Transcript: Interview with Tom Connell on Politics Now, Sky News - 26 June 2024


Interview with Tom Connell on Politics Now, Sky News

26 June 2024

Topics: The Coalition’s vaping policy, Labor’s vaping deal with the Greens, community pharmacists, aged care reforms, Fatima Payman


TOM CONNELL: Joining the panel live, Shadow Health Minister Anne Ruston. Thank you for your time. So the Coalition has effectively come out with your own policy on this. So you would essentially have it more broadly available. Under Labor, it's pharmacies. Under the Coalition, it would be what? Any retail store could sell vapes, the same way they sell cigarettes? Is that the simplest way of summing up your policy?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, certainly one of the things that we want to do is to make sure it was under a strictly regulated retail model. And one of the proposals that we're putting forward is that we need uniform licensing across Australia, because different states and territories have got really different rules about who can sell cigarettes at the moment. But in effect, we're saying that we should have a consistent regulatory framework in relation to the supply and sale of cigarettes and vapes. They need to be behind the counter, they need to be in plain packaging, and we certainly need to make sure that we're cracking down on children getting access to it, because right now we know they are getting access to it.

TOM CONNELL: So on that point, though, I mean, if children - That is the biggest concern for most people, because do you create someone who is on some element of nicotine for the rest of their life? If they're only available at pharmacies versus available, you know, at every corner store, wouldn't you say that's going to mean more children will be able to get them somehow?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, right now the actual model that we're talking about has been in place for a number of years, and I don't think there is any parent who wouldn't know that if their child wanted to, they could go down the street right now and get a vape from a million different options in a million different stores. So the current model just plainly isn't working.

TOM CONNELL: But wasn't that - The model for a number of years was whether vapes could have nicotine in them. Basically, they'll just ban the sale of vapes full stop unless they're a pharmacy, won't they?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, the proposals they're putting forward right now is to ban what they call so-called non therapeutic vapes, which really in layman's terms is vapes without nicotine. But we all know that all those vapes that have been sold at those vape stores and other places that say they don't have nicotine in them, the overwhelming majority of them do have nicotine in them. So that was why we agreed today to let the legislation go through, because we do believe that it makes sense to have a uniform framework, whether the vape's got nicotine in it or not, so all vapes need to be regulated in the same way. But simply doubling down on a model that isn't working - And the reality is, unless you're serious about enforcement, this isn't going to work anyway. And the other piece of today's legislation is the fact that pharmacists don't want to sell vapes. That's been the response to this change in the Government's legislation is that pharmacists - [Interrupted]

TOM CONNELL: Is that a bit of a cop out? I mean, they do methadone programs. What's wrong with selling vapes?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, not all of them do methadone programs, and they do them at specific times under specific conditions.

TOM CONNELL: Pharmacies won't have to sell vapes. It's up to them.

ANNE RUSTON: Well, indeed. And I think what you're going to find is that they won't sell vapes, because they don't want to sell vapes. So, then we're back to where we were before, which is a situation that's plainly not working. Prohibition doesn't work. I don't see why it's going to work this time.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Can I ask you about aged care? We know you've been dealing with that and the Government's reforms, which is basically lifting fees on beds in aged care homes or the amount of interest that comes from refundable deposits or whatever. What is the Government, what is Mark Butler telling you that they want to do, and do you think they're actually determined to do it? Or they're kind of just, you know, going through the motions? Where's all that at?

ANNE RUSTON: Look, I think the Government genuinely wants to see a reform package to enable the sustainability of aged care going into the future, making sure that it's simple to understand, that it's fair and it's transparent. And certainly, the Coalition supports those endeavours of the Government. So, we're having constructive conversations with the Government about what they're proposing, so the Coalition can have input into that. And so, those discussions are ongoing and hopefully we'll be able to reach a resolution where we can give certainty to older Australians that they're going to have the level of care that they need going into the future. Because, I think one of the things you'd have to say about aged care over the last little while has been there's been massive uncertainty about what it actually looks like. I know many Australians were traumatised about what they saw that came out of the Royal Commission, and I think it's time that we gave some stability, some certainty and some transparency back.

ANDREW CLENNELL: So you'd be up for an increase in the daily fee or the, you know, amount?

ANNE RUSTON: It's much more complicated than that. But what we would be keen to see is having a conversation with older Australians, because the one thing I really want to see is I want to see the new Aged Care Act, including this chapter that deals with the sustainability, out there for the public and particularly older Australians to have a look at.

ANDREW CLENNELL: More user pays though, more in terms of user pays, is that what they're looking at?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, certainly, I think it's a very broad range of recommendations. And I'm sure you've seen the Aged Care Taskforce report came back with 23 recommendations, including some in relation to the consumer contribution towards care. And I think there is a - certainly the research showed that Australians are open to paying for the kinds of things they would normally pay for in their lives. As we go through life, we pay for everyday living expenses and the like. Currently, every Australian in aged care pays the equivalent or 85% of their pension to their everyday living costs. So I think there is some, certainly, an appetite to have a look at what's fair. But that's what we want to make sure - We want to make sure that it is fair and that older Australians are getting the care they deserve at a price that they can afford.

ANDREW CLENNELL: And just briefly, a thought on Fatima Payman, her crossing the floor, and the Prime Minister's reaction. He just basically says she's not going to caucus next week.

ANNE RUSTON: Well, I must admit, I've found the Prime Minister's reaction somewhat weak in the sense of - I don't think since 1996, anybody in the Labor Party has been in this situation. And so I probably ask the Prime Minister, why is there one rule for Fatima Payman, but everybody else has to toe the line?

CAM REDDIN: Do you sympathise with her a bit that she's speaking out, not on policy as such, more so on a conscience issue, that this is something she felt so strongly enough to cross the floor?

ANNE RUSTON: Well, that's the luxury that we have in the Liberal Party, and that is that we don't constrain our members to do what they're told on the basis of what the party insists upon. And we've seen it many times in the Labor Party, where Labor Party members vote for things that you would think that they wouldn't vote for, simply because that's the rules they sign up to in the Labor Party. I'm just really glad I'm in the Coalition and I can cross the floor if I feel strongly about something.

TOM CONNELL: Maybe it's all about to blossom in the Labor Party, and they're free to add to the tally, which has been limited of late. Anne Ruston, thank you.


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