April 18, 2018








SUBJECT: Aged care, Refugees, Political panel.


PETA CREDLIN, INTERVIEWER: Welcome back. Joining me tonight on my political panel is the Federal Liberal member for the Adelaide seat of Boothby, Nicolle Flint. Labor’s Dr Anne Aly who holds the Perth Federal seat of Cowan, and Liberal senator for Tasmania Jonathon Duniam. Thanks all for your time tonight, thank you for joining me. I’ve got a few issues, great to have you Anne, this is the first time I think.

ANNE ALY, MEMBER FOR COWAN: It is, yeah, I’m really excited to be here, thank you.

INTERVIEWER: Oh good on you, that’s great I like to have the west on the show. I want to start with these aged care reforms Nicole Flint. This is what Ken Wyatt, the Minister responsible for this area, this portfolio, had to say today and then I’ll ask you for a bit more detail. Let’s have a look at what Ken Wyatt said.

KEN WYATT, AGED CARE MINISTER: Today we’ll see the beginning of the journey to a new agency that we will have fully operational from 1 January next year, and I will establish a workforce within the department with some external scrutiny to ensure that we provide the most effective model that will meet the needs of all senior Australians.

INTERVIEWER: Now, of course, in South Australia this was a huge recent issue under the former Labor government. How important are these reforms? And just take us through a little bit of the detail if you can Nicolle.

NICOLLE FLINT, LIBERAL MP: They’re very important Peta, there is nothing more critical than making sure we’re protecting our most vulnerable Australians. Unfortunately, here in South Australia under the former Labor government we saw some of our most vulnerable senior Australians who were really completely unable to protect themselves or advocate for themselves subject to terrible abuse in a state run facility, so what the Minister has done today is establish a one stop shop to make sure that anyone with a complaint or concern about the quality of aged care knows exactly where to go, knows that their concerns will be taken seriously and addressed and that we won’t be standing for any of our senior Australians being put at risk and we will be very carefully monitoring all aged care facilities around the nation.

INTERVIEWER: Anne Aly, I listened carefully to what the opposition leader Bill Shorten had to say and he was broadly supportive but certainly had a kick along the way to say that “this isn’t enough, it’s taken too long to happen.” He didn’t necessarily criticise the government’s decision to bring a number of bodies together to create one holistic agency. But surely, I mean, Australians are watching this programme tonight thinking this should be an area you know, along with defence, where we have some genuine bipartisanship because the policy settings put in place are inherited by the next government and of course people plan for their futures many many years out and the last thing people want is uncertainty when they’re aged, or uncertainty for their for their older family members, so do you think we might see some bipartisanship from Labor here?

ALY: Oh look, I think we certainly welcome the announcement made today but it is a long time coming Peta, you know. My dad was in aged care, he suffered from vascular dementia and we had to find an aged care home for him in a hurry. Now, he was lucky that we found him a good aged care facility that really looked after him until he passed away a couple of years ago. But this shouldn’t be about luck. This is about looking after our senior Australians who are among the most vulnerable and we have a waiting list of 100,000 senior Australians waiting for home care packages, it’s just not acceptable. So, yes it’s great that something is being done but it’s been a long time coming.

INTERVIEWER: Well, Senator Duniam, a long time ago when we were both working in opposition you’ve obviously, you know, exceeded where I landed but long time ago Labor brought in a number of reforms, policy reforms in to aged care. They were supported in broad measure by the Coalition because there was a view at the time, as I just said, you know, this should be an area of bipartisanship. It’s interesting Senator Duniam, you know, when you start attacking people’s superannuation nest eggs when you’re trying to take money away from people who want to provide for their own older age I guess this is where you find yourself in trouble as a government this is, I think you know, my criticism to Bill Shorten. When you start taking away peoples’ capacity to provide for themselves and you leave them responsible, leave them, you know, stuck with the state in order to provide for their older age, this is where you really will have pressure on the system and the cost will keep escalating, so something’s got to change.

