Media event date: 
31 August 2020
Date published: 
1 September 2020
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

GREG HUNT:

Thank you very much, everybody, for joining us. I'm joined by Senator Richard Colbeck, the Minister for Aged Care, Professor Paul Kelly, the Acting Chief Medical Officer.

We're here today to announce significant extensions and expansions of existing aged care support programs, initially announced in March and subsequently, as part of the national aged care COVID plan.

In particular, the Australian Government will invest $563.4 million in extending and expanding these programs that have been in place to support aged care facilities, to support aged care workers, and I want to particularly thank and acknowledge them for their work.

And I also want to note that that will assist with the single site worker program and also providing support for aged care residents where they and their family wish to care for them on a temporary basis at home.

Let me begin by noting more broadly that the world has passed 25 million cases, very sadly, as we predicted last Thursday – 25.1 million cases and rising and 845,000 lives lost.

And here at home, 25,746 cases and 652 lives lost, and we grieve all of those that were announced today, those eight that were lost in recent- in the last 24 hours and the 33 that were identified at our request as part of the data search which we requested of Victoria, and we thank them very much for this over previous periods. And we think that that is an important process.

Whilst all of these had been acknowledged through the births, deaths and marriages process, we wanted to make sure that they were recorded in the Victorian public health system and that as a consequence we're able to acknowledge, to respect, to identify all of those who have lost their lives to COVID.

In terms of those in hospital, there are 481 Australians in hospital – 27 in intensive care and 17 very ill Australians who are on ventilation.

In addition, 6.214 million tests have been conducted.

And at the same time, Professor Paul Kelly will provide an update on the epidemiology and, in particular, the trends over the last seven days.

I would note that across Australia, there have been 84 cases today.

In five states and territories, zero.

In Queensland, we have one case; and in New South Wales, four cases in the community and six in hotel quarantine; in Victoria, 73 cases – a lower number than has previously been the case and consistent with a general downwards trend, and we welcome that.

That's a very important moment for Australia, as well as Victoria, as well as my home city of Melbourne.

In terms of the measures, I'll briefly outline and then Senator Colbeck will outline in more detail.

The four measures are, firstly, continuation of the COVID supplement to provide for an additional six months to the end of February 2021.

This is support for facilities, and it comes at a cost of $245 million. It assists them as we announced in May, on the 1st of May, with the ability to develop their workforce, to provide for PPE needs and for other elements relating to the fight against COVID-19.

Secondly, we'll be extending the support for aged care workers in COVID-19 areas to operate on a single workforce basis.

That will be extended as an entitlement from previously eight weeks per facility to 12, and it's always subject to review if required, and the program itself will now be extended as an available option till the 30th of June 2021 at an investment of $92.4 million.

Thirdly, we will be expanding the short-term home support for older Australians who are on leave from residential aged care, the ability for families to care for older residents who will take time away from an aged care facility, and that will be extended until June 2021 at a cost of $71.4 million.

And then fourthly, the extension of the COVID-19 aged care workforce retention payment, and this continues on the $235 million measure announced on the 20th of March 2020 as part of our national aged care response plan.

In particular, that will involve an investment in supporting our aged care workers of $154.5 million.

As I said at the outset, all of these measures together will constitute a $563.4 million extension and expansion of our support, taking total Australian investment in COVID-19 aged care support to $1.5 billion.

All of these things come together with a very simple goal: to save lives and protect lives within our aged care facilities and across Australia.

We know, when we look at that figure of over 25 million internationally, that this is a global pandemic which will likely continue at close to a million cases diagnosed every four days for the foreseeable future.

And with that comes the heaviest tolls.

We have overwhelmingly avoided those tolls in Australia, but we are seeing in Victoria an agonising loss.

So this will help Victoria continue to fight that. It will help us continue to fight that and to protect our older Australians with every fibre, every fibre of our being.

Richard.

RICHARD COLBECK:

Thanks, Greg. So, to the measures that we're announcing today. The first one is a continuation of the COVID supplement that we rolled out in- announced on the 1st of May this year, and that's an extension of a one-off payment to be made to all residential care providers in October of this year.

