Minister Wells and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – doorstop in Sydney – 12 May 2023

Read the transcript of Minister Wells and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's doorstop in Sydney about International Nurses Day, aged care and the 2023–24 Budget.

The Hon Anika Wells MP
Minister for Aged Care
Minister for Sport

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MIKE BAIRD, HAMMONDCARE: Let me just start by saying it is an incredibly special day – on behalf of our staff, our wonderful care workers and our nurses – on International Nurses Day, I couldn't be prouder of them. And I know across the sector, we are so fortunate to have them. Our care workers and our nurses, each day, what they do is they make a difference to people's lives. And that's not words, that's a reality. And if you heard the joy from our workers, everything about is giving dignity, respect, quality of life, to those that we have the privilege to care for. And it goes both ways. We learn, we engage, we receive joy. So I think what's so special to have the Prime Minister and the Aged Care Minister here today, through the announcement of the Budget, what we've said to these care workers, and what we've said to these nurses, and those across the sector, you matter. And that is a really important thing. Our country has said you matter. We value you, we value everything you do, and it's something we're very proud of. So it's a real honour to have the Prime Minister and Aged Care Minister here.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much. It's terrific to be here with Mike Baird, and to also be here with my Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells. And we wanted to come here for 2 reasons. One, just to say thank you to the nurses and carers who look after our oldest Australians, and who show such care for them, on International Nurses Day. I think our nurses and our carers are angels on earth. They just look after people when they are most needed. And what we saw upstairs was people who are leading a very happy life in their older years. And the basis of that is, yes, these magnificent facilities, but the real thing that matters is the workforce, the people who look after them and care for them each and every day. And in my last Budget Reply, I committed to aged care reform as a centrepiece, as a key element which I would go to the 2022 election on. In our first 2 budgets, we haven't been elected for a year yet, aged care funding had just been provided to fulfil all of the commitments that we put forward. And, of course, in Tuesday night's Budget, a centrepiece was $11.3 billion to support a 15% wage increase for those people in the aged care sector. And Hammondcare is one of the remarkable institutions that looks after people and provides quality care and that values their workforce. And I'm very pleased that they've said they will pass that on in full, which is so important going forward.

I want to thank Mike for that. During the pandemic, I think Australians really had a focus on some of the things that perhaps were not given the prominence that they deserve. And one of those was the workers in aged care, who do not do it for the money, they do it because they care for their fellow Australians. But at the same time, the Aged Care Royal Commission found that unless we value the workforce more, unless they are paid more, it is simply not possible to have a sector that cares for an ageing population, which has been identified as something that will occur over coming years. This 15% pay increase is showing these aged care workers that we not only thank them, we actually believe that they deserve an increase in their wages and their conditions. That is why the Government was committed to ensuring that this occurred. I am very proud of the Government that I lead, that we are fulfilling the commitments that I gave in Budget Replies at a time when Opposition Leaders went along and actually had substantial policy reform in Budget Replies. And aged care was the centrepiece of my third Budget Reply, as the other Budget Replies I put in place had our Housing Australia Future Fund that remains caught up in the Senate, being opposed by the Coalition and the Greens political party.

But our other reforms as well, our Rewiring the Nation, $20 billion plan to fix the energy grid, our cheaper child care plan that comes in on July 1, our national manufacturing plan that has now been implemented through the National Reconstruction Fund. These are the big reforms that we have a mandate to implement. We intend to get on with the business, as we approach our year anniversary in government, of implementing the reforms that Australians voted for when they elected a government that I am proud to lead. The aged care reforms were very much front and centre of the differentiation we talk to the last election. I am very pleased to be here in the electorate of Cook today, recognising International Nurses Day and saying thank you to these magnificent men and women who work as nurses, as carers, who look after our oldest Australians.

ANIKA WELLS, MINISTER FOR AGED CARE: It is so great to be here with the Prime Minister, and Hammondcare CEO Mike Baird, and some of our brilliant aged care workers here in the beautiful electorate of Cook. It is such a tonic after a big week inside one building in Canberra to come out and see the kind of difference the decisions we made in the Budget on Tuesday night will make for real people. Aged care workers and nurses do some of the most important work in our country, looking after some of the most vulnerable Australians and helping older Australians age well. For so long they have been undervalued. So for International Nurses Day today, we are not just giving them our thanks, we are giving them a pay rise, a 15% pay rise above the award. $11.3 billion is a big figure but it is life-changing money for people.

I met nurses upstairs – that is an extra $10,000 a year for them. For personal carers, particularly here who look after dementia patients with specialised and extra care, an extra $7,000 a year. This is life-changing money and I'm so grateful for the leadership of Mike Baird, Hammondcare CEO, a leader in the sector, signing the pledge to pass on every cent of the pay rise to his workers. And it is our clear expectation that all providers will be like Mike, sign the pledge and pass along every cent to aged care workers. It is too important not to. Finally, can I say, because 85% of the aged care workforce are women, and because I worked alongside my mum in aged care when I was studying at uni, that Sunday is Mother's Day. And behalf of myself and everyone who is grateful for their mum, and particularly all the aged care workers who are also mums alongside all the important work they do here, Happy Mother's Day and thank you so much.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Peter Dutton says allowing Jobseeker recipients to earn an extra $100 before losing their welfare payments is better because it encourages people to get jobs. Will you consider their proposal instead of your own? 