ALY: Look, I think that--

INTERVIEWER: Sorry, that’s to Senator Duniam--

ALY: Oh sorry.

JONATHON DUNIAM, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: Look, that’s absolutely right I think you’re spot on. I mean with the superannuation scheme set up the way it is, it is there to enable people to actually put away for their future so they can save for the type of care they want and under the tax plan that we’ve seen from the opposition that’s going to rip away a huge chunk of many peoples’ – retirees and pensioners – ability to do just that and they will end up where you’ve just talked about in state run institutions which have lower standards and lower care levels. It’s a bit hypocritical for the opposition to raise these criticisms when they are denying people the capacity to put themselves into the better facilities. They’ve got to look at this holistically, not attack older Australians on the one hand and claim they’re their best friends when it comes to funding aged care facilities through tax payers’ money on the other.

INTERVIEWER: Anne Aly, I mean your own personal experience is I think really important. This I love when policy makers can bring to the table a lived experience, you know, a hands on experience. It’s one of the criticisms that that I’ve always heard in opposition and in government is the complexity of the system. It’s just so hard to navigate and of course people do it when they’re most vulnerable or when their family member needs, sort of, pretty urgent care. What can be reasonably done, do you think, to make the system simpler for people to access support?

ALY: Well, let me tell you Peta, that when my father was diagnosed with vascular dementia and we had a number of weeks – in fact a number of days – to find a facility for him, I’ve got 4 university degrees and a PHD and I couldn’t get through everything that I had to do. It is such a complex system and you really do need to really focus on it. I ended up taking two weeks off work just to be able to find my father a facility. So something certainly needs to change and I hope that the government reforms on this will do something about that and deal with this urgent issue of 100,000 people on waiting lists. You know it’s not enough just to say that people are in state based facilities that don’t have the same standards. Why don’t they have the same standards? Why hasn’t something been done about this earlier?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah fair point. I mean this’ll be stuff that I think that Ken Wyatt really needs to front the cameras and better explain to people, and certainly have some way in which information can be accessed readily and easily understood by ordinary people. I want to turn now to a bit of a blow up today in issue of refugees, Nicolle Flint. There was good news for the government; Darren Chester was out there today talking about the fact that the United States will take, subject to the vetting processes that are just being concluded now, an extra 50 refugees from Manis Island and Nauru. It has taken some time, but Trump will make no apologies for what he calls, “extreme vetting.” Kristina Keneally, though, was out this afternoon on Sky News saying that, I don’t know whether it’s on behalf of the Labor Party or certainly as a Labor Party Senator as she is now, saying that she wants the Labor Party, she wants the government to actually reactivate this offer from New Zealand for these people to be settled in New Zealand. Now, I would suspect that’ll put sugar back on the table won’t it Nicolle Flint?

FLINT: Yes, and we know that we just can’t, unfortunately, trust Labor when it comes to border protection and keeping our borders strong and making sure not one single people smuggler is encouraged to go back into business, Peta. We saw 50,000 people flood here during the Labor failed Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments. We saw over 1,200 people tragically drown at sea. We saw 8,000 children in detention. Finally we have got the situation back under control; we haven’t had a boat for 3 years come to Australia. We have to make sure that we maintain the policies and the disincentives for people smugglers so that this terrible situation never occurs again.

INTERVIEWER: I’ll just play the grab of what Kristina Keneally, Senator Keneally had to say today.

KRISTINA KENEALLY, LABOR SENATOR: The Turnbull government needs to get moving and if Labor comes to government, we need to be clear that we are working hard with our allies around the world to find a solution to this. We’ve found a solution, a partial solution with the United States. We have an offer from New Zealand. It is not beyond wherewithal of the Australian government to go out and work with our world partners.

INTERVIEWER: Dr Aly, do you think that Australia should take the New Zealand offer and, if Labor were elected any time in the next 12 months, would you be taking the New Zealand offer?