$975 per resident in metropolitan areas, that's MMM1, and approximately $1435 in all other areas, MMM2-7.

It also increases- proposes that the temporary 30 per cent increase in viability supplement for both residential and home care and the residential homeless supplement be extended for a further six months, and that provides extremely important support for providers, particularly in those areas where their residents are more susceptible, or in Indigenous communities where we know that aged care is particularly important but also that those communities are very susceptible as well.

So that support continues out to all of those that have higher costs and we recognise as having higher costs as part of their service delivery.

Those provisions will be subject to a number of additional reporting requirements.

They'll be required to have a designated infection control officer on site, as a part of their upgraded COVID-19 management plan.

They will be required to report their additional costs with respect to supporting residents with communication with their families.

And also, they'll be required to report on other things like the supports that- the costs that they have around screening of residents and screening of visitors and of course their staff as they come and go.

So this payment is in recognition of those additional costs, but we will be having specific reporting requirements that will be made against those additional costs to the Commonwealth in their annual reporting cycle.

The next proposal is the support for workers working on one site, particularly in Victoria, and that's $92.4 million.

The grant program will be extended out until the 30th of June next year, bearing in mind that most providers will claim this in arrears as they fully understand their costs.

And as Greg has said, the period of time for the program, which was initially negotiated between the unions and employers for eight weeks, we will extend out to 12, just acknowledging the circumstance of the outbreak in Victoria as it stands at the moment.

One of the things that we have done during this process and a number of families have decided to do is to take their family members out of residential aged care, and we've been funding that to a- to this stage through some of the program funding that we’ve had available.

We’ve made a specific allocation of $71.4 million to this programme that will support older Australians to go home, if that’s what they and their families decide that they want to do.

There will be two tiers of funding that will be available, and we will make – if we need to – this programme available to other parts of the country in the circumstance that they do have a designated outbreak within their region, and we will advise the circumstances and the criteria for that once those details have been decided through the CMO.

But this does provide the opportunity for those people who are concerned about their families remaining in an aged care facility where there’s a COVID-19 outbreak.

There have been quite a few that have gone home, including I might add, some residents who are COVID positive have gone home to their families.

And in recognition of the pressures, the genuine pressures on the workforce, we've decided to extend the workforce retention program for a further round.

So, there will be a further national round of the workforce retention bonus. It will be based on the same guidelines that we applied in the first two rounds, and that will go out and be based on those who are still in employment at 30 November, and it will be based on exactly the same claims program that we've had for the previous rounds.

But, one of the things that we have seen through this entire process is that very many workers have been reluctant to come to work where there's been a circumstance of COVID-19, and I've even seen a survey in a site, where there is no COVID-19 outbreak, a significant proportion of the workforce have said if there is, they won't come to work.

We need to send a message to our workers in residential aged care that they are very important.

They’re important to us, they are important to the people who they work with, and this is one of the ways that the Government is seeking to do that, in acknowledgment of the fact that we need our aged care workers to come to work.

The people who are in the residential facilities rely on that. We rely on that, and the care that residential aged care residents get is dependent on that. Thanks, Greg.

GREG HUNT:

Paul.

PAUL KELLY:

Thank you Ministers. So, just briefly on the numbers that Minister Hunt has already talked about, there's some very positive news there.

We epidemiologists are simple creatures. We look at time, place, and person analysis, and on all of those three measures, the data that has come out today in terms of a number of cases is looking positive.

If we think in the last seven days, there's been 829 new cases in Australia, that compares with 1500 the week before.

So, almost a 50 per cent decrease in the number of cases over that seven-day period.

In terms of place, the cases are mostly, almost exclusively, occurring in Melbourne. There are very few cases now in rural Victoria, and those continued small cases- numbers of cases in South East Queensland and in Sydney.

And so, for all of those reasons I'm positive.

In terms of the New South Wales and Queensland cases, we really see how strong, rapid, and appropriate public health responses can really keep on top of these numbers.

And this is what we're looking to see in the coming weeks and months, as we go through this pandemic.

It's not finished yet, but very positive signs out of Victoria today.

