Press Conference - Kirribilli, NSW

01 Mar 2021
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon everyone. I’m here to release the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, I'm being joined by Minister Hunt and Minister Colbeck. This is the first of many volumes.

I have spent the last few days poring over this. It's personal. The care of those we love is personal. Minister Hunt and I know this, as so many Australians do. We've both had parents who have been through the system. Their experiences were positive experiences, certainly in my case. And I'm forever grateful for the support and care my father received. My father spent his last moments in an aged care facility. I visited him there on many occasions, as we did as a family. You cannot separate the personal element of this, whether in discharging your responsibilities as a Prime Minister, a Minister, an aged care provider, a regulator, a carer, a worker, a cleaner, people who deliver the meals. We are all part of a system that is supposed to be providing the best quality care we can for older Australians, particularly as they age. And despite what I think are the best efforts and intentions of many governments over many years, which has been acknowledged by the Royal Commission, despite the fact we're spending double almost what we were seven years ago, we've tripled the number of in home aged care places, we're adding 1,200 a week at the moment. Many changes on quality commissioners and standards and all of this.

When I became Prime Minister, I received many briefings, as you'd expect me to, and across a range of issues and when we were addressing this issue and the assurances I sought about the quality of care being provided to older Australians in our system, I couldn't get the answer that I wanted to know and would have liked to have heard but it was impossible to hear that because it wasn't the case. No-one could give that assurance to me. And so I decided to ask one of the hard questions and that hard question was asked in the form of establishing a Royal Commission. Because I wanted to know what the quality and standard of care was being provided to my fellow Australians.

And so we called that Royal Commission and I warned the country we should brace for impact and be prepared for what would follow and it has been a harrowing process. The stories, the accounts, the evidence that has been brought together over these several years now are all set out in the Royal Commission and Australians as they read them they’ll feel the same way I did, I'm sure. And the Royal Commission has now, I think, set out a very important roadmap which I think will establish generational change in this country when it comes to aged care. It's the inquiry we needed to have. It's well considered. It's honest. It's positive. It's compassionate. It's comprehensive. It's candid. It's passionate and it's ambitious. All the things I would hope it would be when I called it. And that it could provide me and my ministers and my Government and indeed the parliament with what we needed to know in order to bring about this generational change that is needed. And I say generational change because the Royal Commission itself notes that we have been doing things in the system this way for about 25 to 30 years. Under the same constraints, under the same set of assumptions, there have been changes and there's been improvements. That's all true. Of course it is. But largely we've been operating in the same paradigm and what the Royal Commissioners - and I thank them earnestly for their work and all of those involved working in the commission, bringing this together - what they've said is the basic paradigm needs to change. And I agree. We need to make generational change so that the individualised needs and that needs-based care is developed that respects the dignity of the individual Australian.

The values, the rights, the needs. This is what must drive the system of the individual. And there was something very potent that Commissioner Briggs spoke of. Life is to be lived every single second, every single minute. It is precious. This is something I have believed my entire life, life is precious. You don't wait it out. And the fact that Australians feel they are waiting out their life, it's impossible to put into words how you respond to that. So generational change is needed.

I thank the commissioners because they're honest because they know there are no easy fixes. In fact they themselves couldn't agree on some fairly significant issues. So they've honestly provided their different perspectives on that and I welcome that and we will consider those perspectives.

This will take time. It will take quite considerable time to achieve the scale of change that we want to and need to. The commission itself sets out a 5-year timeframe for the measures that are set out in their report. And we must also take care in how we do this.

The commission itself highlights the great risks that come to people and individuals who are vulnerable and frail because of the training and availability of care workers. Because of the governance systems that are in place that oversee the delivery of that care. In many cases the quality of providers that are providing that care and the compliance too and the standards that are set and the information that's available to help those standards be upheld. So as we would seek to try and address the many urgent and short-term priorities that are set out in the Royal Commission, we also must exercise care at the same time. We cannot just take people off the streets and put them into people's homes and ask them to start caring for people. That would be irresponsible. If someone is going to go into someone's home or go into the room that they're living in in a residential aged care facility, we cannot compromise on the standards that should be there for those workers to be able to provide that support. And so we will seek to address the significant workforce issues and the standards issues and the quality issues and the governance issues. The new act and all of these things that are set out in these recommendations.

As we both frame our response and then implement our response, we must be careful because we are dealing with the needs of people who can be very vulnerable and very frail. So we must take care to do that and do that in a responsible way. Today I'm going to ask Minister Hunt to set out the initial - that's just today - the initial response we're putting in place to deal with a number of matters that we had anticipated having been working through this process now. A total sum $450 million immediately in initiatives that we'll be proceeding with. But there will be more and it will be comprehensive and addressed throughout the Budget process. I've made that very clear on numerous occasions. I didn't ask this question on the basis of not being prepared to deal with the answer. I was serious when I asked it because I wanted to know, they've told me and now I'm committed to dealing with the issues that are raised in this report together with my Government team and it will tell all of us. It will test my Government, it’ll the Budget and it’ll test the Parliament. It will test the way in which we are prepared to deal with this issue. As a once in a generation opportunity to actually change it for a new generation. That's the test for all of us. And I look forward to working with anyone, all parties, who are prepared to work with us to put in place the right response to this report and what needs to back it up.

Over the last two years also, while we called the Royal Commission, we haven't been idle. As we've waited for the Commission to do its excellent work, Minister Colbeck has been engaged in putting in place many initiatives and he can also speak to what they are. They were never intended to be the solution to- within its current paradigm. And that will continue but the work that now we have the opportunity to do - and I like to see this as an opportunity - we have this opportunity with this report to make that generational change and I look forward to working with all those who are going to work with me to achieve that.

And particularly on that I note I ask Minister Hunt to come speak to these matters. Thank you.

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Thanks very much to the Prime Minister and to Richard. As a son of a father who spent his final months in aged care, let me start by thanking all of our carers, our nurses, the cleaners and the cooks, the doctors, the pharmacists, the volunteers, the providers that have been taking care of our loved ones. They do a great job. They do a great job. But I also know from this report and from our work in these roles, that there are great challenges, two huge trends. The ageing society which is part of the Western World. More older Australians. And at the same time, the legitimate expectation of better, stronger, deeper care. Those two things come together. Our society and our task on our watch.

