9.12am | May 11, 2021



MONDAY, 10 MAY 2021

SUBJECTS: Christine Holgate; Aged Care; Federal Budget; Australians stranded in India.

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time now for my political panel, Liberal MP Katie Allen and Shadow Assistant Minister for Communities and the Prevention of Family Violence, Jenny McAllister. Welcome to both of you.


KARVELAS: Let's start on that issue around Christine Holgate.  Katie Allen, Christine Holgate has a new job with one of Australia Posts major competitors. Did the government make a mistake in the way she was treated that's led to her now working for a competitor?

KATIE ALLEN: Look, Christine is a fantastic CEO. And she is a person of great ability. And I think this is a new chapter for her going forward. The Prime Minister himself has said that he was sorry for the strong language used on the floor of Parliament. But this is a, you know, government business enterprise. And it's a very tough role being a CEO of these sorts of institutions. And this is a matter of really for the board and Christine. But I really welcome the news that Christine's taking this new role on because she's a very smart and capable CEO.

KARVELAS: Yeah so, we don't get her, the taxpayer doesn't get her because she's basically a political scalp. Right? If she's so talented, wouldn't we want her working for one of our own government funded enterprises?

ALLEN: Well you know, I think that there was a very, very large spotlight that was put onto this whole situation, it was very difficult situation. And I think there is some politicisation from both sides about what went on. But at the end of the day, it's a pretty rare field that CEOs in this position are working in, it is a difficult situation. And I think that Christine's going on to, you know, continue her bright future, and I really do welcome that.

KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister, I spoke to the Minister earlier, and he said that Labor had not been consistent about this. You had actually pursued this woman and then changed the tune when, of course, it was politically a good idea. Has Labour played this wrong from the beginning? I mean, changing, flipping as you did.

MCALLISTER: People need to be accountable. And it was quite right and proper to ask the questions that were asked initially in the senate estimates process of Ms Holgate because, as Katie observes, these are important positions, administering big public institutions, we need to ask the questions. But from there, it all got pretty unedifying, didn't it? Because the real question that has troubled me and I think troubled a lot of people observing this is that the level of accountability that the Prime Minister sought to apply to Ms Holgate was very different to the standard that he's applied to his own Ministers over time. And it’s that fundamental inconsistency, I think, that has troubled people watching this as its unfolded.

KARVELAS: I want to move on to the budget. It's going to be delivered tomorrow night, we've got some clues about some announcements, of course, we'll find out all of the detail tomorrow night staying with you, Jenny McAllister, we've got some idea of some of the announcements, aged care is one of them. We know there'll be big spending in the aged care sector, what will Labor be looking for?

MCALLISTER: Well, on aged care, I mean, if the government really cared about this, they would have done something about it. They are in there eighth year…

KARVELAS: Sure, and they say they are doing it tomorrow night. 

MCALLISTER: Eight years in, 22 reports later, having received a report in 2019, titled “Neglect” - they're acting on it tonight. And so I think the big test that we are looking for in this budget, is whether or not the government is providing real structural solutions to the problems that have mounted up on their watch, or whether they're simply offering a political fix. And I think their history isn't good on this front. They have had so many opportunities, sticking with aged care, to respond to real problems. More than 100,000 Australians still waiting for the homecare package that they've been assessed as requiring by the government, but no action. So, tomorrow night, when we're talking about these dollar figures, the real question will be, will it actually resolve the problem that has been allowed to build up on this government's watch?

KARVELAS: Well, let's talk about the problems that have built up Katie Allen, those numbers 100,000 people waiting for these homecare packages, and we also know shortages in the workforce. Will those two issues, I know you're not the treasurer, but do you have any guarantees that those big issues will be addressed and fully dealt with by this budget?