GREG HUNT:

I’ll try to finish by 1:40, so we’ll move quickly. Michelle?

JOURNALIST:

How many workers are at the moment working across aged care facilities in Victoria?

GREG HUNT:

So, let me start. We have ADF, we have AUSMAT, we have testing.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible) I mean how many aged care workers are working multiple facilities?

GREG HUNT:

Sure. Well, I was just saying that those that are principally doing that are ADF, testing, AUSMAT, and surge workforce. On specific numbers, we’ll come back to you.

JOURNALIST:

And what about the numbers that are covered by this extension of the programme? Obviously, the ADF are not covered.

GREG HUNT:

So it’s a- overwhelmingly, is the advice that I have, overwhelmingly, the workers have moved to a single site. Richard negotiated the agreement with the providers and others, Richard?

RICHARD COLBECK:

So, the basis of one worker one site in Victoria is an agreement that was negotiated between the aged care providers and the unions.

We instigated that process in cooperation with the Victorian Government. We were both concerned about that as an issue.

And so, my understanding is that predominantly the workers that are covered by that agreement are working based on one worker one site.

Unfortunately, we don't hold the data with relation to that. That's held by the providers themselves.

So, we don't actually hold that data. But, based on my conversations with the sector, they're working extremely hard to do that.

We actually provided some resources to the sector to facilitate the one worker one site process.

So, my understanding is that predominantly, for those workers that are covered by the agreement – and Greg’s mentioned some that aren't – workers are complying with the one worker one site, and in fact, providers are complying with the one worker, one site regime.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible) Research from the University of Queensland for the Royal Commission has found that there would need to be $629 million of extra funding into the aged care system per year, to get it up to the best quality level.

Is this funding announcement simply putting a band aid on a system that has long been underfunded?

And the Health Services Union also came out with a support today suggesting that the Medicare levy be increased to 2.65 per cent in order to better fund the aged care system.

Is this something you'd ever consider?

GREG HUNT:

So, firstly, we have increased funding from just over $13 billion to currently $22, 23, 24, and 25 billion approximately over the course of the forward estimates.

During the course of COVID, we've added $1.5 billion of funding to the aged care sector to help deal with preparedness and response.

Then of course, in relation to the Royal Commission, as the Prime Minister said on the day that he announced it, that there would be inevitably be additional investments over and above the continuing ones, which we've made since we called it.

Over and above what obviously we've announced today and other things with COVID and so, there will be additional elements. In terms of the Medicare levy, the Government- that's not something the Government’s proposing.

RICHARD COLBECK:

Can I add that the measures that we're announcing today are to deal with COVID-19 and to assist the sector to deal with COVID-19.

In fact, they're an extension of the measures that we put in place earlier in the year, as part of our overall COVID-19 plan.

Clearly, we have a Royal Commission in place, which the Prime Minister's called.

The work that has been published by the Commission we welcome, because that will make an important contribution a) to the Royal Commission's response, when it reports on 26 February next year.

But also we're watching the Royal Commission closely and what they're putting out in their reports, and it will also assist our planning so that we're in a situation to able to respond quickly to the Royal Commission report in our May budget.

GREG HUNT:

Clare.

JOURNALIST:

Senator Colbeck, given how important it is, given this funding announcement, to stop people moving between facilities, talking aged care workers, why hasn't the Federal Government set up some sort of mechanism to track that? Why isn't that data you hold?

And how can you be confident that the aged care sector is collecting that data appropriately and stopping people moving between facilities, given how many failings we've seen this sector already show through this pandemic?

GREG HUNT:

Let me just begin with that. The very process which we ourselves established, to make sure that there was a single site worker program in place, is the vehicle for capturing that data.

So as we do this, that will provide that data. It is something which no government has previously had. Our government will have it.

So, we’ve taken steps through this process, which will ensure that we capture that data.

RICHARD COLBECK:

So, providers will be required to make a claim for their costs and their workers' costs to access the scheme. So that's how this will work.

So, as part of their claims process, they'll be required to report to us their one worker one site program.