And that means that we have two fundamental duties. One is to help shape the national culture of respect for our elders. We have much to learn from some parts of the world. The concept of the elder. Somebody who has given to that society and that community but who deserves respect and care and dignity. And, secondly, to help provide at the national level, that fundamental care structure. And that's where we go from here. We know that there are 1.3 million people within the aged care system in Australia. Home support, home care, residential aged care. And this monumental report, 8 volumes, 148 recommendations, monumental in scope, two years in construction, over 10,000 submissions, 640 witnesses, sets out some fundamental choices. And, yes, there are some alternative approaches that have been presented by the commissioners. But the central vision is of a nation where we value our elders, where we respect them, we provide care and we provide dignity. And we respond to their individual needs. That's the critical thing. We respond to their individual needs.

So it includes, as the Prime Minister said, a 5-year plan, a 5-year roadmap, ambitious, challenging, but achievable. And there are five pillars to the way in which we'll respond to this in terms of home care, quality and safety, services and sustainabilities, workforce and governance. And I'll come to those in a moment.

Just before doing that, in protecting our Australians it is important to note that today there have been zero cases of community transmission for COVID around the country. That's 31 days this year and no lives lost in 2021. An almost unthinkable collective national achievement. In terms of the rollout, we have now passed 10,070 seniors as of last night who were vaccinated in residential aged care facilities, our most frail, roughly the same number as New South Wales and almost 3 times greater than almost any other state. Facilities, over 130 facilities, and another 20 to be done at least today which will take us to well over 150 facilities and nationally over 33,700 Australians who were vaccinated but with the numbers to significantly step up during the course of this week.

So then that brings me to our initial, as the Prime Minister said, response, with the full response to the 148 recommendations to come during the course of the Budget process. Firstly, in terms of home care, we will immediately act on transparency of fees and commence an audit program of over 500 facilities per year. And providers, that's a very important part of protecting our elders against any abuse. At the same time, we'll be implementing a new quality control system within home care.

Secondly, in terms of residential care, quality and safety. We will commence a process of 1,500 extra audits of facilities per year under the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner. But we will also put in place under that Commission regulation to ensure further protection against chemical and physical restraint. We will appoint a new senior restraint leader within the commission and we will extend the pharmacy program within the commission and under the department to 2025.

In terms of residential aged care, services and sustainability, our third pillar. We will, exactly as the commissioners have recommended, immediately extend the viability supplement, the 30 per cent uplift to the 30th of June as an interim measure whilst we prepare our response to the Budget. But the Prime Minister has indicated that this is an immediate measure today but there will be a long-term solution set out in the Budget. That's the equivalent of $760 per metropolitan resident and $1,145 per rural and remote resident. We will also put in place a targeted fund to support providers facing stress.

Fourth. In terms of our fourth pillar, workforce, with regards to skills, we will make available immediately for 18,000 places to supplement those which have already been brought in for new home care and residential care workers to be trained because if we can lift those numbers, we lift the places that we offer. And that is a critical step forward. And then finally in terms of governance. We have accepted the Royal Commission's request to respond in full by the 31st of May. We will begin a governance training and funding program for, we expect, 3,700 senior leaders across boards and senior executives.

We will put in place a new Aged Care Act. And that will be a significant process but it's based on a simple concept of respect for the individual. Instead of being about providers, instead of it being about money, it's about respect for the individual needs and that is the fundamental generational transformation.

And so I'll finish where I started. As a son who has watched this process, as a son who watched his father pass just days before we came into government, I want to thank all of those who have been involved in the commission, in particular our Commissioners Pagone, Briggs, and of course Commissioner Tracey who passed during the course of it. To thank our carers and our nurses, our doctors, our cooks and our cleaners and everybody involved in taking care of our older Australians, our time is now.

PRIME MINISTER: Richard? Richard is just going to say one or two things and then I’ll get to questions.

SENATOR THE HON RICHARD COLBECK, MINISTER FOR AGED CARE SERVICES: Thanks, PM. Thanks, Greg. Can I just start by thanking Commissioners Pagone, Briggs and Tracey for their work over the last couple of years in the preparation of this important report. As both the Prime Minister and Greg have said, it is a once in a generation opportunity to create real change in the way that aged care is provided in this country.

Can I also thank all of those who've submitted to the Royal Commission, particularly the families and the residents who have told us their stories. The Prime Minister said when the commission was called that we were going to hear some really, really hard things, and we have and, unfortunately, we continue to do that, which is what really drives me in wanting to fundamentally reform the way that we deliver aged care in this country. The thing that being in this portfolio has done, the thing that being in the process of the Royal Commission has done is, from my point of view, is to make me fundamentally question the whole way that we deliver aged care in this whole country and go back to first step fundamentals in looking at what we should be doing if we're building a new system. It is the stories and sitting down with family and loved ones and listening to them, usually in tears, talking about the loss of dignity that their family member has suffered as a part of living within the system which is driving my ambition with respect to this reform process.

So thank you to all of those families, A) who have submitted to the Royal Commission, but to those who have sat down opposite me at the desk to talk about it. I said when we received the interim report that the report would put us all on notice, and it did. It put the Government on notice, it put the aged care sector on notice and it put the Australian community on notice. It talked about the fact there has been a lot of cans kicked down the road in aged care for 20 years by successive governments and the attitude of the community more generally to senior Australians isn't what we want it to be. I think we now stand in a situation where we have the opportunity to change all of those things. Both the Prime Minister and Greg have reflected on that.

It's now our role to engage with the sector and Australians to commence that reform process. Minister Hunt has indicated that we've made a number of initial response measures today just in the same way that we've responded to the interim report and, particularly, the COVID report to improve the way that the system operates, and each of those responses has had an eye towards where we might go in the design of the final system. It needed to do that. The concept of continuing what's been described by the Royal Commission as an "ad hoc" approach needs to stop. We need to look at a fundamental reform of the system.