ALLEN: Look, Patricia, I'm incredibly passionate about this area. And I know the Prime Minister is as well since this was a royal commission that he called when he first became Prime Minister. It was the first royal commission that he called. And I've been very passionate about advocating for helping this sector which is going through this massive transition. The population is ageing very rapidly as the baby boomer comes into their 80s in the next 10 years and we know that not only is the sector or our population ageing, but the sector itself is ageing, with the facilities with people getting older with more co-morbidities in the sector. And that is partly because of the wonderful investment into in home care, home care packages for ageing for people as they age. And that's because people want to age at home, they're ageing better, they're ageing at home. And therefore, the facilities themselves are having people who have got older and they're sicker. And so therefore, the sector is under a lot of pressure at the moment. So I'm really encouraged by the fact that this is going to be from what we hear the largest investment in the history of this country into an incredibly important sector, to help with ensuring that as people age they have the dignity and respect that we all deserve. This is not just for people who are ageing. Now, this is for people ageing right into the future. So, these are incredibly historic investments. But behind that, the Minister for Health and Ageing, Greg Hunt has made a commitment about structural reform, looking at investing in making sure there's good clinical governance, making sure that we do have the support for the home care packages, but also the facilities themselves and working with the sector. I really do back in Greg with regards to his strategy around this, because on top of that, we need to make sure that the workforce is also supported. And we can see that that one of the fastest growing sectors for jobs actually is aged care and healthcare. And those are areas that we really want to invest in, make sure we lift standards, we enable people to be trained, that they're job ready to take up their position in this growing workforce, because it's an incredible workforce to get right, not just now but into the future.

KARVELAS: Look other issue I wanted to talk to both of you about is the India travel ban, which the courts are obviously considering. We're standing by for a decision from the Federal Court on the India court case shortly. But I want to know from you, Katie Allen, because I've spoken to lots of your colleagues who are really concerned about this, that it was a bridge too far these criminal, you know, penalties that were threatened and continue to be threatened for anyone who arrives before that ban ends. Were you uncomfortable with how far it went?

ALLEN: Well, the Biosecurity Act has some pretty serious consequences if you undertake some pretty serious criminal activities. So, I'm not so worried that the Biosecurity Act has consequences in there that are serious. I suppose the issue is Australians want to support Australians. And there were Australians who left Australia and are having difficulty coming back. That's been happening for the last year. The India situation was one that was a rapidly emerging issue with the crisis, it continues to be a crisis. No one wants that crisis to come to our shores. So, it is an issue that for a temporary pause, I'm very comfortable with the temporary pause that we have.

KARVELAS: So criminalising Australians is not a bridge too far in your view?

ALLEN: I'm really sorry, but if Australians break the law, they break the law. So what we know, the deterrence about doing the wrong thing has to be proportional. Now, the issue is, is this proportional? That's the question. So, it depends on what it is, though, that is, is the proportional aspect. So, I don't think anyone was saying, you know, the proportionality depends on what was being tested. So, there's no doubt that when you hear those sorts of deterrence, they sound they made me uncomfortable. I did say that in public that I'm uncomfortable about deterrence. But I'm equally uncomfortable about the possibility that someone may do some majorly wrong thing. Now, we had to prepare the system. We've worked hard as a country to get to where we are. Australians have worked together. It is unfortunate when Australians who have left are having difficulty coming back, the government's worked very carefully to make sure that they can come back safely. And I'm pleased that the pause on their return is being lifted on May the 15th. And I've also been working hard to make sure that the facilities that will receive them are ready and receptive for those Australians to return home safely so that we can continue to keep Australia safe.

KARVELAS: Jenny McAllister Labor originally supported the laws. Do you think the laws need to be relooked at?

MCALLISTER: Citizenship has to mean something, and the Minister has a range of options in putting in place the necessary arrangements to affect public health advice. I think the real problem with this though, Patricia is that this situation was entirely predictable. Labor has been calling for more than a year for the government to put in place real measures to help the many tens of thousands of Australians who are trying to get home. And right now, there's nearly 10,000 of those in India. We called for there to be national quarantine facilities established because the government has been sitting on advice that said we needed surge capacity in a crisis. 

KARVELAS: I understand that. I'm asking about these laws, though. I'm not asking about the quarantine facilities, the laws, are you comfortable with the laws?

MCALLISTER: I'm not comfortable with the way that the law has been promulgated by this minister.

KARVELAS: But the underlying laws which allow that to happen, you're cool with it?

MCALLISTER: I think that the Minister needs to exercise his judgement about how to use the law. And what he actually did was go out, put out a big chess betting press release, and say we're going to apply these laws to Australian citizens. What a responsible government would have done was put in place arrangements to allow those citizens to come home. That is a reasonable thing for citizens to expect. The government was warned that a crisis this of this nature would come and they have done nothing to meet it. And we find ourselves in this position where many Australians need support and they're not receiving it. We are now saying, use the pause well put in place national quarantine facilities and national standards for the hotels that are being used. Consider options like vaccination for citizens who are in India, and who are in vulnerable positions, consider financial support for some of those people. But actually take your responsibility as a government seriously, and give some support to those citizens who are in India and need our help.

KARVELAS: Thanks to both of you. See you both in Canberra. 

MCALLISTER: Thanks so much Patricia.



Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.