And the- so, that's the process by which we will capture that data, because the program works on the basis of a grant, and they will be required to report to us as part of the grant application that information.

JOURNALIST:

But wouldn’t it be- sorry, but wouldn’t it be crucial to- so wouldn’t it- sorry. Just to follow up on that, wouldn’t it be crucial to get real time data to ensure that people aren’t moving between facilities?

Don’t we need to know that this isn’t happening, given it’s a massive driver of movement of the virus between facilities?

GREG HUNT:

Well, let us be clear in terms of the epidemiology. I'll let Paul respond to the epidemiology on that.

The overwhelming advice that we have is that the disease has been transmitted by workers coming in, who have been infected in the community.

That was reaffirmed by the Victorian Government's data last week.

Secondly, this is, for the first time, a process that actually provides that data.

Clare?

JOURNALIST:

Minister Colbeck, since March, only 235 unannounced visits to aged care homes have been undertaken by the commission. There's more than 2700.

Are you satisfied with that level of oversight?

And given that some facilities were issued non-compliance notices as recently as July for things like infection control, what faith can the Australian population have in that oversight if there are still failings being identified six months into a pandemic?

RICHARD COLBECK:

So, the Quality and Safety Commission has a number of mechanisms to investigate and to check on residential aged care facilities.

It's not a one-touch regulator.

And the cessation of unannounced visits was taken, at the time, on medical advice. Those unannounced visits have recommenced in all states except for Victoria, where we are doing short notice visits.

But we are also, with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission at the moment and our Defence Force teams, undertaking tests visits to providers, particularly those that don't have COVID-19 outbreaks, to test on site their COVID-19 infection control preparedness, and those have been going for about three or four weeks now, to ensure that their infection control plans are up to speed and their staff are in a situation where they properly understand the processes.

So there are a range of mechanisms that are being undertaken by the Quality and Safety Commissioner to ensure that providers are in the situation where they've got- they're meeting the quality standards.

It's not just about unannounced visits, and the cessation of unannounced visits was done on medical advice at the time, being concerned about taking COVID-19 into facilities.

GREG HUNT:

This year, there have been over 620 unannounced visits.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible) unannounced visits during a pandemic and the alternative was only introduced three or four weeks ago in checking infection control. I understand there are also short notices.

RICHARD COLBECK:

That's not what I said.

JOURNALIST:

You said the cessation was due to health issues.

RICHARD COLBECK:

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner has been using a number of mechanisms, is what I said, to ascertain their understanding of the preparedness of aged care providers across the- across Australia for COVID-19, to test the quality systems, the infection control systems, and that work has been going since February.

And it has had a number of cycles.

So, there was a period where unannounced visits were ceased based on medical advice.

Those have now recommenced. And we have put in place additional measures over and above those that the Quality and Safety Commissioner was already undertaking to ensure preparedness for COVID-19.

JOURNALIST:

Has the expert medical panel given advice to National Cabinet that there are health reasons to close state borders?

And is a week too long for Victorians to wait before finding out what's going on in their state?

GREG HUNT:

So we certainly want to see the earliest possible plan out. I'll let Professor Kelly, who actually does brief and provide the advice to National Cabinet, speak on that.

But overwhelmingly, our view is two-fold.

One, we want to see a road out for Victoria, and we've been helping and supporting them throughout.

We know that, in seven out of eight states and territories, there's been an extraordinary outcome across Australia and one has experienced a second wave on a scale that has led to immense human tragedy.

So we want to see that road out as soon as possible.

I welcome the news today from the Premier that that will be announced soon.

As soon as possible is the best outcome for Victorians. People are desperate to be able to see a pathway forward, and these numbers help provide that, but they need to see for their businesses, for their employment, for their families, for their mental health, for their physical health the ability to move, the ability to commence that process in a staged way towards a recovery of their normal life.

Paul, on the medical expert panel?

PAUL KELLY:

So the medical expert panel, the AHPPC, which I chair, is meeting regularly.

We discuss many things. Occasionally, borders are also discussed. But in terms of specific advice to the National Cabinet, that has not been given by AHPPC.

Those decisions have been made by individual states.