But we have continued to do the things that we've needed to do to increase the capacity of the system but also its delivery. Since ScoMo became Prime Minister we've invested $5.5 billion in over 83,000 new Home Care packages. As he said a moment ago, we are currently offering new Home Care packages to Australians at the rate of 1,200 per week out to the end of this financial year. We've put in place new quality standards, a new aged care charter of rights, we've improved medication management, we've put in place measures to reduce the number of people under the age of 65 in residential aged care, that is bearing fruit. It is making a difference and we'll continue to work in that area.

We've asked for infection control leads in every aged care facility. We've established the Workforce Industry Council and can I say I'm really delighted at the progress they've made particularly since May when their new CEO Louise came onboard. We've invested $185 million over 10 years in dementia research, and that’s off the back of $200 million that we invested when we came to Government in 2013.

And we've continued to invest in improvements to the My Aged Care website so it is easier for senior Australians and their families to navigate their way through the system. And of course last year, during COVID, we invested $1.8 billion into the COVID response. And we will have new regulations to manage restraint by the 1st of July, because we put in place a process to review the new regulations that came into force just two years ago. Those recommendations are back with us. But we also put a sunset clause into those new regulations which means that we have to have new regulations in place by the 1st of July so we continue our work as both the Prime Minister and Greg have said to reform and improve the system.

And this Royal Commission report that's been under way for more than two years now gives us, I think, a great imprimatur to do that but the opportunity, as the Prime Minister and Greg have said, to create generational change for the way that senior Australians receive aged care.


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, this report says that one-in-three Australians in residential aged care have substandard facilities. It says that 13 to 18% of people in aged care have been assaulted, and it says the current aged care system and its weak and ineffective regulatory arrangements did not arise by accident. The move to ritualistic regulation is a natural consequence of the Government's desire to restrain expenditure in aged care. In essence, having not provided enough funding for good quality care, the regulatory arrangements could only pay lip service to the requirement that the care that was provided was of high quality, now you've been Prime Minister and Treasurer for five years or so. Do you agree this is a national disgrace and do you accept any share of responsibility over that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course I do Andrew. I’ve been Prime Minister for two years and prior to that, I was Treasurer for three. I’ve been in this Cabinet since we were first elected and so our Government will take our share of the responsibility like all governments over the last 25 to 30 years, which is what the Royal Commission - that very quote that you've just referred to - was referring to governments over the last 25 years. That has been the prism, the framework in which our aged care sector has been funded and run. And while, as well-intentioned as everybody who may have served in governments, in cabinets, or in policy advice systems, or run health aged care facilities or provided support in whatever they could, despite those best intentions, those are the outcomes, Andrew. That's why I asked the question, because I could not get the assurance that the answer would be any different to that. And so, I honestly asked the question. You now have the answer. I now have the answer. And the road map that it sets out to dealing with that fundamentally seeks a shift from a constrained system that focuses on funding to providers to a needs-based system that puts the person at the centre. That is the change-

JOURNALIST: Well, how much money is required?

PRIME MINISTER: No government has done that. No government has done that in the last 30 years. And that is what the Royal Commission has found. And, as a result, it requires some very significant change to how these arrangements are put in place, everything from governments and data, and standards, to training, to the resource that is made available and how we support that within our community. This is a challenge to all of us. So, yes, the findings of this commission work is as shocking as I feared it would be and, frankly, expected it to be. But knowing that, I still called it and, knowing that, I'm standing here before you today saying we propose to deal with it. Now, that's going to be a difficult task because over my time we've increased funding from $13 billion to $24 billion. In my own time as Prime Minister, over $5 billion of extra funding into Home Care. In the time of our Government, everything from charters of Rights to Aged Care Quality Standards and commissioners, and cops on the beat, and specialist service outreach, and all of these things have been done, yet still - yet still - these outcomes are still not being achieved.

JOURNALIST: How much money is required, Prime Minister, and why only one volume released today? Aren't there eight?

PRIME MINISTER: There are eight. And all eight are being released.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: Of course we’ll release all eight.

JOURNALIST: How much money is required?

PRIME MINISTER: This is, the answer to that question is not known at this point, Andrew. And the Royal Commission doesn't know what the answer as yet. And what the Royal Commission has found is that is an assessment that has never been undertaken based on a needs-based model.

JOURNALIST: Given that, Prime Minister, [inaudible] required to fix it?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm absolutely committed to taking this report and addressing the issues that are raised in this report and to finding the best way for us to achieve that. That's what we have to do. It won't be easy. And as I said it’s going to test everything from our Budget to everything else. But, you know, in this country we have a needs-based system of healthcare. In this country we don't have a needs-based system of aged care. No government has done that ever - ever - and the result of that is what we read in this report today. That's why I say that generational change is now required. When I became Prime Minister, there were a range of arguments as to why Royal Commissions hadn't been pursued before. I didn't accept them. And I called one. So here we are, ready to go.

JOURNALIST: Does it concern you that some of the recommendations [inaudible] argued are pretty basic recommendations. Does that concern you?

PRIME MINISTER: Of course it concerns me. Of course it does. That's why it fuels my passion for the response.

JOURNALIST: The fact that the commissioners have slightly different recommendations-


JOURNALIST: How are you going to commit to addressing the recommendations? How do you avoid that pick and choose approach, you know?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we will exercise our considered judgement. We will work with the sector. The fact that the commissioners have come to different views I think highlights the complexity of this problem. See I, this is my trust of the Australian people. Our issues that we have to deal with are very complex and difficult in government. I don't think Australians think this is easy to fix. If it was, then someone would have done it a long time ago. I can tell you, plenty of people have tried in the past and they haven't succeeded. And they've done with the best of intentions. So I'm not standing here today, making judgements about my predecessors I'm not making judgements about previous governments. I'm simply saying that we are where we are right now and I think Australians understand how complicated this because a lot of them have had to deal with it. They've had to deal with the DAT payments and the RADs and all of these things and try and make choices that the fact there isn't star rating processes on quality, things like that, and they've had to sit down in family meetings like I've had and try to understand how the system works and how you can get the best support and care for your family member or someone you're providing care to. So I think they get that this is really complicated. I think Australians get that we have difficult tasks that we have and knotty problems that we have to deal with. I think they get that and so now, through this report, that I commissioned effectively on their behalf, they now expect us rightly to go and address what's here and to fashion our response and come back with how we can put it into place.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what's your number one priority to improve quality and safety for older Australians both at home and in aged care facilities?

