TV interview with Minister Wells and Matthew Doran, ABC News on 7 September 2022

Read the transcript of Minister Wells' TV interview with Matthew Doran, ABC News discussing the October Budget, cost of living, interest rates, childcare, and AFL broadcasting rights.

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

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MATTHEW DORAN, HOST: Well, joining me now in the studio to discuss this, amongst other things, is the Aged Care and Sports Minister Anika Wells. Welcome back to Capital Hill.

ANIKA WELLS, MINISTER FOR AGED CARE: Hello, Matt, how are you?

DORAN: Let's touch on this issue of the Budget preparation and it was comments from your Leader Anthony Albanese yesterday effectively saying that Labor members need to be pretty upfront with the public about the challenges that the Budget is facing at the moment. How difficult is it going to be for your colleagues to frame any sort of cost-of-living measures considering those Budget constraints? But at the same time, the fact that the public is crying out for help right now?

WELLS: Yeah. And I'm on it, I was door knocking in Boondall on the weekend and I did mobile offices in McDowall and Aspley talking to people because although these figures are welcome and expected, they don't change what the monthly budget looks like for people in suburbs of the electorate that I represent.

You know, in my patch and aged care, one of the first things I did was write to Fair Work so we can put in a submission to try and get a pay rise for aged care workers. I was in the House this morning when the Health Minister, Mark Butler, put through legislation that's going to make medication cheaper, the first time in 75 years that cost is going to drop. We're doing everything we can whilst obviously trying to overcome nine years of what we’d call neglect in this case.

DORAN: So, is it a case of people will need to, I guess, prepare for… they might have a big wish list, the Australian public might have a big wishlist as to what they're expecting from the government but you're hamstrung here?

WELLS: Well, I think when you look at the debt and the appetite that people have to reduce debt. And when you look at cost of living and things like, you know, the fuel excise and when that comes off, something that I sort of noticed from the Job Summit last week is that we have all these good ideas and only so much money to fund them. So that's why I'm doing mobile offices and door knocking so that I don't lose touch with what people want to see who, you know, don't come to Canberra and debate it in the House.

DORAN: Do you think there'd be people out there who are disappointed in the Reserve Bank here? The suggestion just a year ago was that interest, well less than a year ago, that interest rates weren't actually going to start rising until 2024 and now we are seeing the most aggressive series of rate rises since the mid-nineties. Do you think the Australian public would be wondering what on earth is going on there?

WELLS: Based on the conversations that I was having with people door knocking and mobile offices on the weekend, they're not really apportioning blame. They just want someone to help them. You know, they don't really care why we've got to where we have. They want policymakers to fix that up. What they want is relief. And what they want is people like their representatives in Canberra to understand how hard cost of living is hitting them and to do something about it. So, like I said, we're pulling the levers, but like you say, it's going to take a while for these things to come to fruition. We've got the October Budget coming. We’ve got another one in May.

DORAN: You've mentioned the aged care pay issue there. You've also mentioned what Mark Butler announced this morning about cheaper PBS listings. Can you give us any flavour, you sit around these decision-making tables these days, can you give us any flavour about what Australians can expect in the Budget to help with their own household budget?

WELLS: Yeah, well what you can expect in the October Budget is delivering what we promised at the election. So, for aged care, we had a strong platform that is literally being debated in the House as we speak to try and get that through so that people can have confidence that there will be nurses 24/7 in residential aged care, that there will be an uplift to care minutes and that people will receive more care from their carers. So, October is really about delivering what we promised. And then the Jobs Summit set 36 concrete outcomes that we can now get cracking on and try and deliver those in the May Budget.

DORAN: One last question on this issue and something I know that you're particularly passionate about in the childcare space. We know that there's going to be rebate, reforms to the childcare rebate system. That's not due to, if it's going to be included in the October Budget, but it's not due to come into effect until the middle of next year. Why not try to bring that forward considering the economic malaise we're seeing at the moment?

WELLS: Yeah, we have three kids in care, so we, we get it. Like Finn and I work full time and we have our three kids in childcare, and we are feeling the brunt of that cost, albeit you know on the privileged salaries of elected representatives.

We promised a one July start date. There are people that make their policy, providers that do their rostering recruit workforce. Workforce is a massive issue that are working on that start date. I think we need to stick to that start date.

DORAN: I want to take you to another issue, which is within your portfolio responsibilities, not necessarily the communication side of things, but sport in and of itself. We saw a landmark deal yesterday between the AFL, the Seven Network, Foxtel and Telstra to get AFL broadcast across the country. How important is it that codes like the AFL still have that free to air basis there so that the bulk of the Australian public can still watch their favourite teams?

WELLS: So, so important and I'm really glad that we've come to what I think is a good outcome to keep the number of free to air games going and to keep those games, the finals, grand final as free to air. But I think what I was most pleased about in the in the outcome that got announced yesterday was the 10% that the AFL is going to commit to, of that deal, to community because we know sport and community has such an important role to play. It's how we get a new migrant family on the north side of Brisbane and we welcome into our community, we get them involved in sport. Like I'm missing Celeste's Auskick game this arvo because I'm here with you all but I see how she and her five year old girlfriends take part in Auskick and how it sort of opens their eyes to the possibilities of success and what older female athletes look like down the track. So the fact that 10% of this deal is going to go to community sport, I think is laudable.

DORAN: Do you think that's a social licence sort of issue there that the AFL, because it's dealing in such huge dollar figures here, that it does need to show it's giving something back to the community when we're still going to see a lot of games behind a paywall effectively.

WELLS: Yeah, and I think it's a negotiated outcome. I think the fact that they put 10% into community, that's hundreds, millions of dollars. We're talking about $450 million that we're talking about into community sport. I'll take it. I'll take any funding that we can get to give more kids in suburbs like mine across the country, pathways to sport and to help more people. I mean sports is really the fabric that knits community together. You know, I'll stop banging on about parkrun, but I really feel like people who have regular parkrunners is that's a modern way that communities keep in touch with one another. You notice if someone who comes every Saturday stops coming, all of a sudden someone checks in on them. And I really want to make sure that we value the role that sport plays as we recover from the pandemic.

DORAN: Anika Wells, thank you for your time today.

WELLS: Pleasure.

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