ABC AFTERNOON BRIEFING
SUBJECTS: Aged Care, Liberal Party Branch Stacking
PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Russell Broadbent joins us today and Labor MP Peter Khalil. Welcome to both of you and starting with you, Russell Broadbent, you’ve spoken out about the government’s handling of the aged care sector. Take me through the kinds of concerns that you’ve been raising.
RUSSELL BROADBENT MP: Well, no particular interest was in not for profit regional aged care centres. That at one point I felt were getting a very, very raw deal. Even though I’ve been interested in this issue over a long period of time. I have 21 not for profit aged care centres, and eight for profit. So of course I’m going to be biased, I’m biased towards the regions and I am biased towards not for profits. So there has been a response over the time, Patricia, to my calls for better support for those types of aged care centres.
HOST: Just to clarify a few points because you have been reported on this. And in fact, even in my interview with Penny Wong, she raised the fact that you’ve raised this. You don’t, you think there’s a problem with, for profit care in aged care?
BROADBENT: Well, I think there’s been a very large shift to move government resources to for profit aged care, rather than, and let the not-for-profit wither on the vine. So the department and governments of the day will only be dealing with very large providers rather than the providers that are, in smaller areas like Nurren South, where economically it is important to the community. In a city area, of course aged care is not an economic driver, it is in regional areas. It’s very important.
HOST: And you’ve been raising this issue internally and you’ve been what, ignored?
BROADBENT: I was ignored at that stage and I made, you know, (inaudible) did what I do, which was very important that the time to make the point, but I was ignored then even though I’d gone to great lengths to make the point. So I had to take other action, which we won’t go into.
HOST: You know, we will actually Russell Broadbent. We’re going to go right into it. What’s this action that you took?
BROADBENT: Well, of course, I’m going to look at other things I can bring to bear on the government of the day, on the executive today to say, look, I need this support in aged care. You are ignoring a particular- we are not getting the capital grants, we’re not getting the better locations. If you can’t support me, I can’t support you on particular issues.
HOST: And, what issues were they and who did you say this to?
BROADBENT: Oh to Malcolm at the time. I raised it directly with Malcolm at the time and he got a response from Malcolm at the time, but I had to go all the way to the Prime Minister to get that response.
HOST: And did you, have you raised issues with Scott Morrison while this crisis has been going on?
BROADBENT: I have. I have had long discussions with Scott Morrison over this issue. That’s why he was right on top of what we had discussed. As Prime Minister’s go, he’s been very very good in response to my concerns, but this has been going on for a long time where regional not for profits were being ignored and left to wither on the vine. And it was unacceptable. Unacceptable to the regions and unacceptable to me, I’ve been around a long time, and I know how to handle an issue like that. We did get a response in the end Patricia, we did get a response but it was like dragging teeth. And, you know, the aged care Minister is the only Minister and the senior aged care Minister, being Greg Hunt. Who do not have control of the outlays for this distribution of aged care beds or the distribution of capital. They are only ministers. (Inaudible) All the archives are handed over to the Department.
HOST: I want to go to you, Peter Khalil and apologies to our viewers. I know that the internet connection to Russell Broadbent is a little scratchy, but he’s an important guest today. Given he’s been a really vocal person inside the government on these issues. But Peter Khalil, your side of politics has really been pushing Scott Morrison on this issue in the last couple of days, my question is coming. Isn’t the Victorian government also responsible, not for aged care, but for the outbreaks and, and what we’ve seen as well. I mean, you can’t just hold one level of government to account can you?
PETER KHALIL MP: Well, no, Patricia and, and, you know, mistakes have been made by state governments, territory governments, federal governments, and the Premier Andrews has said he is taking full responsibility. They are going through a process of accountability on what happened with the outbreak out of the hotel quarantine as they should. That doesn’t mean that you don’t ask questions of the federal government, which has responsibility for aged care, full stop. And I don’t even want to think about if it wasn’t for Russell Broadbent’s lone voice visit, um, really made an effort to push, the federal government to do something on this. Frankly, the aged care situation is a disgrace. The people have lost confidence, the public has lost confidence in the Minister for aged care. And you’ve got a damning statistic. You have places in Victoria in aged care where the federal government regulated aged care facilities, private facilities, 1,923 cases. In the aged care facilities run by the state board, the Victorian state government, the cases are six. There’s a lack of planning. There’s been ineptitude and there’s been negligence and they should be held to account for that. And it’s not good enough for the Minister of Health Greg Hunt or the Prime Minister to say, ‘Oh, look, look how much better we are than the rest of the world.’ That’s not the point. It’s about making sure your standards are high enough that you’re doing your job. And Russell’s pointed that out over the years, we’re pointing it out as an opposition. And that’s part of our role as a federal opposition to make, make sure the government is held to account for their responsibility in Aged Care.