PRIME MINISTER: There's one thing that I think pretty much sums up the whole approach and that is the person to whom you're seeking to provide care has to be at the centre. That's the nub of this. That their dignity, that their care, that their respect for them as a human being and a fellow Australian has to sit at the centre. Now, that's not a glib statement. That's a statement with great policy power behind it. And that's the sort of thing that should be enshrined in the Act, as the Royal Commission has recommended. That's what should be guiding every director on every governance board of an aged care facility in the country and every other service provider. That's what should be governing every policy official in the country, whether they're working in pricing of these through a pricing authority or a quality care cop on the beat, or, indeed, people working in our offices dealing with the challenges of these issues every day. Putting that Australian at the centre is the fundamental change to this system. Now, you might think, "Well, why hasn't that always been the case?" Fair question. But I can tell you the way the system has been designed, this Royal Commission demonstrates that that's not how it's worked and that's what we need to change.

JOURNALTIST: Did you know about the claim of the historical rape...

PRIME MINISTER: I'm dealing with aged care right now. Happy to deal with other issues but let's talk aged care.

JOURNALIST: This report was delivered last Friday. You gave us half-an-hour to attend a press conference. You tabled the report while we were here. How can we ask questions to know what's relevant in the report without knowing what's in it?

PRIME MINISTER: There will be plenty of opportunities to ask many questions. This isn’t the only day I’ll be standing before you on this. Today I’m here telling Australia we have released the Royal Commission. We commissioned it.

JOURNALIST: That's a spin tactic isn't it, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: No, with great respect, this report is not about the media. This report is about Australians and their care. I am releasing the Royal Commission report. There are 8 volumes, 8 volumes and I would encourage you to digest all of them. And on occasion, after occasion, after occasion, I have no doubt that you will quiz me on every element of it. You will ask me every appropriate question and I’ll be happy to answer them. Today is the day for us telling Australia that it is released. There'll be plenty of other opportunities.

JOURNALIST: This is a major social reform and you've stopped us from actually looking at the report. Is that because you've got two Commissioners who disagree on the reforms and the way forward?

PRIME MINISTER: No. I don't understand the question.

JOURNALIST: The Commissioners are split on a number of fundamental reforms.

PRIME MINISTER: Because it is a complicated issue.

JOURNALIST: So which of the reports and recommendations would you take onboard?

PRIME MINISTER: That's what we'll consider and include that in our response.

JOURNALIST: Isn't it a problem that you've got a Royal Commission blueprint [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER: No I think it's a problem that people think this is so simple. We can't be glib about these issues and that they're simple to do with. I'm not surprised they are. I'm not surprised that people with that level of experience who have poured over this, heart and soul, for years, and then still in coming to understand what the way forward is there'll be difference of views. That does not surprise me. And I don't think it surprises Australians who've had to deal with this system either. These are knotty problems, they're hard to solve.

JOURNALIST: Does it concern you that after two years they can't come up with a figure as what you need to spend as you've just characterised it. I haven't read the whole report.

PRIME MINISTER: No, it’s a heavy read. There is much more for me still to pour through. It's eight volumes. There is a lot further to go as we delve into this. Again, Andrew, it doesn't surprise me because this is a hard issue. And I think we're being unrealistic to think that everybody is going to come to one point of agreement on the way forward. If it was that simple, then governments would have done this years ago. It's not that simple. Things have changed. Even in the time that we've been undertaking this Royal Commission, in the time as my time as Prime Minister and, indeed, Treasurer, where aged care services will be, I believe, provided in the future, substantively, overwhelmingly, particularly over time, will not be in facilities. They'll be in people's homes. And there will be a range of supports that are provided. Not unlike how you see individual care packages developed for people under the NDIS, and that people will get tailored, individualised care plans for them and the supports they need. The Royal Commission talks of everything from allied health to dental and oral care and all of these issues, including community supports, and engagement in activities outside of their home and how that form parts of their package. The technology, I've seen this, particularly when I've gone into disability accommodation homes and I've seen the revolution that is taking place for people living with disabilities so they can live as functionally as they possibly can and have as many choices as the rest of us. That can transform the delivery of aged care, and Commissioner Briggs in particular makes that point on many occasions. That's how I see aged care evolving into the future. Individualised, tailored, using every bit of technology, with a more qualified and more experienced workforce that is larger than it is today - much larger than it is today because, frankly, it has to be. Because if it's not, they cannot provide the care that a needs-based system demands.

JOURNALIST: The Commissioners disagree on two fundamental issues - funding and regulation. We already know that the Government supports what Commissioner Briggs is suggesting…

PRIME MINISTER: How do you know that?

JOURNALIST: Because the Government has already responded to the Royal Commission in a...

PRIME MINISTER: I'm sorry, the Government has made no decisions on the findings on this report. So it is simply incorrect for you to suggest that.

JOURNALIST: The Department of Health and the regulator put a submission in…

PRIME MINISTER: I'm the Prime Minister. This is my Minister. Our Cabinet will decide our response to this Royal Commission, OK? So we've released it. I think I’ve answered your question, thank you.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, after reading the documents sent to you regarding the allegations against one of your cabinet ministers, what was your reaction?

PRIME MINISTER: Have we finished with the aged care questions?

JOURNALIST: No we haven't finished with the aged care questions.

PRIME MINISTER: OK let's keep going if there are aged care questions.

JOURNALIST: I'm asking about the 100,000 [inaudible] for the Home Care packages. Only 57,000 have been released.

