THE HON RICHARD MARLES MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Defence
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 25 JULY 2022
SUBJECTS: ADF support to Aged Care; 47TH Parliament; Australian Building and Construction Commission.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We’ve announced today that the ADF will increase its contribution to aged care centres from 30, up to 250- and that those numbers will be extended through until the end of September. This is an important contribution to make given the outbreaks that we’re seeing in aged care centres across Australia. It’s obviously not a permanent state of affairs. It’s important that our defence force is there to defend the nation and that people get back to their primary job in time. But given the outbreaks that we are seeing right now, it is important that Defence plays its part in a national response where we’re doing everything we can to protect those in aged care. And I know that those who wear our nation’s uniform will equip themselves expertly and professionally in the work that they do in the aged care centres.
JOURNALIST: Is this something that aged care centres were really pushing for? Give us a an idea of how much they’re struggling at the moment.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I think there is a significant load, which is on aged care centres now. This is something that was asked of me by the Minister for Health and the Minister for Aged Care. So it was something that we took very seriously, looked at very carefully, because it did involve extending the workforce beyond the 12th of August. But given the situation that we’re facing- a thousand outbreaks in aged care centres across Australia, it was important that Defence plays its part.
JOURNALIST: Is fourth dose coverage still a concern? And will the ADF help with sort of bringing up those rates in aged care?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I think now that we have, you know, greater availability or access to fourth doses, that is really important that we are seeing people get their fourth dose- I got mine last week. It’s obviously important that we’re seeing that happen in an aged care setting as well. Vaccinations are a really critical part of how we deal with the response and the outbreaks that we’ve seen the latest omicron variant and so it’s very important that occurs.
JOURNALIST: I am hoping this hasn’t been asked already, Deputy PM- but first sitting week; how’s that feeling for you as Deputy Prime Minister for the new Albo government?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s obviously very exciting to come back to Parliament after an election. It’s always a very big moment. Tomorrow will be a significant day of ceremony and our political system. And I think it’s a moment where we reflect on the democracy which is our country, and the peaceful transfer of power, which doesn’t happen in every part of the world. And so, that is something actually to be celebrated. For the government’s part, there is a sense of excitement. But there’s also a sense of responsibility associated with governing the nation at this moment in time, we face a lot of challenges at home and abroad. And we are really seized of the responsibility that we have in making sure that we are doing everything we can for the Australian people domestically and abroad.
JOURNALIST: Any worry in the government that the Treasurer’s update on Thursday, might overshadow the first sitting week and some of that celebration- is everyone dreading the Treasurer’s speech on Thursday?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No, I think that what the Treasurer will have to say on Thursday is going to be very important. And it will reflect the fact that we have inherited a very difficult set of circumstances from the former government. We have seen inflation on the rise over the last nine years, we’ve seen wages, flat lining- and that’s a difficult situation to reverse overnight. Although, we have already seen the government take a very different stance in relation to the national wage case in the submissions that we put forward, which has already seen a very significant wage rise for our lowest paid. We also inherit a trillion dollars of debt; and so that’s the situation that the former government has left us with. And that is difficult. But we’re also confident that we can take the steps and make the decisions necessary to put the country on a better path, where in the medium and long term we can build the nation’s prosperity.
JOURNALIST: Minister, tell me if you’ve already said this- while I was still on my way here- but can you explain the extension of the Defence Force in aged care? Is that even more defence personnel than were already there? Exactly what will their roles be? And is that changing to what they’re currently doing to get on top of the outbreaks?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: So it is more it’s increasing from 30 to 250. So it’s a considerable increase in the numbers of Defence Force personnel involved in clinical and non-clinical care and across the medical spectrum for those who are in aged care. It’s not a situation that can be there permanently, but we are seeing a really significant outbreak in our aged care sector, and so it is an important step to be taking over the next couple of months.
JOURNALIST: On the paring back of the ABCC, and the eventual abolition of it- will there be another watchdog that’s put in place, because industry says that the sector needs one?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ve got to make sure that we have an industrial relation system where there are appropriate laws right across the system, where there are consequences if industrial action is taken in a way which is not authorized, which is not protected, be that in the construction industry or in fact in any other part of the economy. And our point in relation to the ABCC has always been that every worker across the economy should be treated in the same way. And that the laws would should apply to people, including making sure that there are significant consequences if unauthorized, unprotected industrial action is taken that that applies right across the workplace.
JOURNALIST: The Coalition has always said it’s got the reputation of supporting big business, and that’s something that Labor doesn’t necessarily have. Do you think this will drive a wedge between you and big business and the industry?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No, I don’t think so. I think we are working with businesses in the construction industry, but frankly, right across the economy right now to make sure that we guide the country through what is a very difficult set of economic circumstances to a better place.