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Interview on Today with Allison Langdon

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's interview on Today with Allison Langdon regarding the new $662 million aged care package to support senior Australians, the Aged Care Royal Commission and retiree’s tax.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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Well, the Government has just announced a massive funding boost for the aged care sector meaning elderly residents will be able to stay at home for longer.

A massive $662 million is being promised. And for more details we’re joined by Minister for Health Greg Hunt. Minister, a very good morning to you. I must say, this is a decent chunk of change isn’t it?


Look, it is an important investment and it’s part of continuous improvement. It’s $662 million, but much more importantly it’s about 10,000 new homecare places, which takes to 40,000 the number we’ve announced over the last 16 months.

And it’s a $320 million injection, as part of the overall package, in improving care and quality within residential care, for those that are actually within the nursing homes.

So it’s about giving people choices, whether they stay at home longer, as the vast majority of people would want to do, or whether they have additional support and additional care in the nursing homes.


So, Minister, this announcement comes just one day before the aged care royal commission hears from its first witness. Are you worried the stories we’ll hear during the inquiry will hurt the Government’s election chances?


We think the royal commission is a very important opportunity for Australians to tell their stories.

We called it because of the Oakden scandal under South Australia’s Labor Government in a facility that was a South Australian Labor Government-run facility.

But we wanted to make sure that any issues were raised, so we called it ourselves for precisely that reason. But most importantly it’s an opportunity for continually improving the system.

Because we need to make sure that as Australians age and there are more older Australians we’re providing world-class care.

And whether that’s at home, through what’s called home support, things such as meals on wheels, homecare, which is about people coming in and these 10,000 new places, or residential care, which is the nursing homes, we need to work on all of those three fronts, and continually just take care of those that have built this country, taken care of us.

And these are our mums and dads, our grandparents and those who have literally made Australia what it is, and that’s a sacred task.


Can I ask you, because we are now less than four months out from the election, what is the mood like within your party?


I think very determined and very optimistic. Yes, it’s a challenge, it’s always a challenge. But for me and, I know, for my colleagues, we focus on the fact that this really matters.

That you can either grow the economy and then deliver essential services such as aged care and new medicines, medical research and mental health support, or crush the economy and put a wrecking ball through the economy, which is the retiree tax that Mr Shorten is proposing, the electricity tax that he’s proposing, the impact on people’s ability to invest, whether it’s through capital gains or negative gearing taxes or small business taxes.

All of those things would put a wrecking ball through the economy and hurt individuals, but also hurt the overall economy. And last time he was in he stopped listing new medicines and that’s a shameful record, and he did that because he ran out of money. So that’s why this is such an important battle and we believe in it.


But you don’t think that the community looks at you and think that you have been so focused on in-fighting, changing leaders, backstabbing, and in fact haven’t been doing your job, which is to govern this country?


Well, in fact, we’ve been delivering new medicines, new mental health support, new aged care support, new medical research, whether it’s for cystic fibrosis or spinal muscular atrophy, they’re the big things that.


But just to interrupt for a moment, that’s not what people are focusing on.


That’s what we’re focused on. And at the end of the day our task is to make sure that the economy is working, because that allows us to deliver these new homecare places and supporting residential care, and then to talk with the public about that, to listen to them and to deliver those results.

And ultimately that’s what this election will be about: whether you can create the environment for people to prosper individually and, therefore, to prosper collectively, or whether you’ve got an alternative that will literally take a wrecking ball to the economy and jobs and small businesses and therefore have an impact on delivering things as basic and profound as new medicines.

Medicines for schizophrenia and IVF and endometriosis which Mr Shorten stopped listing when he was in Government. That’s something that he has to answer: why did they stop listing that? And the answer, of course, is they ran out of money. So this really is a once-in-a-generation, critical election.


Do you see yourselves as the underdogs going into this election? Because, basically, if you look at the polls and the bookies’ odds, pretty much everyone’s written you off.


We always presume that we have to fight to set out what’s important for the country. I’ll let the pundits and the bookies make their own judgements.

But, for us, we never presume on the public, we always feel it’s our task to deliver outcomes such as today, on aged care investment, to help strengthen the economy and to give people the real opportunity for jobs, more than a million jobs, 1.1 million plus jobs delivered, and then to let them choose.

So we always have to make that case. But at the same time, this time there’s a bigger threat to the economy, I think, than at any time since Gough Whitlam was in, and that’s with a mass of new taxes.

The retirees tax is absolutely horrifying for so many seniors and their families because it will literally reduce their income by $2,200.

So, imagine if you’re a retiree, you’ve saved all your life and then somebody comes along and says: I’m going to reduce your income by over $2,000 a year. That is just a threat to people’s living standards and it’s, frankly, an attack on fairness.


All right, Minister, well thank you for your time this morning, we appreciate it.


Thanks, Ally, it’s a pleasure.


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