PRIME MINISTER: We're releasing aged care for Home Care places at a rate of 1200 a week. I said over $5.5 billion additional funding has been put into those places and that is some 85,000 additional places. I want to ensure that we continue to work through to get those in home aged care packages to people as quickly and as safely as possible. We have to be careful that in delivering those in home aged care places that we do it at a pace where that sector can deliver those places. If we are providings places that are going to be delivered by care workers that don't have the requisite training or skills then I think that could be very dangerous. And so we will work at the pace where we can deliver those in home aged care places to people as quickly and as safely as we possibly can, which is exactly what we've been seeking to do over these past few years in particular.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, better safety and higher quality [inaudible] providers have estimated about $20 billion extra funding per year will be needed. How much can the Government afford and how much are you willing to pay?

PRIME MINISTER: These are very very early questions, and the answers to those questions will be worked through with the Government as we develop our response. We will do that very carefully and we will do it with the support of all the full offices of the Government in particular the Treasury and the Department of Finance, and the various mechanisms, there are mechanisms that are highlighted in this report itself and we'll consider pulling together our comprehensive and well considered response but today I am not giving you our response. We have announced a series of measures $450 million in total that deals with many of the significant issues highlighted in the Royal Commission but this is an initial announcement to correspond with the release of the report. Our comprehensive response will come in the course of the Budget.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the providers are obviously at the centre of aged care and the report highlights practices before providers. Given that, do you expect some providers will be forced out of Australia's market if you completely implement the recommendations?

PRIME MINISTER: Aged care is about the people receiving the care. That's what it's about. That's all that it is about. And I want care providers - care providers who provide quality care, and who can do that, and to do it well and to do it consistently and with the trust of the people they're providing it to, and the consistency. And that's who should be in the aged care system.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe that there should be mandatory qualifications for aged care workers Do you think they need [inaudible] qualification?

PRIME MINISTER: I've seen that recommendation. There are a number of recommendations, for example, the suggestion of carers' leave, which I must admit I'm quite attracted to, I’ve mentioned that, in the same way that maternity and paternity leave are provided. But in relation to the qualifications I want to be confident that the range of tasks being provided are ones that are appropriately qualified. The suggestion here, of course you're referring to people with nursing, nursing ATARs, things like that to have cert 3 qualifications are there, then of course they should be there. There are other - other services that are provided as part of the aged care system, which may not require that.

JOURNALIST: You mean the personal care workers who make up 70 per cent of the workforce?

PRIME MINISTER: Not necessarily. No, I don't mean that necessarily at all. What I want to be sure of is that the people who are providing care and the services they're providing as part of that. That they're properly trained and qualified to do that. That's why I've read carefully those recommendations and will be considering them and giving them the appropriate weight that I think they genuinely deserve.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on another issue.

PRIME MINISTER: I think we're still on aged care.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, after reading the document sent to you about the allegations made against one of your Cabinet…

PRIME MINISTER: I'm still on aged care. Unless there's other aged care questions I’m happy to go-

JOURNALIST: Can you give us some kind of commitment that you will implement the 138 findings in the Royal Commission, and if not, why?
PRIME MINISTER: For a start, some of the recommendations are completely conflicting with each other. So that obviously doesn't enable me to give you that answer because some of the recommendations are completely different to each other and they set out the reasons for that. And so the Government will have to obviously work through that and consider it. What I've committed to today and the ministers have committed to today, is in direct request by the Commissioners that we do this by the middle of May, I think it was, that we do just that. The issues raised in this Royal Commission must be addressed and the fundamental issue is the generational paradigm shift that needs to take place in the way that we deliver aged care services in this country. Individually, individualised, needs-based, dignity care and respect. That's what we need to do. That's what I'm committed to doing.

JOURNALIST: How can the Australian public...

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry. I couldn’t quite hear you.

JOURNALIST: Are you convinced that the commission's report will provide a good blueprint going forward for aged care reform?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. Yes, I am. Because it is so comprehensive. The time taken to deal with all of this won't be short. There'll be immediate-term priorities that we'll need to move on. There'll be short-term, 
there will be mid-term, there will be long-term because we're seeking to ensure that, over the generation, there is that generational shift. That's what we're seeking to achieve. Yes.

JOURNALIST: But you have two sets of recommendations from the Commissioners, they disagree with each other fundamentally. So you're going to have to decide whether recommendations you take onboard and go ahead with, aren't you?

PRIME MINISTER: Correct. That's why we're the Government.

JOURNALIST: That's why also you'll probably going to go with Lynelle Briggs, because she has already explained and the Government has also submitted, is the way forward that they want.

PRIME MINISTER: When we provide our response, that's our response. When we provide our response to all these recommendations we will address those issues.

JOURNALIST: So is this going to be another situation, isn't it, we've had 20 reports in 20 years. Now we have a Royal Commission report which was supposed to sort all of this out, we'd have a clear blueprint. 
Now you've got two conflicting reports about the way forward. Isn't this going to paralyse the Government once again.

PRIME MINISTER: No. Government is complex, the world is complex, it is a complex set of issues which have given rise to those outcome which is the Royal Commission have identified in the report that I've asked them to do. I think it is glib to suggest that the fact that two very experienced Australians, in conducting their Commission, can come to some different views on how to deal with this problem is extraordinary. It's not. It's real. As Prime Minister I’ve got, I think it's the contrary, isn't it...I think it just highlights how complex this is.

JOURNALIST: It's less than ideal, isn't it?

PRIME MINISTER: It's real, Andrew, and I have to deal with what's real. I have got to deal with the real situation in aged care. When I asked the question, through the Royal Commission, I didn't centre a preset notion of how they would come back and what they would say but I am pleased that they have been as honest and candid and comprehensive, and compassionate, and fulsome in their responses they've been and they've been as up-front about it, including where they have differences. I think Australians are big enough to deal with this complexity. I know my Government is. And that's what we'll be doing. So…

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, last year you rejected the accusation that the Morrison Government didn't have a COVID plan for aged care. But one of the recommendations in the report is for your Government to establish a national plan for aged care and COVID. So, what happened? Did you have a plan or not?


THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: I'll deal with that. In fact, we had six stages, the first of the elements was in February.