ALY: Well Peta, I can’t comment on what Labor will or won’t do, but I think our policy on refugees has been very clear. We do not want the people smugglers to get back into business; that we’re clear on. We do support boat turn backs where they are safe; that we’re clear on. But we should not be sacrificing the lives of people who seek asylum and refugees, and the livelihood and their wellbeing in order for a strong border policy. We want to see a more human approach to how we treat these people coming to our shores. That means faster processing times. That means independent oversight. And these are the things we’re keen to do in terms of our refugee policy.

INTERVIEWER: Just on the point about faster processing times, I guess the difficulty for these people in Nauru and Manus Island, forget those who have not been assessed as refugees, I’m talking about those who are who have been and stack up as refugees meeting the test of the UN convention. They didn’t come into our realm of influence under any Coalition government; they’re a legacy of Labor’s failed policies. If you were to bring them to Australia, of course they then get the outcome they sought and the trade will start up again. The difficulty is they then have to be placed with other nations around the world prepared to take them and of the 170 odd nations in the world, Dr Aly, only about 25 of them actually take refugees, we are one of them. So, you know, I would say this if Labor was in power, I would say this obviously if the coalition is in power. To place those people is very difficult when you only have a handful of countries who do as we do and resettle people. You are telling me that there is no breakdown, no change in Labor’s policy in relation to border protection at all?

ALY: No I’m not saying there’s no change, what I’m saying is: the change that we want to see is a more humane approach to how people are treated. Yes, they have been assessed --

INTERVIEWER:  So what would you do differently? If you’re saying you support send backs, you’re saying you support detention offshore detention and you support temporary protection visas. If you’re saying that they are the 3 tenants, if you’re saying you support those as a party, what would you do differently?

ALY: Well, we don’t support temporary protection visas that leave refugees and asylum seekers in limbo, we do support boat turn backs where they are safe and we support a more humane approach to this issue that does not leave people in limbo, languishing on in detention camps for 5 years with no regard to their wellbeing, their health or their mental or physical condition.

INTERVIEWER: Well I’ll come back to you Senator Duniam when we come back from the break. Won’t be long, stay with us we’ll discuss this and obviously get to your questions.


INTERVIEWER: Welcome back. Still with me on the political panel is Nicolle Flint, Anne Aly and Jonathon Dunium. Senator Duniam, I’m going to go back to you as I said I would in relation to the refugee issue. Your thoughts on the conundrum of these people have been languishing for some time, the difficulty is obviously if you bring them to Australia you start the trade up again, they get the outcome that they got on boats and paid people smugglers.

DUNIAM: Which is exactly what we want to avoid. It’d the incentive the people smugglers need. I think today we saw Kristina Keneally doing a bit of freelancing, I’d be very surprised if she wasn’t rapped across the knuckles a little later on in the afternoon. But what this does indicate is that the Labor Party room is at war with itself over what they’re going to do when it comes to border protection policy ahead of the next election. Anne Aly tonight has been talking about a more humanitarian policy, I don’t know what that means but to me it does ring alarm bells around weakening our borders and turning back on the tap of people smuggling activity.

INTERVIEWER: Now one of the things we want to watch with our language is, this is exactly where Rudd went wrong. Rudd went on this moral crusade and went, you know, “I’m better than John Howard. I’m better than the Liberals. I’ll do away with TPV’s and I’ll do away with turn backs,” and all of these various elements and, of course, it was a bit like a jumper; when you start pulling a thread, you pull the thread and suddenly you know all the knitting and all the wool starts to unravel and it was very hard to put the genie back into the box after the event and it took a lot of effort. And I have to say sitting around and hearing the NSC conversations it was a close run thing you know. If Australia was not able to stop the boats when we did a couple of years ago, there was real concerns that we wouldn’t have been able to stop them at all and we would’ve had an open border situation like they do in Europe. Let’s get into some of the questions from my viewers, I’m keen to get into the first one. It’s from Gary in WA and I’ll give this one to you Nicolle Flint. Gary said, “should the renewable subsidies be called a tax and separated on everyone’s electricity bill? Why can’t the tax payer be able to preference his payment to a renewable energy fun or a coal-powered energy fun?”