In terms of the road out and the announcement, again, as Minister Hunt has mentioned, I will definitely look forward to Father’s Day, to hear that announcement on Sunday, as was discussed this morning, and we'll wait and see. Slow and steady will be, is the message that's come out from Premier Andrews.

JOURNALIST:

Colbeck, Senator Colbeck, after your performance in the Senate inquiry the other day, why should Australians trust you to be in charge of aged care? And do you believe you still have the confidence of the Prime Minister?

RICHARD COLBECK:

I do believe I still have the confidence of the Prime Minister.

And as I said in my statement last week and as I said in the Senate last week, I should have had the data in front of me when I required it.

That is not an indication of the work that I'm doing more broadly in the portfolio, and I think today's announcement demonstrates the work that I am doing to ensure that residents in aged care across Australia get the support that they need through this COVID-19 pandemic.

JOURNALIST:

Minister Hunt, on one worker, one site, it sounds like it's completely voluntary.

I mean, there are agreements between providers and unions on one worker, one site.

Is there any enforcement mechanism that you have that can force those facilities to live up to one worker, one site?

Is it simply about withdrawing grants later or is there any enforcement you can actually put forward now?

GREG HUNT:

The reason this system was chosen was very, very important. And I think it is extremely important to understand that the worst thing that could have happened was to have effectively withdrawn full capacity from any one site, and that's why this structure was determined in conjunction with unions, in conjunction with the providers, in conjunction with Victoria, and on the basis of the medical advice, that to leave any aged care facility short staffed would have been a deeply unacceptable outcome. Deeply unacceptable.

And that's why this mechanism was chosen, overwhelmingly adopted.

JOURNALIST:

Minister Hunt, how is it that 33 deaths over a month didn't get reported until today?

GREG HUNT:

Sure. I think that's a very important question.

It's something that we asked Victoria to do and we are very appreciative that the Victorian Government has carried this out.

The Secretary of the Department, Professor Murphy, wrote to his Victorian counterpart to confirm again on the 23rd of August that this was being undertaken.

And I quote from the letter: my department has been working with yours in conjunction with the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre to reconcile the numbers of COVID-19 deaths reported against residential aged care facilities in Victoria since the 11th of August.

So this progress- process begun on the 11th of August. At a discussion in the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, it was agreed that we would use the official PHESSS, which is the Victorian Public Health Event Surveillance System Statistics as the single source of data for reporting, despite our, being the Commonwealth's, ongoing concerns with the accuracy and completeness of data in PHESSS.

So that was identified as a concern.

They, to their credit, have worked through and reconciled it since the 11th of August, with those figures now being provided today.

I think, Paul, you've been deeply involved in that process. Did you wanted to add to what Professor Murphy had said there?

PAUL KELLY:

I'd only say that it's very important as a fundamental principle of an emergency response, as has been occurring in Victoria over these past weeks, that we have a single point of truth.

And so, that was the decision that was made at that time.

And again, I welcome that those figures have been reconciled today.

JOURNALIST:

Minister Hunt, are you disappointed that Craig Kelly has been spreading hydroxychloroquine conspiracy theories online?

And for Professor Kelly, can you explain what the Deputy Chief Medical Officer will be telling that MP when they have a briefing on the subject?

GREG HUNT:

So look, very briefly, we follow the medical advice. There are people on many sides of this Parliament who will express individual views. We see that in relation to all parties at all times, and that's one of the democratic freedoms.

But our medical decisions are based on medical advice, and we follow those throughout.

Paul?

PAUL KELLY:

So, hydroxychloroquine has been used early in the pandemic, and it showed promise as a potential, either preventative medicine or a curative medicine.

It’s now undergone multiple trials around the world, and everyone has agreed that it does not show- it has not lived up to that promise of early thing.

So, the medical advice is it is not useful as a medicine.

In terms of what Dr Coatsworth will be talking to Mr Kelly about, that will be a matter for them, but there’ll be- he’ll be looking to give that advice from a medical expert, who is Dr Coatsworth.

GREG HUNT:         

I’ll take three quickly. One here.

