Interview with Greg Jennett, Today – ABC News – Afternoon Briefing June 14, 2022

Media event date:

June 14, 2022

Date published:

June 15, 2022

Spectators:

General public

GREG JENNET:

Yes, so the Prime Minister made those remarks from Queensland on his first visit to that state since winning the election. Anthony Albanese made a point of meeting his new Minister for Elderly Care and Sport, Anika Wells. They inspected a new nursing home for the elderly in Brisbane and may have also made a mention or two of the Socceroos victory, which gives this team a ticket to the World Cup final in Qatar. So we met Anika Wells a short time ago.

Anika Wells, welcome back. This time for the first time on our program as a full minister now and a lot has changed for you. You were accompanied by the Prime Minister today. The biggest shift to Labor in Queensland happened in your own Lilley seat, and now you’re a minister. So congratulations on that. I’m just going to ask you for a brief comment. You must feel like your world has turned upside down since you took the oath.

ANIKA WELLS:

Oh, how nicely you frame our conversation, Greg. It’s great to be with you and it’s great to be in this position. As you said, the Prime Minister traveled to Queensland for the first time today, traveled to Brisbane and visited me because we want everyone to know that caring for elderly people are a top priority for this Albanian Labor government.

GREG JENNET:

Yeah, now you have visited what I think could be described as a very modern aged care facility, perhaps even the model for all future ones in Australia. May I ask if as an individual operation there will be nurses present 24/7?

ANIKA WELLS:

So it’s not scheduled to open for another five weeks, Greg, so they’re still getting all of that up and running. But this center – this center in particular – as you say, anticipates and tries to act in accordance with all the recommendations of the Royal Commission. And I think that gives Australians hope that the future of aged care is brighter and is already here in some places.

GREG JENNET:

So how many – the question was how many like-minded operators? How many exceed the minimum expectations, and I guess anticipating what is to come, of you as a minister or of the Albanian government more generally?

ANIKA WELLS:

I want to recognize and pay tribute to those providers who do, but I will admit that there are not enough of them, which is why we made a commitment in the election to ensure that every center has nurses on board 24 hours a day. 7and we aim to do this by July 1, 2023, as the Royal Commission has asked us to do.

GREG JENNET:

So what, if anything, have you been ordered to do during your brief shift to get the nurses who will be needed to meet that 12 month deadline? We are talking, of course, about training, but I presume also in the context of immigration.

ANIKA WELLS:

Yeah. It’s true. So that’s two weeks for me tomorrow as Minister for Aged Care. And addressing those labor shortages is really a top priority for me, and not just for me, but for the ministers I work with in this space. That means Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke. It also means Immigration Minister Andrew Giles. And that means my Chief Cabinet Minister, Mark Butler. We are working together to ensure that we can do everything we can to address this labor shortage as soon as possible. And, as you say, it’s a complex problem that requires a thoughtful solution. We know from polls that the nurses union has done, from countless reports, that there are nurses who work part-time and want to work more hours. So we want to give them reasons to come back to the industry and put in more hours. We also know that there are so many people who have been part of the care economy in Australia who have left because the pay and conditions are not good enough and we want to raise wages so that those people want to come back in the area. So those two factors, plus something to do with migration, will give us enough nurses for 24/7 staff centers when we need them.

GREG JENNET:

I’m sure you’ll find through no fault of anyone that even with a diligent and professional civil service, the things you want to see happen can sometimes take surprisingly longer than you thought when promising them from the opposition. So if that were the case, what would you do after 10 or 11 months? Do you just want to extend your own timeline, your own ambition to reach that nursing benchmark within 12 months?

ANIKA WELLS:

Well, without making assumptions, I’m going to tell you how I think about this question, that is to say how I want to act and the values ​​that I bring to this profession. I want to be an open and responsible minister. I want to be frank and I want a good faith agreement. So I think Australians elected an Albanian Labor government because they want to see aged care transformed in this country. I want to reward that good faith by getting nominations for the board and doing things that we can do in the short term, recognizing that this is a system that has been in decline for decades and that ‘It will take more than one term to get the kind of reforms that everyone wants and to get the kind of future for senior care that everyone wants in this country.