FLINT: Peta being a true liberal, I’m all for as much information being provided to consumers as possible so that they can make an informed choice and I’m also for choice so I think that’s a great idea and I hope some of the energy companies adopt it.

INTERVIEWER: Anne Aly the risk is there obviously if it’s choice between expensive renewables and intermittent renewables and much cheaper coal fired power, it wouldn’t do anything to the emissions argument would it?

ALY: Well I think the -- yeah you’re right there is a choice and I think a business has made the choice and very clearly expressed that they won’t be backing coal fired power but you know, giving consumers a choice about where they want their tax to go I think it might be a good idea of put putting people back people power back into it all.

INTERVIEWER: I think there’s a lot of common sense there isn’t it, Jonathon Duniam.

DUNIAM: Well in Tasmania it’s a little bit different, we don’t get a choice where we buy our power, it’s either being generated by the hydro power scheme here in the state or we’re buying it from interstate where it’s coal fired power. So I don’t know how you’d break up what we’re getting and where we’re getting it from. I think there’s a few difficulties with it but look, as Nicole said Liberals are about giving consumers choice and information to make the right choice.

INTERVIEWER:  I did, you know, as an aside, I did used to laugh at the Gillard years when the carbon tax was applied to Tasmania when a good 70% of your power is hydro and it wasn’t at all in the mix on a carbon tax but none the less, poor Tasmanians. Had to pay a levy on you know greenhouse gas emissions even though hydro doesn’t have them. Nicolle Flint, next one. It’s from John, I know this is an issue you’re a country girl an issue that you know goes to the heart of issues in South Australia on rural properties and beyond. But his question is, “why aren’t we building more dams and or monsoonal canals to protect towns prone to flooding?” And I’m particularly interested in the dam building point.

FLINT: Well, Peta I wish we had the capacity to build more dams in South Australia but being a pretty flat state, we’re limited in our choice. We should always look at what we can do in terms of flood mitigation, I have unfortunately from time to time had some flood situations in my electorate and I know how devastating it is on a much smaller scale than we see in Queensland, and New South Wales, and Victoria for example. So again, let’s look at all options and what we can do. Certainly water storage separately to flood mitigation is absolutely important here in one of the driest continents in the world.

INTERVIEWER: Anne Aly, you know, WA is famous for its big nation building schemes and they, you know, for a time there put the rest of the country to shame. If you look at what Sir Charles Court did, really big bold projects and I think you know the criticism you can hear from ordinary Australians is that we’ve stopped building that national infrastructure and particularly with this whole Northern Australia generation idea, you know, grow the food and fibre for the rest of the world, take advantage of these free trade agreements. Look at all the land in the West, it could be utilised provided there’s water. What do you think the real impediment is here – is it the Greens on the ground? Their control of councils? Is it planning policy? Why can’t we get more water storage built?

ALY: I think there’s a lack of vision really to be honest with you Peta. I think WA has great potential, I love this state and I’m astounded every day that I go out into my electorate and talk to people and look at what businesses and the innovation that’s coming up and the potential that we have here. But oftentimes they’re finding it difficult to realise their full potential. I think there is a lack of vision, I think the previous State government, the previous Liberal government, squandered – and that’s been shown in the previous the recent Langoulant report – that a lot of the State’s wealth was squandered, a lot of it on vanity projects. There really wasn’t a vision to carry WA forward and diversify our economy in ways that will take advantage of our climate, that would take advantage of our beautiful natural resources as well. So, yeah, moving forward I think the State Labor government now has been putting a vision into place and I look forward to seeing WA reach its full potential.

INTERVIEWER: Senator Duniam, I hate to talk about dams in Tasmania because there is a very long, torturous, High Court history there that goes back many decades, but the point about you know generalised water storage or flood mitigation, what do you say?