JOURNALIST:

Minister Hunt, your colleague Josh Frydenberg has said on the Victorian crisis, that this has been the biggest public policy failure by a State Government in living memory.

You’re a Victorian, do you agree, and what’s the benefit to Victorians to have this blame game happening now?

GREG HUNT:

Look, throughout, we’ve sought to work with all of the states and territories, and where something needs to be identified, we’ve worked with states and territories to do that.

For example, the data reconciliation today is something where we had quietly worked with them behind the scenes to address and to follow through, I really thank them for doing that. Obviously there’s been no event in my lifetime, and no event arguably in a hundred years, which has had more of an impact on the freedoms and the liberties of any group of Australians across a state or a territory.

And so the human consequences are beyond anything any of us have previously seen.

And so we know obviously the origins, that’s being investigated in the Victorian inquiry into hotel quarantine.

We know that we’ve stepped in to help with the contact tracing. And progress is being made.

There were, as Paul will attest, very significant challenges in contact tracing and in many ways that has been the difference between what’s occurred in Victoria and New South Wales.

Both have had triggers, which could have led to massive outbreaks.

New South Wales through its world leading, one of the world’s leading contact tracing systems has been able to help make that difference.

And so, I do think this has been a very, very major impact on the population of Victoria, it’s the most major impact on the population of any state or territory in terms of restrictions, arguably in 100 years.

JOURNALIST:

Senator Colbeck, aren't the failures in aged care that Josh Frydenberg’s talking about in Victoria, your responsibility and the responsibility of the Federal Government, and did you consider offering your resignation to the Prime Minister because of those deaths and infections?

RICHARD COLBECK:

So yes, the responsibility for primarily funding and regulating the aged care sector is a Commonwealth responsibility.

But we are also in a global pandemic here and we have a significant public health emergency in Victoria, that's why the public health emergency has been declared by the Victorians.

This is a joint effort, that’s why we’ve set up the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre to ensure that our systems come together to provide the support that’s required for all Victorians in residential aged care.

And I have to say, the Victorian Aged Care Response Centre, an initiative of the Commonwealth, has been an absolute success and has assisted enormously to bring the situation back under control.

So I think that the Commonwealth, working closely with Victoria, has put all of its efforts.

And this is a conversation I have with my counterpart Luke Donnellan in Victoria on a regular basis.

We are putting all of our effort together to ensure that we can provide appropriate service for all residents in residential aged care together, because we need the public health system in Victoria working with the residential aged care system in Victoria to do that.

JOURNALIST:

(Inaudible)

RICHARD COLBECK:

No, I haven't considered my resignation.

GREG HUNT:

Excuse me, everybody.

JOURNALIST:

Minister Colbeck, you’ve made the point here that this extension of funding today is an extension on the program that was announced back in March.

Since then, hundreds of elderly Australians have died in aged care.

This is just a fraction of the potentially billions of dollars that the industry has been calling out for, for some time.

How on earth can families who’ve got elderly Australians in aged care facilities have any faith that the situation is going to get fixed up, any time soon?

And shouldn’t that money be spent, that extra money be spent now rather than waiting for the Royal Commission findings, when we’ve heard so much about the woes in the sector.

GREG HUNT:

Do you mind if I just begin first and then I’ll turn to Richard? The investments now are about supporting and saving lives.

Right from the outset in this pandemic, when we close the borders with China on the first of February, we recognise that this was a global pandemic, a highly infectious disease, which could also be highly deadly, most specifically for the elderly.

The greatest protection of any society, as we’ve seen in seven out of eight states and territories, is keeping community transmission low.

And the reason why is because of the work that Paul and others have shown and that they’ve witnessed throughout, and that is with asymptomatic transfer, whether it’s in hospitals, such as the hospital in which I was born, Frankston Hospital, magnificent workers but with a huge outbreak, despite some of the finest infection control teams in the country.

We have a highly mobile disease, and the best protection is firstly the crushing of community transmission.

And that's around the world what has worked, that’s what’s worked in seven out of eight states and territories, that’s why tracing and testing and isolation have been so important.

At the same time, all of the other measures have helped assist.

