TRANSCRIPT - Radio Interview – 3AW – Neil Mitchell

25 March 2019


Subjects: Aged Care Charter of Rights, Bupa, Mark Latham


Neil Mitchell:    I was reading this this morning and I must say it concerned me, it worried me, upset me a bit.


If you have family in aged care or if you work in aged care, I’d like to hear from you, 96900-693-131332, after we’ve spoken to the Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt- because the Government has created a charter of aged care rights.


The Government, of course, has started a royal commission into the aged sector; the final report won’t be due I think April next year.


But we’re already getting some horror stories – New South Wales man, 14 hours strapped to a chair, people ripped off. But this charter of aged care rights, when I went through it – and there’s 14 of them – I thought: well hang on, they’re just basic- that’s just basic human dignity, that’s just basic human right.


For example, number one, safe and high quality care services; safe, fair enough. Number two, you’ve got to be treated with dignity and respect- for heaven’s sake we’ve got to tell people to treat their clients, their patients with dignity and respect; have my identity, culture, and diversity valued and supported; live without abuse and neglect.


Point four, point five, be informed about my care; access all information about myself. So it goes.


Your independence; be listened to and understood; able to complain without reprisal. There are 14 points there.


He is in the studio. Ken Wyatt, good morning.


Ken Wyatt:       Good morning, Neil.


Neil Mitchell:    This frustrate you a bit too? I mean this is just- this is like motherhood stuff, this is be decent to people.


Ken Wyatt:       This is common decency to frail people. And look, we had four sets of individual charters for each of the context of aged care settings so Commonwealth home support, Indigenous, people living at home, and of course residential aged care.


And what I’ve done is said: why do we have this? I was told it’s part of the Act, so I accept that. But for- I asked for it to be simplified, one single charter.


But instead of just giving it to people and not meeting those obligations, I said I want it co-signed because to me, this is all common sense.


But the Royal Commission is showing us otherwise, that common sense is not prevailing in some circumstances, and that’s sad given these people built our nation.


Neil Mitchell:    Common sense and common decency. So with this charter, if somebody’s going into aged care, they sign it and the provider signs it?


Ken Wyatt:       Yes, that’s the intent, so that the family can say: but my mum signed this, and you signed it, and you guaranteed her this standard of care.


Neil Mitchell:    Why are you deviating from it? And it’s necessary?


Ken Wyatt:        It is.


Neil Mitchell:                  Why?


Ken Wyatt:        Well, what we’ve seen over the last – certainly in the time I’ve been in the portfolio – what I’ve seen is several incidents over a period of time that’s not appropriate.


This was also agreed to, at some point, before my tenure to exist, and it was co-designed with the aged care sector.


So the sector itself had some acceptance of this. And in redesigning it, it was certainly- the sector was involved and so were consumers.


So it was a joint approach with the Commonwealth in designing this next set that will now prevail.


Neil Mitchell:    So what is the comeback here if an organisation breaches any of these rights despite having signed it?


Is there any punishment, is there any kickback?


Ken Wyatt:        Well, it now comes back to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.


This sits alongside the standards, and they will certainly be asking about the charter and looking at issues that are identified.


Because people now ring the commission, lodge their concerns, and then the commission will come back to review that complaint, and certainly the intent is to remind the provider and ask if they had complied with the charter.


Neil Mitchell:    But is there any punishment for them?


Ken Wyatt:       There are sanctions. You’ve seen that with Bupa, for example, where sanctions have been applied.


Because we expect aged care providers to use common sense and provide this approach to everybody who occupies a bed within their facility.


Neil Mitchell:    How many people are there in aged care?


Ken Wyatt:       That is increasing. It’s about- well, we service 1.3 million people.


And the reason I hesitated because Commonwealth home support, which is for just simple railings, rails around steps, ramps, through to those who are now on aged care packages at home through the residential aged care- although residential aged care’s dropped in the number of people.


It’s about a 92 per cent bed occupancy because people are now opting for stay at home and receive packages.


Neil Mitchell:            It’s interesting you say these are the people that built the country, built the nation, as they did and in some cases fought for it.

Why don’t we- is it part of our culture not to show respect to older people?

There doesn’t seem to be an under- you’re in the way – even within families, you’re in the way, go away, go away and go into that old peoples home, we won’t visit you.

Ken Wyatt:   And that’s sad Neil because I know, being Indigenous, elders are considered to be the people you respect, to have the knowledge and the wisdom and can give you guidance.

We seem to have walked away from that because when I go into aged care facilities – and I’ve been in about 160 now in the time I’ve been Minister – I’ve had some of the best conversations with senior Australians about what they’ve done, what they’ve contributed and just their passion for the community in which they come from and yet we ignore it.

Neil Mitchell:            So what do we do? How do we break down that prejudice?

I mean if it was aimed at somebody for their sexuality or their colour or their gender or their I don’t know, we’d be fighting and saying - hang on we’ve got to turn this around.


We’d be running campaigns and things; I don’t know, we’d get kids into nursing homes to go and try to talk to elderly people.

What do we do? How do we break down that prejudice?

Ken Wyatt:   I think it’s broader. I think it’s about our mindset about aging because even in the workplace, if somebody starts to get towards that 60 mark, we think they’re old and they should be moved on.