DUNIAM: Well as you say we are the home of the no dams crowd, we gave birth to the Green movement here, but pleasingly we are seeing a lot more dam building activity taking place both for mini-hydro schemes but also for on-farm storage. I know we have parts of Tasmania, North-West Tasmania which is saturated with rain you know nearly 300 days of the year. Farmers have their plains flooded so a way I’ve been getting around that, I’ve been working on, with local farmers, is building on-farm dam storage so they get the double benefit of being able to keep the water there for the drier months and prevent the damage in the wetter months. So we should be doing more of it, I think the anti-crowd need to get out of the way and allow common sense to prevail.

INTERVIEWER: Hear hear, you know, you go back in history and this used to be an absolute no brainer when we were building storages for grain go back to the Sumerians, the Egyptians, whatever we were, very clever with our water infrastructure. We seem to have forgotten it in the last few decades but I’m glad to see practical solutions Jonathon Duniam are on the ground. Last question, also from John in New South Wales, it relates to gender neutral birth certificates. Now this is an issue on the table for Queensland, this is a discussion paper out there with the Palaszczuk Government. For John, who is obviously living overseas at the moment but is originally from New South Wales, says, “Why does all of this rubbish seem to be concentrated in Western countries? I’m currently living in an Asian country and you just don’t hear about it.” Nicole Flint, are we worried about the stuff that we shouldn’t be worried about?

FLINT: Absolutely, in this instance Peta. It’s political correctness gone mad and I actually think it’s quite dangerous. There are very real and important biological differences between men and women, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the issue of endometriosis which only affects women and young women in particular just haven’t been educated about this terrible, crippling disease that causes really bad period pain amongst other very serious complications. We saw the Yellow Wiggle come out this week and let people know that she is suffering endometriosis and is having to take a significant time off of work for quite serious medical intervention, unfortunately. It’s really important that men and women and young boys and girls know the difference between the sexes.

INTERVIEWER: Endometriosis is a huge issue and I might get you to come back and just do a separate one on one interview on it, because I know you’ve got some bipartisan work underway. You’ve done a huge amount yourself to get this issue on the national agenda and I think it’s an important conversation. Jonathon Duniam, you’re a dad, you know, would you have been sitting there in the delivery suite as the baby is born ticking boy, girl or you know gender undefined or gender non-specific or whatever they want to make it. It seems ridiculous doesn’t it?

DUNIAM: No, absolutely, I completely agree with that sentiment. I come from a state where we have I think in the adult population functional literacy rates of around 50%. So it’s about priorities and we should be worrying about getting kids to be able to read and write and do maths, the basic life skills that they should be picking up at school, than having state governments worrying about this sort of thing which is, as Nicolle Flint said, political correctness gone mad.

INTERVIEWER:  Anne Aly this wouldn’t get support in WA, you seem to be a state of common sense.

ALY: Well, I don’t know much about this particular proposal that’s come up in Queensland Peta but I wouldn’t go so far as to say this that this is unimportant or that it’s just political correctness. Particularly when we’re talking about identity and gender identity for young people who do suffer if they identify as anything other than male and female. So I don’t say that it’s unimportant, I do wonder about how, at birth, we can tick gender neutral but as I said I’m not familiar with this particular policy that’s being put out by Queensland.

INTERVIEWER:  Well I say to viewers you’ve only got a couple of days to actually get your submissions in because it really only came to attention over the weekend. I’m told it was out a little but earlier than that, certainly it was buried away with the Commonwealth Games, and of course when we saw reports about the story in relation to these gender neutral certificated on the weekend, there was 3 days only to put submissions in. So go to my Facebook page, I’ve got plenty of information up there now. Nicolle Flint, Anne Aly and Jonathon Duniam thanks so much for your time tonight.

ALY: Thanks Peta.

FLINT: Thanks Peta.

DUNIAM: Thanks Peta.