HOST: Russell Broadbent in the last couple of days, the Morrison government, both Josh Frydenberg and the Prime Minister have been putting a lot of responsibility on the state government, in Victoria for what we’ve seen, but isn’t it actually the Morrison government that’s responsible entirely for aged care?
BROADBENT: No, not for all of aged care. As Peter has pointed out to you, there are some aged care facilities funded still by the federal government. They receive funding from the federal government that are state based. So we’ve got state based. We’ve got not for profit. We’ve got for profit organizations. Most for profit organizations are based in the cities. Although they are spreading into regions at the moment, through Baptcare and organizations like that and Bupa. Those state ones are in connection to usually connected to a hospital. So in my case, (inaudible), and in Warragul, this state based aged care facilities connected directly to a hospital.
HOST: If I can bring you back in Peter Khalil, this has been entirely the issue that you’ve been pursuing in your question time strategy, but there’s been another issue, which hasn’t been pursued through the parliament and that’s in relation to the Liberal Party and these allegations around branch stacking. Why has the Labor party chosen not to pursue that in the parliament?
KHALIL: Well, I’m not in the tactics committee. I wish I was.
HOST: Because what would you say?
KHALIL: Well look, I think the point is here is that the aged care situation is so dire and so terrible. You know, I’ve got St Basil’s in my electorate in Fawkner, which has had a very high number of cases. And I’ve spoken to family members who have their parents or grandparents there. It’s really, really sad and really shocking, what has occurred. And so I think it’s quite right for us without knowing, you know, why that, you know, the tactics of question time, per se, quite right for us to really put the pressure on the government to explain, where they have failed, where they have fallen short, to hold them to account on this issue, that they are directly responsible for.
On the Liberal Party stuff that obviously a matter for the Liberal Party. But I would interestingly enough point out that they have questions to answer about that as well. And I think one of the really interesting points is the contrast in leadership. When these kinds of allegations were levelled at the Labor party, the Premier sacked the Minister. The Minister involved. Then the Labor Party and the Labor federal leader Anthony Albanese expelled him from the party and actually took over the entire Victoria state branch to review and audit all members, the membership base to ensure that it’s all valid. And what does Scott Morrison do? Nothing to see here, got nothing to do with me. It’s part of the organisational wing. That’s not real leadership.
HOST: Okay. I want to put that to you, Russell Broadbent, were you alarmed by some of the things you saw in that 60 minutes report?
BROADBENT: I don’t like what I’m reading, but the important part to, just to answer the question that Peter has raised, and that is this, the Liberal Party has a completely different structure to the Labor Party. I am a member of the Victorian Liberal Party, which is associated and joined with, the other state parties around the country, including the CLP. So, we don’t have the right for the Prime Minister just to walk into Victoria and say this will happen. No, there’s no case at all for a national takeover, and no facility for a national takeover of the Victorian Liberal Party. It just couldn’t be on (interrupted)
KHALIL: Or any action would have done Russell. It doesn’t have to be a national takeover. I know your party has different organizational structure. That’s not the point. I’m talking about an actual step where some action is taken to address this issue. And I don’t think that’s been done by the Prime Minister.
BROADBENT: Peter I have been fighting against these people for 10 years, 10 years. (Inaudible) I’m still here, but this branch stacking has been going on for a lot longer than the last five years.
HOST: Okay. Well, let’s go to that. Russell Broadbent, have you been concerned about this branch stacking?
BROADBENT: Well, I mean, I have been fighting in my own electorate of Macmillan and now to Monash. We’ve always been, look it’s great for people to have aspirations and want to move a member and get the branch numbers, but it is wrong if you use, you know, individual groups of people that have been corralled I think unfairly, and unknowingly, as has happened here. I can only talk about my electorate. I don’t know about the rest, but I’ve seen it. It can be tricked. It can be pulled. We fought the battle for 10 years. We won that battle, over the branch stackers, and we’re still here.
HOST: Okay. And you’re still here, as you say, you’re still standing, wanting to sing that song, but I’m not going to, but you here Russell Broadbent, what more actions should be taken? Should Michael Sukkar, the Assistant Treasurer stand down while this investigation happens?
BROADBENT: I haven’t got any input to have on who should do what and what the Prime Minister should do and what should happen with Michael Sukkar. I only know that, that’s not the way I do business down here. The allegations that have been put out in the newspapers today, and on 60 minutes, they’re not nice. I don’t want to read those things. And I’m sure that will be sorted out as time goes by.
HOST: Thank you to both of you. You’re both participating in the parliament and a remote way. Would you prefer it if you actually had a vote?
BROADBENT: I’d prefer it If I was in Canberra with you at the moment.
HOST: Fair enough. I can’t get there either. I’m blocked. Thank you to both of you Liberal MP Russell Broadbent and Labor MP Peter Khalil, Victorian- so not allowed in.