JOURNALIST: But why the recommendation to establish...

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: I think you'll find that that was in the interim report. There were six stages to what we..

JOURNALIST: COVID happened after the interim report.

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: No, no, no, this is the COVID interim report.OK. To give some history, there has been an interim report, there has been a COVID report or a COVID interim report and there's been a final report and we've responded on the day of release on each occasion because we wanted to show respect to that report and to consider with immediate action. We set out and, indeed, Professor Murphy, in evidence to the Commission, set out the six stages of the plan and then we subsequently put out a further element. So that was very clearly set out, I think, by Professor Murphy including, of course, the extraordinary work which was done by the AHPPC, by the medical advisers in laying this out in February, in March, in April, and in three subsequent iterations.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, JobKeeper costs $100 billion and that's the biggest program ever. If you're in a position where you're going to have to give aged care up to $20 billion a year from now on in, it's a pretty big hole, isn't it?
PRIME MINISTER: What I'd say is that the fiscal elements of our response to this package have not been framed yet, they haven't. So I'm not going to make any assumptions about the figures that you've quoted. I know, I've seen plenty of figures out there, Andrew...

JOURNALIST: Do you think that's outlandish?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m going to wait to see the figures that Treasury and Finance provide in terms of our response and that always comes through the disciplined process of the Budget. I've sat around...

JOURNALIST: Isn't the disciplined process the reason we have this problem? I mean, that's what I've just read from the report.


JOURNALIST: Of course there has to be a process…

PRIME MINISTER: You've just thrown some numbers at me and I'm saying I haven't got any official numbers from Treasury or Finance yet and they're the figures I'll focus on when we make our response.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, after reading...

PRIME MINISTER: Hang on. I know it is a public of topic of public discussion. We are releasing a report into aged care with one in three people have been found to have received substandard care and that deeply distresses me. And the point has been raised that I don't want to answer questions about aged care. I am answering questions on it. And I think we should answer the questions about aged care. I will get to the issue. I'm here, I’m not going anywhere. I'm happy to address them. It is another important issue, I acknowledge that but aged care has our focus just for this moment.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the person being at the centre of care can actually be problematic. For instance, sometimes it could be used to justify excessive force or the use of antipsychotics. We have seen that alot in aged care. How will you ensure that this idea of person centred-care isn’t used to justify excessive force being used on a person?

PRIME MINISTER: I wouldn't agree with your proposition. I just wouldn't link those two statements together. That's not certainly what's being suggested to me either through the commission or the other advice I’ve received. I would say quite the opposite. I would say that putting the individual at the centre and their wellbeing and their ability to live every second of their life would suggest against the inappropriate use of chemical restraints I would say. The Royal Commission has been very, very vigorous in their recommendations on chemical restraints and we've already taken action on those which I know commissioners have already welcomed.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister it is problematic when someone can’t make a decision for themselves?

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: I’ll come back to that, I’m happy to do, sorry?

JOURNALIST: What's your response to the fact that the Royal Commission has said that the Government has failed aged care, the aged care sector during the pandemic?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't, I don't believe that's the case. And we've set out our reasons for that. And the performance for our aged care system when you look at it internationally during the course of this pandemic has been one of the world stand-outs. So that is the Government's view. But to come back to the question that was asked in relation to people being able to make individual choices, one of the reasons I think we've been able to make a lot of progress in the National Disability Insurance Scheme is the advocate's role that is played in this process. One of the I think very good, recommendations in this report is a similar network of pathfinders, if you like, through the aged care system, quite a large network of them, that is there to assist people and their carers and others to make decisions in the best interests of the individual that they love and care for. I think that's a very useful recommendation. We've seen that work very well in the NDIS. I've got to tell you, that there are a lot of parallels in how we can make the aged care system work with how we've made the NDIS work. We've come up to a scale of some 450,000 or thereabouts people now on the NDIS and there’s been a lot of lessons learnt in how we’ve got that point, and one of the key things has been about the individualised care plans, that have been put in place to support [inaudible] had to develop those plans and then to consistently build the workforce and the accountability about the delivery of those plans. So my point about that is this is possible. We are already doing it in another part of our service delivery for those living with disabilities. So this can be achieved. But we've got to get the settings right for how we do that in aged care. That's quite, I've got to say, for the sector, quite a transformation from where they have been up until this point. It is quite a transformation for how the government system has worked up until this point. That's why the settings through a new Act need to be fundamentally reset for the generation of change we're looking for.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you said that person-centred care is the way forward. That's your new policy. That's been the policy for the past 10 years in aged care.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, no it hasn't.

JOURNALIST: It hasn't?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm sorry. The Royal Commission has just found that that's not true.

JOURNALIST: Well, they may not be delivering person-centred care but that has actually been the policy…

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it hasn't been effective and that is what the Royal Commission has said. It has said that the Act hasn't put, that the system hasn't put the individual at the centre, and I agree with them.

JOURNALIST: The extra funds required, how much do you think will be user pays and how much from the taxpayer?

PRIME MINISTER: These are not matters we're not in a position to respond to yet, Andrew. As I said our response will be developed and prepared as part of the Budget process.

JOURNALIST: One of the biggest problems has been the [inaudible] of the regulator, [inaudible] Tony Pagone wants an independent watchdog away from Government, and Lynelle Briggs wants to stick with the Government regulator. Considering it is so [inaudible] and has [inaudible] What is your opinion? Are you going to stick with Lynelle Briggs recommendation or [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the answer is the same. And that is, that is a matter we will consider as we pull together our comprehensive response to the whole Royal Commission report and we haven't concluded on that matter as we've just received the report. So I think to suggest that we would have quickly formed a view about that in a matter of days I don’t think is realistic.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] because it's in the Department of Health's submission to the Royal Commission.

PRIME MINISTER: The Department of Health is not the Minister. It is not the Prime Minister. It is not the Cabinet. It is a Government department that has expressed views to the Royal Commission along the way. Government policy is set by the Government,

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: It is the view of the department. I receive advice from departments quite often and have over the course of my ministerial career which I haven't agreed with. That doesn't make it government policy. It becomes government policy when Cabinet agree it. You've been a journalist for some time. You'd know that.