And yet they still have street credentialing, knowledge and wisdom. We also discriminate if they apply for a job, we look at their age and say - nah they’re old.

Neil Mitchell:            And you’re not supposed to; are you? Legally?

Ken Wyatt:   No. No. No you’re not supposed to but what we say, and we see it time and time again, you’re over qualified.

That’s what I love about Bunnings. Bunnings take older Australians whose knowledge and skills are tremendous and they couple them with a young person so that you get that intergenerational relationship.

And I think that is a fantastic model that we should adopt across this country.

Neil Mitchell:            So how- I go back to the point, how do we break it down? Is there a way of- I remember something years ago – Australia Remembers, 50th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

I was part of a committee that was involved in that, Con Sciacca was the Minister, the Labor Minister – now the late Con Sciacca.

And one of the things we did was get veterans together – World War II veterans – on the basis that they were aging and we had a lunch. And there was a veteran and then a student, a veteran and then a student.

So you sat the students next to a veteran and the idea was that the kids – and they were usually year 10, 11, 12, they weren’t young children – the idea was they would get in this conversation and learn direct from the veterans whatever the message was.

And then some, the message varied, but they would talk to these people and build some respect. I thought that worked well.

I wonder if there’s room for some, some sort of- I suppose there’s enough on the agenda already, but some sort of a formalised way of getting kids to go and talk to people.

Ken Wyatt:   No it’s- that’s happening.

Neil Mitchell:            Is it?

Ken Wyatt:   Individual providers around the nation- I was in Renmark South Australia and I- at a certain time I just saw everybody get up and move to the front room, and I said what’s going on?

And across the road was a primary school and at 11 o’clock two groups of children came across to that facility and sat with their adopted grandmother, grandfather. But one gentleman they pointed out to me was- they said: he’s quite grumpy normally, but when this little fellow comes over they sit and play chess but they have a great conversation.

The young fella asks him about his past, what he did and it’s a transformational aspect to behaviour.

Across the nation I’m seeing more and more doing that, but it’s not sufficient at the moment and we have to do it outside in the broader community as well.

Neil Mitchell:            Well good- look it’s good to talk to you.

We have to do it outside and also this Charter, I mean we’ve got to just expect things like this as a basic level of human decency, surely? Surely?

Ken Wyatt:   I think it’ll evolve. I think the Royal Commission will highlight the whole range of challenges that families have experienced because they’re- in some circumstances, families have raised complaints and have been threatened with legal action – thankfully it’s not common but it does happen.

And you shouldn’t be doing that, what you should be doing is saying: alright, let’s have a look at the issue and how can we work together to fix this problem because it’s your mum or your uncle or whatever, instead of the adversarial role.

And I want to focus on- and by the way I like what Con Sciacca did with the veterans and young people, I want to do that for senior Australians.

Neil Mitchell:            What about? What’s you’re advice for people? When they’ve got a problem with their relatives in aged care what do they do?

Ken Wyatt:   In the first instance I would talk to the provider and if you can resolve it at that level it’s immediate, it takes away your concern and you get a guarantee.

But if it doesn’t and it continues to be a problem, then certainly you can call the Commission.

Neil Mitchell:            Go to the Commission. Thank you so much for your time. It’s good to meet you. New South Wales election, any lessons for you?

Your lot won.

Ken Wyatt:   Yeah, no, it was a good outcome. I- look, I think fundamentally Australians are looking for Members of Parliament who’ll represent them on the very key issues that are critical.

In our case we put forward the need for a strong economy because from a strong economy we can provide health, education – a whole range of services including the $5 billion I received in aged care in the budget.

If we don’t have a strong economy then we struggle to provide fundamental services. We’re strong on border protection.

We’re strong on our commitment to Medicare, to the work- the workforce people- the number of people being employed across the workforce.

Neil Mitchell:            It’s not getting through though is it? It’s not coming through?

Ken Wyatt:   No it’s not. No it’s not coming through, but I think one of the things that people need to stop and do a stock take on is what do you want for your nation?

If you want a strong economy that gives us the opportunities then you’ve got to take note of it.

Neil Mitchell:            And the other thing Mark Latham elected to the Upper House, your former leader, wants DNA tests for Indigenous people.

You’re one of the most senior indigenous leaders in the country – what do you think of that?

Ken Wyatt:   Look, he worked for an aboriginal land council right back in his past and I’m fascinated that he would do that.

We don’t- and this is the thing that bugs me – across the nation we all talk about half-caste Aboriginals or whatever proportion, but we never say to an Italian or a Jewish man or an Englishman: so what proportion of English are you?

Or what proportion Italian? But we do it with Indigenous Australians. And a call for a DNA testing would be- I’d like to say to Mark - so what proportion are you and can we do a DNA testing Mark to see how much English you’ve got, how much Aussie, how much whatever.

Neil Mitchell:            Irrelevant.

Ken Wyatt:   It’s not worth it.

Neil Mitchell:            Thank you so much for your time.

Ken Wyatt:   Neil, thank you very much.

Neil Mitchell:            Ken Wyatt the Federal Aged Care Minister.