Interview on 2SM Breakfast with Grant Goldman

Transcript of the Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt's interview on 2SM Breakfast with Grant Goldman.

Page last updated: 16 August 2017

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16 August 2017

Grant Goldman:
We’ve spent the week talking about Barnaby Joyce and if he is a New Zealander or not, but are we forgetting about the important issues that face our nation? Australia’s population is aging. We’ve known about that for a long time. Based on population projects by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, by 2064 there will be 9.6 million people aged 65 and over. Many of us, of course, will be under the ground, but 1.9 million aged 85 and over, constituting 23 per cent and 5 per cent of Australia’s projected population respectively. And I’ve got to say, it is good to see the Federal Government is investigating the costs involved in providing residential aged case to elderly Australians according to their individual needs. At long last, we have politicians and governments who agree that everyone’s different.

The Residential Aged Care Resource Utilisation and Classification Study works to provide a wealth of data to better inform the future of funding in the aged care sector. So there’s some good news all around there. The Minister for Aged Care – the man does a great job, too – Ken Wyatt is on the line. Good morning, Ken.

Ken Wyatt:
Good morning, Grant. It’s good to be with you.

Grant Goldman:
And the good thing about this is it’s actually got the same-sex marriage off the front page for a change.

Ken Wyatt:
Well, it has. Look, it’s taken oxygen from some of the key issues that impact on all Australians in some very critical areas. Even though that issue is important, it detracts also from coverage on work to do with, say, senior Australians. What I want this key study to do is to look at the individuals and what are the characteristics of residents in terms of their care costs: are some of the care costs fixed across all residents, or do we see variation? Do they vary by remoteness and size of the residential service? And how can the residents be best classified into groups within the care needs and costs? So it’s going to the issue of how do we best care for the people who built this nation?

Grant Goldman:
Yeah, and that’s the words I like to hear: how do we best care for the people who built this nation, and many of them who defended this nation? The Federal Budget has allocated $18.6 billion to aged care in 2017-18, including $12.5 for residential care. So good news all around here.

Ken Wyatt:
It is, but we’ve got further work to do. Look, I want to acknowledge that our residential aged care sector has been incredible. I’m often amazed at the extent of what is delivered and how a lot of the providers give love and care to our senior Australians. The Turnbull Government, and I in particular, want to get this right so that we start looking at the individual within residential care, how we can best make their journey into their twilight years enjoyable ones, but at the same time look at what the projected costs will be for the Commonwealth into the future so that we provide that level of support.

Grant Goldman:
And that’s fair enough too. What is the one thing that stands out to you that is most needed as we age?

Ken Wyatt:
I think the issue that’s important for me in this is re-enablement, getting people mobile, because when you sit you waste muscle and you often, when you start to become frail, you run the risk of falls. If people are moving and they’re working – tinkering, is what I should be saying around, the home, and that’s why I encourage people to stay at home longer, because you’re more likely to get up, tinker around the house, go outside, prune some plants. And so you’re using your body’s physical structure and you’re keeping it agile, and that’s important. But when you start sitting around all the time, then you lose a lot of that muscle strength.

Grant Goldman:
True, but sometimes in aged care that’s what happens. You’re sitting sometimes in your bed all day or in a lounge and you’re not doing too much. What we’ve got to do is encourage people to do a lot more. I have an old friend of mine who, when he retired, he said that’s it, sat in a corner and stared into a corner, and he said one day I’m going to get a TV – that was his joke. But he didn’t do anything and he died within 12 months of retirement because he felt that was the end of his life.

Ken Wyatt:
And that’s the mindset we’ve got to change, because we’ve got to think that we live from birth until a hundred plus, and on that continuum the only time we should need services is when we’re sick, ill, or we need an operation. And then when we get to 60, we shouldn’t think that we’re old; we should think about enjoying the years that are ahead of us and looking at how we keep our body fit, how we keep our mindset geared into making the most of life, and not saying I’m old, I can’t do it anymore.

Grant Goldman:Yeah. I tell you one thing that the elderly – and I get this a lot on this program – the elderly are concerned about costs and cost of living. When you get to that age, you really do need to start enjoying yourself, and it’s hard to enjoy yourself when you know you’re counting your pennies way too much and you can’t afford things like electricity and gas.

Ken Wyatt:
And that’s one of the challenges that I face within this portfolio, is that challenge alone. But equally, what I don’t think a lot of us do well is plan for our retirement years. We think, I’m going to be 60, I’m going to retire, I’m going to go – particularly men – I’m going to go and play golf twice a week, I’m going to tinker around the shed. But after about 18 months, you think why did I leave work? And I’ve heard men say this frequently. What I’d love to see, Grant, is a gap year before you retire where you take 12 months’ leave without pay, go and do all of the grey nomad stuff.

Grant Goldman:
Yeah, and then come back to work and then re-think it. Yeah, good idea.

Ken Wyatt:
I think we would find more people – including women – who would enjoy that break. Companies and business would keep highly skilled, knowledgeable people. And they shouldn’t think that they’re old, because you’ve got the most experienced people at that age because we accumulate knowledge, life skills, street credentialing. We should hang onto them.

Grant Goldman:Yeah. Look, you mentioned before about retirement, and it’s true we don’t prepare for our retirement financially all that well, and maybe that’s changing. But somebody said the other day – and it scared the hell out of me – that you probably need about 1.5 million at least to retire these days, and most people would say, geez, I haven’t got that.

Ken Wyatt:
And that’s our challenge. So I’m looking at different ways that we can better prepare for the future, and that’s why this landmark study is going to help shape some of that thinking, look at the actual cost of aging and the fact that we should encourage people to stay at home longer and plan better.

Grant Goldman::
Yeah, and the elephant in the room that nobody talks about all that much and should be talking about it more: the pension is way too low. You cannot go from a well-paid, even public servant- well-paid public servant, say, or a good job and suddenly you’re retired and you’ve got this pension to live on. It’s almost impossible for people.

Ken Wyatt:
It is challenging, but I think one of the things that – and this is part of our own mindset – we think, yes, we’ll enjoy today, we’ll live life to our optimum level of fun and enjoyment, and then we get to the pension and we think, yeah, the pension’s there and we think that that’s enough, and that’s some of our mistakes in terms of our own financial planning. Look, I’m saving madly now that I’m 65 because I’m heading down that journey and at some point …

Grant Goldman:
[Interrupts] Mind you, that’s pretty young for a politician. You’ve got a lot older than you in the joint.

Ken Wyatt:
Well, it was only John Alexander, I think, and Philip Ruddock in my side that were older than me, but the beauty is, though, is that governments are now looking at what we need to provide for our senior Australians, and I think that’s the beauty of the journey that we’re all taking.

Grant Goldman::
Yeah, look, we’ll get some calls on this no doubt, but thank you for your time this morning.

Ken Wyatt:
No, it’s my pleasure, Grant, and any time we can catch up let’s do.

Grant Goldman:
Thank you, Ken. Ken Wyatt, the Minister for Aged Care. I’ll say it again: the pension is too low. You must think to yourself, geez, I paid taxes all my life, paid a lot of money, and this is my reward? Not much at all, where I’ve got to count my pennies, eh? I wonder if pensioners should get free utilities, like electricity and gas. Would that be too much to ask?

ENDS

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