PRIME MINISTER: Peter Dutton can't even say whether he will support a $40 a fortnight increase in JobSeeker. Peter Dutton was a Cabinet Minister who did not do anything to lift JobSeeker or make any of the changes that he has now proposed, in order to avoid making a statement about that. The other thing that we're going to be doing, which is really important, is to look at how employment services are working in order to get people into jobs. We have an unemployment rate now of just 3.5%. There are many job vacancies. There are people who need and want work. How is it that the system isn't working to get those people into employment? That is something that we have a committee looking at, about how employment services reform can work in the future and that is very much a focus of my government. At the same time, we are providing cost of living support – some $14.6 billion in the Budget on Tuesday night to provide that support – at the same time as we are lifting the cost of living pressure that people are feeling. We want to relieve pressure on inflation, which is why we put forward a very responsible Budget that instead of having the $78 billion of deficit that was predicted for this year in the Budget handed down by the Liberal Party just one year ago, instead of that you have a projected surplus of $4.2 billion going forward.

JOURNALIST: Does your Budget abandon middle Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Peter Dutton has abandoned common sense. Because if you look at the Budget that is put forward, it seems that he is unaware that bringing wage increases forward are assisting middle Australia. The people over here look like middle Australia to me. They are workers who as a result of Tuesday night's Budget are getting a 15% wage increase, something that never happened under them, even though the Royal Commission said that it should happen. They received recommendations from a Royal Commission and did nothing about it.

Middle Australia goes to the doctors. And what we are doing with $3.5 billion to support bulk billing, by providing that support, the tripling of the bulk billing incentive will certainly help Australians to find a doctor. Peter Dutton's solution when he was Health Minister was to abolish bulk billing completely by having a co-payment, a tax on Medicare, a tax every time people went to a doctor that would be payable by every worker, by every pensioner, by every child, by anyone who attended a doctor.

At the same time we have halved, through our medicines policy, the cost by extending out from one month to 2 months where prescriptions can be available for people who have diabetes, heart disease, who have to have regular medications. That will literally cut in half the cost, following our decrease in prescription payments from $42.50 down to $30 that occurred on January 1. Peter Dutton, in his Budget Reply last night, could not even say what his position was on that.

This is a Budget aimed squarely at assisting vulnerable people through cost-of-living relief, but also aimed at assisting people in middle Australia across the board. More than 5 million Australians will benefit from our energy price relief plan, put in place in a way that will reduce inflation by three-quarters of a per cent as a result of Treasury modelling. That is $3 million of cost relief available to Australians that result in that being off their bills, rather than a cash payment, and Peter Dutton voted against that when it came before the Parliament last year and now pretends that he supported it all along. Peter Dutton is just focused on the internal politics and chaos that is the modern Liberal Party in 2023. And last night's Budget Reply, that had no substantial policy suggestions, no serious costing about anything, left open the ongoing opposition to everything that is put forward, that is Peter Dutton, front and centre, who only has negativity to offer the Australian people.

JOURNALIST: Have you heard from Washington about the Quad. Is President Biden still expected to attend?

PRIME MINISTER: We expect that the Quad meeting, of course, we've announced, is going ahead. It's going ahead on the Wednesday of the week after next. We have the G7 next weekend. I've been invited by Prime Minister Kishida to attend that in Hiroshima. I look forward to meeting President Biden and Prime Minister Sunak and Prime Minister Kishida and other world leaders there. And I look forward to welcoming President Biden to Australia.

JOURNALIST: So as far as you're aware he will be attending the Quad meeting as well?

PRIME MINISTER: I just answered the question I think pretty clearly. 

JOURNALIST: In terms of the Chinese Foreign Minister as well, are they going to be appearing in Australia in July?

PRIME MINISTER: Look those arrangements, we make announcements at appropriate times. But can I say this, it is a good thing that unlike what was occurring before, China is a major trading partner and my Trade Minister is visiting China, Don Farrell, that is a good thing. And we welcome visits to Australia. We welcome dialogue. Our major trading partner is important for jobs and for our economy. I have said you don't achieve anything by having no discussion. What we need is to develop an understanding and dialogue, and I have said we will cooperate with China where we can, we will disagree where we must and engage in a national interest.

JOURNALIST: The AFL stadium in Hobart is dividing the state. Do you think there is an appetite for it and what guarantee can you give that it will proceed under a state Labor government?

PRIME MINISTER: This is not just about a stadium. Macquarie Point is a site that is pristine, right on the beautiful Derwent River there. Back in 2012 myself as Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister provided through the Budget, we provided $50 million for the upgrade of that site. And since then, we now have a plan going forward which is a mix of housing, entertainment and sporting facilities, private sector activity, an upgrade of the wharf facilities so that ferries can be used more along the Derwent. Also upgrade access for the ships that engage with the Antarctic there as well. I think this is something that is worthwhile. We received an application from the Tasmanian Government. The Budget supported that application. This is a project that will create ongoing economic activity and jobs, as well as making the most of the urban redevelopment, so that that pristine site is actually not left derelict like it has been for such a long period of time. And just as projects like Barangaroo, that I think this fellow might have had something to do with, have lifted up Sydney, Darling Harbour lifts up Sydney, Southbank in Melbourne, the Quay project in Perth, the Adelaide Oval precinct in Adelaide. Our cities need to provide opportunity for economic activity as well as lifting up the quality of life. And I think that in Hobart this site has been left derelict for too long.

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