SUBJECTS: Use of superannuation for aged care funding, child protection safeguards, protection of high-profile individuals, ABC presence at Woodside protest.
GREG JENNETT [HOST]: Joining us right here in the studio Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm and Nationals Senator Matt Canavan. So, a conversation we have to have, Anthony, about the funding basis for aged care into the future. Is it clear to you what Stephen Jones is exploring when he ventures into this area today?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily go into what Stephen Jones was exploring, but I think it’s pretty clear what the government want to do, and we want to ensure that aged care has sustainable funding into the future. We value the role that elderly people have played in society and want to ensure that they’re looked after when they do enter into aged care, whether it be at home or whether it be out of home. We want to ensure that there is a sustainable funding model. We set up the taskforce to have a look at this. The government have been consistent in that we want to see what that taskforce reports. We haven’t played the rule in, rule out game, and I understand – I saw the comments from Stephen there today and I suppose he also has ministerial responsibilities and was reflecting on an insight that he offered as part of that. But –
JENNETT: How would you incentivise someone who had a large super balance and they’re getting on in life and they’re wondering about sort of preserving that as much as they can for their children rather than spending it on aged care? Is that where he’s coming from? Incentivising them in a way to draw down on that super balance for their aged care? And how would you do that?
CHISHOLM: Well, I don’t really want to comment on exactly what Stephen was getting to – I think his comments stand for himself. But in terms of what the government wants to achieve I think that’s clear: we want to ensure that there is long-term sustainable funding for aged care, that it improves quality and that the Australian people would expect nothing less of us given the crisis that we’ve seen in aged care over the last decade.
JENNETT: You might quibble, Matt Canavan, over the methods that the government eventually chooses – and we’re a long way off that choice, I suppose.
MATT CANAVAN [NATIONALS SENATOR]: Yeah.
JENNETT: But would you acknowledge as a starting possible that aged care is chronically underfunded, and some fix will be required.
CANAVAN: Look, I do accept that, but I just want to comment on the big bus that’s just come through the studio and Anthony’s thrown Stephen Jones under it, and I can see why. Because what he’s suggesting there – let’s be very, very clear – what he’s suggesting there Greg, is a death duty. That’s what Stephen Jones is suggesting this morning – is that the government is considering a death duty.
CHISHOLM: And away you go. Scare campaign after scare campaign.
CANAVAN: Now I remember – I remember and I’m sure Anthony remembers – that at the last election we said that “Hey, these guys do, some of them do” – there’s no doubt that some Labor MPs, like Tim Ayres in the Senate, one of Anthony’s colleagues, has expressed support in the past for death duties. And here we have now a government minister openly flagging that he will tax, he will raid the bequests, which is just what you leave your children. That is called a death duty. So, I’m sort of glad Anthony’s kind of throwing him under the bus. I’m not sure if he’s quite dead yet, but that – this idea has to be killed off. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous to raid people’s superannuation to fund this. But going back to your question – yes. Yes, there needs to be a more sustainable funding model for aged care. I think what we need to do is look at a model which looks at the people who can pay at the time – not a death duty – but at the time, people who can afford to pay, yep, should be contributing more to care.
JENNETT: All right. There might be some common ground to be found there. And I do have a follow-up question on super as it interacts with aged care. But death duties, I’d better give you the right of reply there, Anthony.
CHISHOLM: There’s no scare campaign that the National Party won’t go down. We’ve seen them try it before. That’s not something the government is contemplating. That’s not what Stephen Jones was talking about in there.
JENNETT: All right. Okay. So, the other alternative, which doesn’t come from Stephen Jones’s mouth at all, but it did come from a group that is involved in these consultations, was that you could hypothecate a portion of your super guarantee through life so that that’s available in your retirement for aged care. Might that be more attractive?
CHISHOLM: Well, again, Greg, I’m not going to get into the rule in, rule out game, and we’ve been careful not to do that as part of this process. But I think it is important to have these conversations about how aged care can be funded. It is quite a complex system. We both acknowledge that it is underfunded and needs more government support, and we need to find a model that we can do that that is sustainable into the future. I think we’ve got to let the taskforce do their report. I think they’re due to report in December, and then obviously it will be up for the government to make decisions around that.
JENNETT: All right. So, on that element of the proposal, which, as I say, didn’t come from the government but from another industry organisation, do you think there’s a role for super to interact?
CANAVAN: It seems to be unnecessarily complex. Of course, potentially you already can use your super to fund your aged care. Once you’re that age you can access your superannuation, so I’m not sure of the real need to create some separate account there. The broader issue here is whether or not you actually can do that. There are restrictions on what aged care homes can charge their customers, and those restrictions are what is sometimes exacerbating the underfunding issues. So, I’m just not sure this is a particular solution to the problems that exist in aged care itself.
JENNETT: All right. Well, that will be examined when the taskforce comes forward later in the year. Why don’t we change tack, sadly, towards the horrible story that came out about child sexual abuse this week – allegations more than 1,600 charges, in fact, against a Gold Coast man, a portion of the offences are alleged to have occurred in your home state, both of you. Jason Clare is looking at child protection safeguards, including those working with children checks that are ongoing in so many sectors, not just child care but schools and what have you. Is there a gap? Has this case with the facts that we have so far, Anthony, highlighted some problem about registries, cross-border awareness of people, background checks as they’re done in different jurisdictions? Is there a problem there?