JOURNALIST: So you're not opposed to an independent watchdog away from [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m open to the recommendations that have been put forward in the Royal Commission and we are going to carefully consider them all and exercise our judgement about the best way to go forward on all of these things, consistent with the principle of individual-based, needs-based care for older Australians.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, part of the recommendations that the commissioners actually agree on is the need to introduce a levy [inaudible] aged care, [inaudible]


JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] Will you commit to that?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we'll consider those things. You know our gin to. In fact as Treasurer I once sought to increase the Medicare levy by half a per cent to provide support to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and I wasn't supported in that by the Labor Party, or the Greens for that matter. So that's something that I've seen in other contexts that the parliament hasn't supported before. So you'd forgive me for being a little wary at this point.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, have you asked the Cabinet Minister who is accused of, or the subject of allegations aired by the ABC, of rape allegations, have you asked him if he denies those allegations?

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, I have and he absolutely does. Categorically.

JOURNALIST: When did that occur?

PRIME MINISTER: That occurred last week, last week I became aware of a set of documents that had been circulated to, I think four individuals. I was told that I was one of those individuals. At the time my office or I hadn't received those materials but I was aware that at least one of those members had. And they informed me that they had relayed that to the Federal Police through the AFP Liaison Officer. I had some discussions that night, I still hadn't received our copy until late Friday afternoon. And consistent with the actions as the others who received those materials, we forwarded those on through my office to the AFP as well. They were, as I understand it, they were identical materials. I had a discussion with the Commissioner last week, about these matters, and I also has a discussion with the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Deputy Secretary, about these issues and I had a discussion with the individual, as I said, who absolutely rejects these allegations. And so after having spoken to the commissioner and to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of my Department at this stage, there are no matters that require my immediate attention.

JOURNALIST: Do you believe him? Do you believe the allegation to be false?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that is a matter for the police. See, I'm not the Commissioner of Police,

JOURNALIST: That's not the point, though, is it?

PRIME MINISTER: No, I'm sorry, it is actually. It is. Allegations of criminal conduct should be dealt with by competent and authorised agencies, and that,

JOURNALIST: You must believe him otherwise you wouldn't-

PRIME MINISTER: Andrew, give me the courtesy of actually answering you. It is the police, in a country where you're governed by the rule of law, that determine the veracity of any allegations of this nature. It is the police. My office, I, do not have the people or others who are trained or competent or authorised to invest matters of this nature. The police are the ones who do that. And the police have had this matter referred to them. The individual involved here has vigorously rejected these allegations. And so, it's a matter for the police. And in my discussions with the Commissioner, there were nothing immediate that he considered that was necessary for me to take any action on.

JOURNALIST: But, Prime Minister, you would know that without this complainant alive, the police cannot conduct an investigation. So what actions are you going to take as the Prime Minister to send a message that you are looking into this situation?

PRIME MINISTER: By referring it to the Federal Police, which is exactly what I and the other three persons who received this information did. Now it is with the Federal Police. There are other jurisdictions that potentially could be involved here. And the Federal Police Commissioner will advise me of the status of those things when he is in a position to do so.

JOURNALIST: When you were sent those documents, and you read through them what was your reaction?

PRIME MINISTER: To send it to the Federal Police to ensure that I understood in a country where the rule of law applies that they could be properly assessed.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] Sorry can I just clarify, you haven’t actually read through these documents yourself, given the seriousness of these allegations, why haven’t you read [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm aware of the contents of them. I've been briefed on the contents of them. And it was appropriate, as the Commissioner himself advised all of us in the Parliament, to refer any allegations to the proper authorities. That is the way, in our country, under the rule of law things like this are dealt with. And it is important to ensure that we uphold that. That is the way our society operates. Now, these are very distressing issues that have been raised, and as there are other issues that have been raised in relation to other members and other cases. But the proper place for that to be dealt is by the authorities, which are the police. That's how our country operates. That system protects all Australians.

JOURNALIST: So you won’t be ordering an inquiry on this?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not the police force. I have given it to the police to investigate.

JOURNALIST: A question for the Health Minister if possible, on the COVID, on the vaccine,

JOURNALIST: Sorry to finish this off-

JOURNALIST: It’s a difficult situation for you though,

JOURNALIST: When, when did you first hear about the letter last week?

PRIME MINISTER: Wednesday, evening.

JOURNALIST: Wednesday. And you spoke with the minister [Inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: Wednesday evening.

JOURNALIST: And AFP Commissioner?

PRIME MINISTER: Wednesday evening.

JOURNALIST: And had you heard about these claims at all before last week?

PRIME MINISTER: No, not really of any substance, no.

JOURNALIST: What had you heard if not of substance?

PRIME MINISTER: Only rumours of an ABC investigative journalist making some inquiries. That's all I'd heard. I didn't know the substance of them.

JOURNALIST: Did you know who it was about when you heard those rumours or when you heard vaguely about [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: I tend to not pay attention to rumours.

JOURNALIST: Was the rumour of alleged rape [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I wasn't aware of the substance of it and as a result not in really a position to pursue it. When I was put in a position to pursue it, I did.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, Prime Minister, this was the trigger for the Reece Kershaw letter, presumably? [Inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: I spoke to the Commissioner that night and I think it's important that these events of the last fortnight or so I think have triggered a lot of very strong feelings and views, and experiences that people may have had and I discussed this with the Commissioner. And he and I agreed that it was important that people understand that where these things arise, there is a proper process for dealing with these things and that proper process is what he outlined in that letter and that process is not new. That process was the standing process. So there was no change in the process. But given that these issues had the potential to be raised in many ways, potentially because of, you know, of how this can occur in situations like this, the Commissioner believed that it was important, as did I, that people understand that when dealing with such sensitive matters, that they need to be dealt with in the proper way, which is to refer them to the proper authorities, which is the police. Now, in addition to that, it's also important that there is appropriate support that is provided to people who could find themselves in this situation and are making or passing on information that they may have received from a third party. In this case, it was anonymised. I had no idea who sent that information to me. So anonymous documents being sent around to people, that should go to the police and they should provide me and others who need to be aware of these things with what they believe the veracity of those things to be. But the advice that was provided to members was to remind them all of the way that sensitive matters like this should be dealt with and I think that's entirely appropriate.

