can’t get it in order even to start in January? How bad are the IT systems?

SIMMONDS: I don’t know about the IT systems, there are practicalities to these things. But I do think that, you know, what Australians can be sure of is that we’re going to respect the taxpayers’ dollar. Amanda tries to make a virtue out of spending more money, that’s not necessarily the be all and end all. It’s about supporting women back into the workforce if that’s what they want to do –

CONNELL: I’m asking about child care package.

SIMMONDS: – it’d be far more targeted to getting them back into work, if that’s what they choose to do.

CONNELL: I’m asking about the date. I know you know how this system works with children. At the end of the year, they always check how much support you got versus payments, and you can get a cheque from the government. So this could start in January. And then you could get, you know the government could sort out a refund after June 30. The government’s choosing not to start it by January. Why not?

SIMMONDS: We’ve outlined about when it’s going to start.

CONNELL: But why?

SIMMONDS: Well, potentially, if we can do it sooner then we might, but the Minister will have a look at that. And in the meantime, we’re going to announce this as a comprehensive package to support Australian families, as we have supported them throughout this pandemic. And to get, if women choose to get back into work, to have that targeted support for low and middle income –

CONNELL: But it can start earlier if you want, with the stroke of a pen. Even if the IT system catches up later in the year, you could start on 1 January, that’s a choice.

SIMMONDS: Well, there are a lot of funding priorities as part of this budget –

CONNELL: So it’s a priority? It’s not IT systems, it’s a priority?

SIMMONDS: Well, it’s certainly a significant priority support to working families, that’s for sure, with child care. As there are a lot of priorities, including putting $18 billion in aged care.

CONNELL: We might need new IT systems.

SIMMONDS: Well, try that one. That’s a challenge

CONNELL: Infrastructure announcement today. Queensland, not faring that well?

SIMMONDS: No, I think we’ve done incredibly well. There’s always a lot of money flowing into Queensland, because we’ve got a lot of Queensland –

CONNELL: Twice as much for New South Wales and Victoria.

SIMMONDS: You’ve got the Queensland LNP MPs who are absolutely flying the flag for Queensland, getting a lot of infrastructure bang for our buck.

CONNELL: But not compared to other States?

SIMMONDS: That’s not true.

CONNELL: From today’s announcement it’s true.

SIMMONDS: I don’t think that’s true, Tom, because we have a lot of projects that have been over a number of budget cycles, that are pouring money into Queensland to get us the infrastructure that we need. If we had a State Government, a State Labor government who was more willing to chip in rather than continually holding out the hat for their budget failure, you know, there would be more in the tin. But right now, it’s the Federal Government doing the heavy lifting.

CONNELL: What have you made of today’s announcement, Amanda?

RISHWORTH: Quite frankly, when it comes to infrastructure the government has a lot of big announcements, but they failed to deliver. There was some big announcements before the last election on car parks, they’ve failed to deliver that. So I take most infrastructure announcements with a grain of salt when it comes to this government, because they don’t often get built.

CONNELL: SA did pretty well on a population versus money footing.

RISHWORTH: I mean, once again, there are always a lot of announcements with this government, but not often a lot of delivery.


RISHWORTH: That’s what I want to see is infrastructure money that gets spent, that delivers economic return, that isn’t about pork barrelling. It is about economic return for the country.

SIMMONDS: – more money into infrastructure than any government.

RISHWORTH: A lot of announcements.


CONNELL: It was interesting, because we had the Minister on, just for example the electrification of Gawler, but it was announced today, and it’s actually $60 million more for it for the same project, it’s just more expensive. I mean, announcing that today and three years ago –

SIMMONDS: Sure but that’s not the only infrastructure project –

CONNELL: No it’s not.


SIMMONDS: – and to not announce extra funding means that project will grind to a halt.

RISHWORTH: It ground to a halt when you announced it and didn’t deliver it.

CONNELL: Maybe there could be an announcement section and a re announcement section on a media release.

SIMMONDS: It would make it easy for journalists, perhaps, Tom, but we are simply upfront about how much money we’re putting into each project. What terminology you want to use for it is your own, but we are putting more money into infrastructure. And we can do that, we will always have more money for services, because we’re better financial managers. And we don’t have this endless spending like the Labor Party.

RISHWORTH: I would say that you’ve gone into quite significant debt and deficit Julian. That line came out of the old playbook, it’s not really relevant anymore is it.

SIMMONDS: You said the world and the sky would fall in if JobKeeper ended, it hasn’t. If it was up to you  –

CONNELL: Well what that, which is a good point.


CONNELL: – has been better than Labor predicted, isn’t that true?

RISHWORTH: If what the LNP are saying and the Morison government is saying is that there are no businesses, every business should be happy, that everything’s rosy for every business across the country that’s been affected by COVID, then they’re living in a fantasy. I talk to businesses all the time –

CONNELL: We can’t go anecdotal though, we’re looking at the macro right now. Labor said there’ll be a disaster when JobKeeper ends, it’s ended. Has it been a disaster?

RISHWORTH: Well, we called for targeted, ongoing targeted support. Of course, I’m pleased that things in the economy are doing better as a result of the hard work of the Australian people.


RISHWORTH: – it’s better than some economists predicted. But to suggest that somehow there are not parts of industry, through no fault of their own, that are not still struggling, while restrictions stay in place and while the borders are shut. We’ll have businesses that will struggle until the LNP get their vaccine rollout right, then they will still continue to struggle.

CONNELL: Just briefly on this then, I mean, tourism businesses in Queensland, they’re going to fold from now on without support and they can’t survive without international business. Do you feel for them?

SIMMONDS: Well, of course, that’s why there’s still targeted support –


SIMMONDS: – we want to support Australian business as we had throughout the pandemic. But we have to be careful on international borders Tom. Australians have made a lot of sacrifices to get us into the great position that we’re in, enjoying a lifestyle that other countries in the world aren’t able to enjoy –

CONNELL: Sounding like State Premiers now.

RISHWORTH: That’s been a bit of a reversal for you Julian.

SIMMONDS: No I’m just urging caution because, you know, we want to be careful about these hard won gains. The borders will reopen in the future. But this pandemic has taught us not to go too far in advance, to make the decisions with the information you have in front of you. We will need skilled workers in the future, but right now we’re focused on the vaccine rollout and a pandemic budget to support Australia.

CONNELL: Yeah, I wouldn’t get too excited if you’re looking to book an international holiday, we’re clearly getting that rhetorical push. Might I suggest Julian’s smile says it all. Julian, Amanda talk again soon.