Without those, we would have lost thousands and thousands of lives. Thousands of lives when you look at what’s occurred in Canada, in the UK, France and Spain and Italy have been saved.

So, that is very much what has happened.

At the same time, each life lost as a source of immense grief, immense agony, but it comes from the fact of community transmission and with one of the finest protection mechanisms in the world. Even with those.

JOURNALIST:

We’ve had a Royal Commission called because of relentless stories about the shortcomings in the aged care sector.

You are saying that the longer term funding that the industry has been calling out for ages is going to have to wait until that happens? We’ve got a crisis at the moment, don’t we?

GREG HUNT:

No. That’s ongoing. We’ve invested over $3 billion additional, since the 2018-19 Budget in long-term additional funding, $1.5 billion this year in additional funding just for COVID.

At the same time, the underlying, deep structural work has been going forward.

So we have a commission, we have the additional structural funding of the $3 billion and rising, and we have the supplementary measures for COVID all coming together.

So we're planning for the long-term, we’re implementing now and we’re also implementing the additional measures which go above and beyond what has to be done to protect against community transmission.

JOURNALIST:

I want to follow up Paul's question on Craig Kelly, sorry. It wasn’t just that Craig Kelly criticised Dr Coatsworth. He said that he had, quote: misled the public and asked him to resign.

In the middle of the pandemic as we are now, is it helpful to be raising doubts about independent medical experts?

And to you, Professor, sorry, what was your reaction, I guess, to what you had to call an attack on your colleague?

GREG HUNT:

Well, I’ll respond firstly. In terms of Dr Coatsworth, we’ve been completely supportive of our medical experts throughout.

As I mentioned before, the 1st of February, as the most significant first major decision after Professor Murphy declared this to be a disease of pandemic potential and trigger the National Medical Stockpile, the National Incident Centre, the AUSMAT and National Trauma Centre responses on the 21st of January.

And we did that based on medical advice. We did that in the face of much criticism from others and overseas, but it was the right decision because we wanted to protect all Australians and elderly Australians.

So we’ll continue to follow the medical advice and we have the utmost faith in our medical advisors. Paul?

PAUL KELLY:

Thank you, Minister. So we use the evidence that we have ahead of us, we are always open to new evidence, but our medical advice that we give to National Cabinet and others is based on that evidence.

And so I will always defend that and I will defend my colleagues, including Dr Coatsworth.

JOURNALIST:

Minister Colbeck, just to clarify what you said.

RICHARD COLBECK:

(Inaudible) about what we're doing while the royal commission continues because it’s not correct to say that we haven't continued our reforms.

Yes, the sector is looking for additional funding, but there are a range of reforms that are very important.

As Minister Hunt has said, we put over $3 billion since the 18-19 Budget into new home care places to increase the capacity in that sector by over 50,000, and we’ve gone from 60,000 places to over 160,000 in our term in government.

But we’ve continued to do a number of other things. We’ve continued the reform process around the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which is now being pulled into one umbrella and that started on the 1st of July.

We’re (inaudible) into place a new aged care quality standard, which started on the first of July last year.

We’re currently out negotiating with the sector with respect to a worker registration program, because we understand that that’s important.

We’re doing work on an alternative funding model and that is the real thing that going to put a floor under the sector, and we’re working with the sector.

And we’re doing the preparatory work to put that in place as quickly as possible now once we come to our Royal Commission response.

So there is a considerable amount of work that is already being done, watching closely what the Royal Commission is doing so that we’re in the position to be able to respond to the Royal Commission report which is due on 26th of February in the May Budget next year.

And as the Prime Minister said, we will continue to invest, as we’ve done at every opportunity, into things like home care, but we also need to reform the way that home care is delivered so that rather than having CHSP and home care packages, we have a single integrated continuum of care available for senior Australians.

The work on that has also commenced, and the research that we’ve done for that has been shared with the Royal Commission so they can incorporate that into the work they are undertaking now.

So there is considerable work to reform this sector, which we all understand needs to be done, and that’s why we called the Royal Commission in the first place and we’re being prepared for that when it gets to its completion.