GREG JENNET:

Yeah, and one of the things that’s coming up, which will obviously impinge on your goal that we’re talking about, is funding a pay raise for so many people in the industry. The official decision has yet to be made, but has your treasurer Jim Chalmers assured you that this will be or is being funded in some way ahead of his first budget in October?

ANIKA WELLS:

Well, that was all part of what Australian Labor brought to the election, wasn’t it, Greg? That we would pay a raise set by the Fair Work Commission. So it started with us. One of the very first things I did as Minister for Aged Care was write to the Fair Work Commission asking permission to submit a submission on this case. Now the timelines for that are pretty tight, but we’ll be beholden to the Fair Work Commission to review everyone’s submissions, make a decision on it, set when the government will show up and pay that raise of salary.

GREG JENNET:

All right, we’ll see where that takes us. Just a here and now. Obviously, not all nursing homes in Australia are as modern as the one you visited today. Their energy insulation or efficiency ratings are probably not that high in many cases. It makes me wonder if you’ve ever had an assessment of the impact of this energy crisis, if that’s what we call it in Eastern Australia, on care homes for the elderly? Did you request a briefing on this?

ANIKA WELLS:

No one came to us directly with this particular problem. Obviously we had no power outages in Queensland last night. This was avoided thanks to the good work of Minister Chris Bowen working with the Queensland Government and as I understand it looks like we are going to avoid this again tonight. It’s something I rely on. Everyone works in good faith in the industry to come to me if this should be a problem, but it’s not yet something people have come to me for.

GREG JENNET:

Alright, fair enough. Why not move on to the other side of your wallet that can bring you a bit more joy today at least, Anika Wells, and that’s in the sports sphere. You and so many others celebrate the Socceroos victory over Peru. Just tell us about the contacts and conversations you had to convey about the congratulations, the gratitude of the nation to the various officials and players today?

ANIKA WELLS:

How good is this? How good was it? And my first contact was actually cheering on my husband and kids as we were trying to explain the concept of a penalty shootout to a 5 year old and I think that’s the experience that many Australian households experienced very early this morning. . I was sort of following the game through my shower speaker, on my phone, and then finally on the TV screen for the shootout. And I truly think the Socceroos have defied expectations and lit the hearts of a nation by qualifying for the World Cup for the fifth time. And I think it’s a momentous day as part of our coming golden decade for Australian sport as we head into the Brisbane 2032 Olympics. I can’t believe my luck being Minister for Sport for helping everyone in the industry work together to make it all happen in the decade ahead.

GREG JENNET:

No, that’s quite a gig, especially for a Queenslander. Just with regard to the Qatar World Cup finals in particular, of course there are human rights concerns about their initial bid and some of their attempts to prepare, their build program , and so on. Do you share them? Do you intend to attend the final later this year?

ANIKA WELLS:

Oh well I need the Prime Minister’s permission to travel overseas and I have, as you say, aged care priorities which I am using my time with him to discuss right now. If we’re going to travel, listen, I had initial discussions with the Football Australia team this morning. I spoke to the CEO and President to congratulate them on Socceroos efforts today. We made a commitment to each other to meet again in the coming weeks to talk about what this road looks like. So I’m going to have to put a pin in that one, Greg, and get back to you.

GREG JENNET:

No, perfectly understandable. We thought we would push and push and see where it would take us. Obviously, a little work needs to be done and a lot of practice also for the Socceroos themselves. Anika Wells, congratulations again on your nomination. Thanks for this initial conversation about the two wallets today. We’ll talk to you soon.

ANIKA WELLS:

Thank you very much, Greg, have a great afternoon.

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