JOURNALIST: When you said you were aware of rumours before last Wednesday and you mentioned there was an ABC journalist involved, was this around - did you become aware of those rumours around the same time as that Four Corners Canberra bubble story? Is that when you became aware of it?

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, but I had no idea what or who it was about.

JOURNALIST: So that was the timeframe,

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] the info that you became aware of around that time?

PRIME MINISTER: That there were journalists asking questions about a member.

JOURNALIST: In relation to what we now know is this matter?

PRIME MINISTER: I didn't know that was the matter.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] When you actually spoke to him on Wednesday night, did he say that he knows the woman involved and what,

PRIME MINISTER: I'm not going to go into the conversation. Simply to tell you I was asked, did I raise it? Yes, I did. And he vigorously and completely denied the allegations. So that means there is a proper process now for it to follow.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, did you say before that the system protects all Australians but, clearly, it doesn't given the Government's [inaudible] to these allegations of sexual assault. More obviously needs to be done [inaudible] in the system Does the ministerial code of conduct go far enough?

PRIME MINISTER: I believe the ministerial code of conduct in these cases sets itself out pretty clearly. And that’s what I’m acting in accordance with.

JOURNALIST: But is it clear? We're talking about multiple allegations here.

PRIME MINISTER: Well you know- some of you are from the Canberra gallery, others aren't. But we can't have a system in this country where allegations are simply presented, and I'm not suggesting this in this case, but we can't have a situation where the mere making of an allegation and that being publicised through the media is grounds for, you know, governments to stand people down simply on the basis of that. I mean, we have a rule of law in this country and it's appropriate that these things were referred to the Federal Police. They have been. They're the people who are competent and authorised to deal with issues of this sensitivity and this seriousness. And that is what our Government has done. That is what I have done. That's what Senator Wong has done, that’s what Senator Hanson-Young has done and that’s what Celia Hammond has done. And I think that’s that’s the appropriate response.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] Do you believe it is acceptable for this Cabinet Minister to remain in his position while he has the matter hanging over his head?

PRIME MINISTER: I think it’s appropriate for the matter to be dealt with by the Federal Police and the Federal Police to advise me of the nature of this, which they're doing. At this stage, the commissioner has raised no issue with me, and the Department Secretary was present for that call as well. That would cause me to take action under the ministerial code. That's where we are, right now. And, you know, I'm aware of other allegations, and, you know, I think similar - similar principles apply. We've got to be careful to ensure that we still follow the rule of law in this country. Yep, last question here?

JOURNALIST: The person against whom the...

PRIME MINISTER: I think there's a vaccines question as well? Is there a vaccines question? Yeah, okay.

JOURNALIST: The person against whom the alleged assault took place died by suicide last year.


JOURNALIST: And there might be a South Australian coronial inquest into that matter. Should the Commonwealth step in to expedite that inquest, expedite another inquest, or have another investigation just to try and get to the bottom of that person's sad death and any connection to the [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: I would take any advice on that from the commissioner, with whom I've discussed the matter, or the Secretary of my Department, and I haven't received any advice or even a suggestion to that end. There are a series of formal processes here that may or may not take place. It's not for me as Prime Minister to seek to interfere or intervene in those processes.

But we've got a question on vaccines? And then,

JOURNALIST: Health Minister, we have had another day where [inaudible] vaccines have been expected but haven't arrived again. Are you still in a place where you still have confidence in delivering the vaccines to aged care facilities and what's been done to improve that situation?

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: What we've seen is a scale-up, in particular. We took action - there was one particular firm last week, but just to provide the information, as I mentioned earlier, the Commonwealth, as of last night, had overseen 10,000 of 14,000 doses that were made available, provided, about 72 per cent, 134 facilities. We're expecting approximately 20 today, which will take it well over 150. New South Wales is doing a great job. They've administered a similar number of vaccines. I spoke with and had a very constructive conversation with Gladys Berejiklian today, the Premier. They've delivered about 10,000, 339 or 74 per cent of their doses. Victoria has delivered about 3,862, or 30 per cent of their doses. Queensland, 2,030 or 32 per cent of the doses that they've received. Other states and territories have done very well. Tasmania, essentially, delivered 100 per cent of their first week doses and has been the leader in the pack. But everyone is working together. It's being scaled-up. I'd be happy to take any details of the particular facility, because this morning, we do, as we do every morning, check all facilities that are scheduled, have they been notified, all facilities that are scheduled, are they due to receive anything, is there any facility that's not? So I'd have to check the specific details. But as I said to Gladys Berejiklian today, New South Wales had been provided with information over the weekend and when you put it together, they'll be receiving 80,000 dozes of Pfizer and AstraZeneca over the course of the next nine days. So 14,000 of those are due to arrive today. And the balance over the course of the next week with the arrival of AstraZeneca and additional Pfizer. So the country is scaling up. It is over 33,000 now. Soon enough it'll be over 100,000 then it’ll be over a million and then it’ll be over two million. And every day, this goes to all the things that Anne was raising, it is about protecting all Australians but in particular protecting our older Australians. I know you've been passionate about this and I want to thank you. So that's it from us on,

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] 75% of people who died of COVID were aged care residents. Yet the Government has decided not to make it mandatory for aged care workers to get the vaccine. Why is that?

THE HON. GREG HUNT MP, MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: This was not a Government decision this was a decision of the medical advisers, the chief health officers of Australia who make up the AHPPC, we’ve always followed medical advice on vaccinations, we won’t be departing from that and these are people that have played an incredibly important role. We deeply respect their role. And so if they were to provide alternative advice, then the states have all committed to following that with what are called public health orders. But we will follow the advice of the medical advisers. It's kept us safe. We’ve today received the report of the Royal Commission and that's now about making sure that we keep our older Australians safe.

Thank you very much.