Transcript: Interview with Andrew Clennell, Sky News - 7 April 2024


Interview with Andrew Clennell, Sky News Sunday Agenda

7 April 2024

Topics: New Aged Care Act delay, the aged care sustainability taskforce, nuclear power policy, Liberal Party preselections, Zomi Frankcom tragedy, illegal boat arrivals



ANDREW CLENNELL: The overhaul of the Aged Care Act - they promised to have that done by July 1. The Minister's indicated last week that won't be ready in time. What are we expecting from that new act, and do you expect to see aged care reform before the next election now?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, I mean, this is the question I think every Australian rightly should be asking about now, is that we had great promises by this government during the election campaign about changes and the policy delivery they were going to have in aged care. And then we find out this week that the signature piece of aged care going forward, the new Aged Care Act, has now been delayed, and we don't even know how long it's been delayed for. So, I mean, I am concerned, like I'm sure every aged care provider and every older Australian, about what this actually means. Because we know we've got real challenges in aged care at the moment. The sustainability of the sector is absolutely compromised, with more than half of our aged care homes not operating at a profit at the moment, and that just cannot go on. And we've got a workforce challenge that is meaning that just about every aged care facility is really, really struggling to be able to get the necessary staff to meet their requirements, which means they're paying, in many instances, thousands of thousands of dollars above what they would otherwise be paying on agency staff. I mean, we've got a really, really critical situation. And then we find out this week that we're not pushing forward with their new Aged Care Act, but at the same time we don't even know what the [response to the] aged care taskforce into sustainability is going to recommend. So, it's pretty confusing at the moment for Australians. And I think, you know, rightly, people are starting to get very nervous, because they are so uncertain about what the sector looks like.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Well, let's have a talk about that. We've seen the Minister, Anika Wells, present that report on aged care, which talked about the possibility of people contributing capital funds, if you like, not just bonds to their aged care and about lifting the daily fees around aged care. Has the Government indicated to you they're looking at pursuing any of that, or have they asked for your support on that?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, so far, I have no idea what the Government's intentions are in relation to the recommendations of the Taskforce. The only briefings I've received to date have been about the, I suppose, the obvious components of an ageing population, and what that's likely to do in terms of the demand on the public sector in terms of support for aged care going forward. I'd really like to think that, pretty soon, that the Government is actually going to come to the Opposition with some suggestions about how they would like to move forward, how they're going to respond to this taskforce report. Because we said that we would support sensible reforms, but they've got to come forward with those sensible reforms and put them on the table.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Just on that, has the - What do you think of the approach of the Minister so far in consulting you on this?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, I suppose I'm really disappointed, not just for me. I mean, it's one thing that she hasn't consulted with me, but she hasn't consulted with Australia. I would have thought this was a conversation that we should have been having with older Australians and their families for the last year. Instead, we've seen a taskforce that has been bound up by non-disclosure agreements, which means that she's sort of basically locked out discussion from most of the major players in the sector for over a year. We saw a report delivered in December that then got sat on for three months. And when it was actually released, there was no response from government for it. So I'd say that the first thing the Minister should be doing, right now, is being honest and transparent, not just with me, but with the Australian public about what the Government is intending. Because we need to have a conversation with the people that this change is going to affect, there is no point just talking to me and talking to people behind closed doors and stopping them from talking to other people, she needs to talk to Australia.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Your leader Peter Dutton's been out again in the papers talking up nuclear power policy over the weekend. He says your premier, Peter Malinauskas, will end up supporting nuclear power. I've had federal figures suggest that might not be the case. Chris Minns, you would have heard him on earlier, he's not a rep for nuclear power at all. He says your timeline's out of whack. It's too late. What's your reaction to that?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, first of all, living here in South Australia, I have seen the impact of a reckless pursuit of renewables and only renewables. We are entirely reliant on the East Coast, if the sun's not shining and the winds not blowing. So I can understand why Peter Malinauskas would be interested in nuclear, because he is in a world of pain because we don't have baseload power in South Australia. We rely on renewables or being plugged in to the East Coast. So, that doesn't surprise me at all. But what I'd say is that we need to be having this conversation with Australia, because right now - I mean even Chris Minns, he sounded like hope was his strategy around what he was going to do for his baseload power when his coal fired power stations go offline. You know, there needs to be a level of certainty built into our energy mix right now so that we can get investment certainty in the right places to make sure that we've got an energy mix that is affordable, it's reliable, and it's actually going to deliver the long term outcomes. Because I mean, like $275 reduction in power bills - How's that gone? So I think we need to have a government that's actually prepared to have an honest conversation with the Australian public about what our energy mix is going to look like, and also what it's going to cost. This idea that renewable energy is the cheapest form of power completely misses the point. It is not the cheapest form of power when it comes to the people who are paying the bills.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Alright, can I get a reaction from you to this recent story of Alex Antic rolling you for the number one spot on the South Australian Senate ticket?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, obviously, these are matters for the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party in South Australia had its say. Right now, I've moved on and I'm getting on with the job, the really important job of being the Opposition's spokesperson for health and aged care, because they are two sectors that need an awful lot of work. Because Australians rely on them, and right now their government's letting them down.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Alright. Tony Abbott's called for more women and more people from diverse backgrounds to be preselected by the Liberal Party. Do you have any hope of that after your own experience with preselection?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, obviously I'm really keen to see a diversity of people in our Parliament. The great strength of the Liberal Party of the past has always been that we weren't sort of that one-size-fits-all union official that seemed to be the trait that was representative of Labor Party members. We've got people from all sorts of backgrounds. You know, obviously myself comes from a small business background. We've got vets, we've got doctors, we've got all sorts of people in our party. But diversity is the key, because if you want to be truly representative of the population, you actually have to represent the population. So I'm very keen to continue to work with my party to make sure that we're putting up a diverse group of people for preselection. And obviously, I'd like to see that including not just women, but people from other diverse backgrounds.

ANDREW CLENNELL: I wanted to ask about this Zomi Frankcom tragedy. Ed Husic says where is the Opposition on it? He said that earlier. What - Where are you? What do you think of the appointment of a special adviser by Australia to do its own investigation?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, look, obviously Simon Birmingham as the Shadow Foreign Affairs spokesperson has been out on this particular issue. But I mean, the death of anybody, an innocent person under these circumstances is tragic and obviously our thoughts go to Miss Frankcom's friends and family. But all we'd like to see is transparency around the investigation that's been undertaken by Israel, and I look forward to seeing that. But we also need to be, you know, remembering this is a terrible situation that is ongoing in Gaza and Israel. And I think we need to call for a calm and reasoned approach to this, as we have hopefully called for right the way through. I think the Opposition has remained very, very steadfast in its consistent approach, and that is that we have to be calm and sensible about responding to this horrible situation. But first and foremost, we need to make sure that we are not negotiating with a terrorist organisation, which I think is one of the things that keeps getting missing in this argument. Hamas are a terrorist organisation and they must be stopped.

ANDREW CLENNELL: All right. I'm out of time. But I will ask a very quick response to this. A group of Chinese asylum seekers, about 15 of them, are believed to have arrived overnight on the coast. What's your reaction?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, when you weaken your border policy, the boats will start coming. And that's exactly what has happened already. So we are calling on the Government to be tough on border policy, so that not only are you stopping people coming to Australia illegally, but you're stopping people dying at sea, which we saw under their previous government.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Senator Anne Ruston, thanks so much for your time.


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