Opinion pieces, speeches & transcripts

Sky News Afternoon Agenda

July 28, 2020



SUBJECTS: Victoria COVID-19 Aged Care; Labor Environment Action Network.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: I have Andrew Giles, the Member for Scullin, which is home to the Epping Gardens aged care facility. Andrew very concerning times, 82 cases in that the aged care centre alone. You can only imagine the worry of those individuals affected and their loved one?

ANDREW GILES, MEMBER FOR SCULLIN: Definitely Kieran and it's an incredibly concerning time. I've been speaking obviously to family members, my office has too, and I can't overstate the anxiety that's present in the community. These are older Australians, vulnerable Australians, many who can't effectively speak for themselves and are in very very difficult circumstances and too often, family members have been unable to communicate directly, they've been unable to obtain information about the well being, the safety and the care standards that their father, their mother or their grandmother has been receiving, so it is a very difficult time.

GILBERT: This has been the warning from the outset that this virus will hurt the older cohort, more vulnerable, the hardest. And now we're seeing that worst case scenario, unfold in in your new part of the world and in your not just your seat but across dozens of facilities in Victoria.

GILES: We're looking at hundreds of people in aged care residents and also staff members, who have tested positive in recent days and in many facilities like Epping Gardens, we are seeing a very high proportion of residents test positive. And this is deeply concerning and it's deeply concerning as my colleague, Julie Collins, has made clear, because we had some warning signs here, we had warning signs in terms of what happened at Dorothy Henderson Lodge, and in terms of the Newmarch in Sydney. And it does appear that there are some issues that we need to look at, about access to PPE, about the nature of the workforce and fundamentally about communication between the staff and management and family members and the loved ones of residents in those difficult circumstances.

GILBERT: So what do you want to see now in terms of government intervention? Do you basically want all residents moved to hospitals because the Premier’s announced that everything except the most urgent surgery, elective surgery, is going to be stopped to accommodate residents from aged care?

GILES: Look, I think there are slightly different issues theere, it is really important that the Premier has made that announcement to free up capacity in the health system generally. My broad view is that where someone is looked after should be determined on medical advice. I do welcome the announcements that have been made by Minister Hunt today, to put additional resources in. And I acknowledge that I've had a good dialogue with Minister Colbeck about additional Commonwealth resources. I think people should be looked after in circumstances that are right for them and enable them to engage with family members outside. I think that's got to be the way that we seek to approach this, fundamentally that's got to be about safety, but we shouldn't have a one size fits all approach here either.

GILBERT: You spoke about the anxiety earlier, a broader anxiety across the community I think right across Victoria now but today, thankfully, the number 

of new cases is down from that record yesterday. I guess it's a matter of keeping our fingers crossed that that trajectory continues now Andrew.

GILES: Well definitely it's about keeping our fingers crossed, but doing much more than that. I've been really gratified to see how the Victorians have responded, people in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire to maintaining social distancing. Whenever I've been out, which hasn't been often, I've been seeing everyone wearing a mask, as I've been. We all know that if we do the right thing, we can get through this. That's the challenge I think everyone in the Melbourne is embracing at the moment, and that's got to be our focus, as well as dealing with some of these complex policy challenges in areas like aged care, and also in areas like the meat and smallgoods industry which has also been very affected in my electorate.

GILBERT: And in terms of the State Government testing. Has it been too slow? Have your constituents told you that it's been too slow to get results back? That's certainly what we've heard from areas like Colac.

GILES: We’ve seen obviously mixed patterns here and I'm reluctant to make a general statement, some people have told me that they've been very impressed by the manner in which the testing took place, and the speed with which they got a response. I guess my concern is when particularly looking at areas around aged care and meat works, these industries which are most affected, is first of all to make sure people are safe, people are getting the care that they need. And then we can spend time asking all the tough questions, obviously when it comes to aged care, there is a Royal Commission under way. Many of the issues that we are seeing exposed through the COVID pandemic are issues that were on the table, in terms of a record of underfunding under this Government, and the insecure nature of the workforce. They're often, as we know now, the consequences of workers working part time in different facilities and it's been awful to see the consequences of those arrangements visited upon vulnerable people.

GILBERT: Yes it is a tragedy no other way to put it, and we wish you and your constituents well in responding to it as we do all Victorians. Let me ask you a final issue before you go, Joel Fitzgibbon, Labor Member for Hunter frontbencher colleague of yours. He has said that he's not going to be attending a Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN) event tomorrow because they're fundamentalists, that basically they are Greens trying to infiltrate the Labor Party. Have you experienced that?

GILES: Look, I've got to say I haven't, I can't speak for Joel, or about the event which I don't know anything about, other than seeing referred to in the paper. But I must say that my experience of LEAN has been a positive one, driving debate within your party, and I think that's a healthy thing. We've seen some terrific contributions by Joeland staking out his ground on these critical debates about how we secure our net zero emissions future whilst having a plan for jobs - the jobs of today as well as the jobs of tomorrow. And I'd like to see that debate continued to be played out in a respectful way, and certainly as far as my dealings have been with LEAN, they have been positive ones.

GILBERT: So not extreme ideologies as Mr Fitzgibbon would say?

GILES: Well Joel is talking about a particular event and I've just got to say I don't have any knowledge of that or any of the individuals connected to that. I can only speak to my experience, which is obviously largely based in Melbourne and not connected directly to those issues in Hunter. But I think what I would say is that we are a healthy Party, we are having fair dinkum debates about the issues that confront us and confront us about the future. I think when it comes to the policy challenges in the energy and resources, and the environment, the real issues are, of course, what's been happening under the seven years of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government . We've got no plan really to meet our emissions goals, no plan for jobs, we're missing out on the benefits of renewable energies boom that’s been realised elsewhere, and our natural environment is a complete mess.

GILBERT: Shadow Minister of Cities and Urban Infrastructure, Andrew Giles, thank you once again wish all of your constituents and those Victorians affected by this crisis all the very best, thanks.

GILES: Thanks very much appreciate it.