CHISHOLM: It’s just sickening news, and well done to the AFP for their thorough investigation. And obviously anyone who’s suffering or feeling trauma from this should hopefully seek advice and help. I don’t think that it’s been proven that there has been deficiencies, but obviously with something like this any government should look at ensuring that they’ve got the best possible systems in place. I think that’s what Minister Clare has done with his referral to the Education Quality Authority. And I think that’s appropriate to see what they come back with. I think they’re due to report on an interim basis in October. I think obviously there are complexities when it does cover - you know, there are state responsibilities, there are federal responsibilities. We want to ensure that we're doing what we can to make sure we've got the most robust system in place because there’s nothing more fundamental to any government than ensuring that children are protected.
JENNETT: I know this might be a technical question and I literally don’t know the answer to it, but is there visibility between jurisdictions when these data basis are checked?
CHISHOLM: Based on what I heard the New South Wales State Minister, and I heard the Queensland State Minister talking about it this morning. I don’t think it’s as seamless as it could be, based on the advice that they were giving in the media today. I noticed that the various states have said they want to work together to ensure that we’ve got a more robust system nationally, and I think that’s what the public would expect in such terrible circumstances.
JENNETT: I’m sure it would be a worthwhile process. You’ve had thoughts offered elsewhere, I think, Matt Canavan, about that very issue. Is it clunky at present?
CANAVAN: Look, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about the exact bureaucratic system that occurs here. Like Anthony, I was horrified by this situation. I think we should remember or reflect now that there’s more than 90 young children whose lives have been tarnished or scarred forever by these heinous acts. Like Anthony, I’m not sure it’s clear here that any different bureaucratic system would have stopped these events. It’s a reminder that evil is among us. So, what I’ve suggested this week is I’m not quite sure that life imprisonment is a strong enough penalty. I think in extreme cases like this there’s – perhaps the ultimate sanction should be there for the death penalty because it’s just – it’s just – I don’t know, that’s just my reaction I have to it. This guy doesn’t deserve to keep living among us.
JENNETT: I saw those remarks. Just to be clear, that would be incumbent on the Queensland Parliament, right?
CANAVAN: Of course. Yeah, I suppose sometimes these cases do involve child trafficking and what have you as well. I don’t think that’s been happening here. But that’s another concern, I think that there seems to be a growth in the trafficking of victims. That might involve then federal laws as well. But I think this is something we do need to consider – tougher penalties for people that engage in these heinous acts.
JENNETT: All right. Well, on the advocacy of laws, particularly around the protection of individuals who are considered high profile, Anthony Chisholm, this week we had the Woodside Chief Executive Officer, Meg O’Neill highlighting that her home had been targeted by climate protestors. The protection of high-profile individuals, whether they be politicians or Meg O’Neill in this case, are laws adequate to, you know, I suppose, penalise and deter people from engaging in these – did they cross the line?
CHISHOLM: I think they definitely crossed the line. I think being out the front of someone’s house like they were just seeming completely astonishing to me. When I heard the news, I was gobsmacked that that had happened. So completely inappropriate. I think that people’s homes should be off limits. You do these jobs, and you understand that you’re in the public eye, but your families aren’t, and they shouldn’t be engaged in it. I’m sure probably Matt’s got more protestors than I have in my career – but I understand there’s legitimate right for people to protest. We’ve got our national conference coming up; I’m sure that there’ll be plenty of protestors as part of that, and I respect that. But they shouldn’t encroach on your private life and your family, and there has to be a limit there.
JENNETT: And that was the tone struck by the WA Premier. He was outraged as nearly as I can tell from this side of the country after this news emerged. Same question to you, I suppose, Matt?
CANAVAN: Well, I share Anthony’s reactions. Yes, I’ve had protestors accost me on the street, you know, having a go at me in polling booths, all those things. And you’re in public there. As long as it’s done without resort to any physical altercations, it’s a free country. People can express their views. I have no problem to that. But coming to someone’s home is definitely crossing a line. Look, I do thank you for raising the issue, and I want to put on record just the ABC need to come clean here, Greg, they had some cameras there and you can’t tell me they just were happening to drive around the streets of suburban Perth and come across a protest. What were they doing there? How did they find out about it? Their responses – the ABC’s responses so far have been very shifty saying they weren’t colluding with the protestors. Well, I just want a simple and honest answer to a simple question: how did they know this protest was happening, who told them and why were they there? Reasonable.
JENNETT: I don’t have that statement.
CANAVAN: Of course.
JENNETT: I think there’s been a couple. I don’t have of them in front of me.
CANAVAN: I’m not asking you; it’s not your responsibility.
JENNETT: I think the suggestion was subsequently made that by the time – I may be wrong – but I think the statement said by the time the ABC arrived the police were there.
CANAVAN: Yeah, the police were there. Maybe they found out from a police intercept or something. Tell us. Just tell us. Be upfront.
JENNETT: That would negate that argument, somehow, if police were already there by the time the ABC –
CANAVAN: Well, it depends how the ABC found out. I don’t know. Maybe they found out separately and differently. We don’t know because the ABC don’t seem to be answering simple questions. That’s all I’m asking.
JENNETT: All right. Well, we might wrap it up there thanking both of you – Anthony Chisholm and Matt Canavan, for joining us right here on the program once again. We’ll get you back before too long.