Michelle Grattan talks politics with politicians and experts, from Capital Hill.
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Patricia Sparrow on the Royal Commission into Aged Care
The Royal Commission into Aged Care has now delivered its final report, and its findings are an indictment of the inadequacies of the present system. The report calls for a refocus within the aged care system, placing the people receiving care at the centre.
However the feasibility and affordability of the 148 recommendations are yet to be assessed.
Patricia Sparrow is CEO of Aged & Community Services Australia, a peak body which represents not-for-profit members providing residential care for some 450,000 people throughout the country.
Speaking to Michelle Grattan, she says she is disappointed the commmission did not provide estimates of the funding needed to reform the system.
“Royal commission research showed that Australia spends around 1.2% of its GDP on aged care, but other comparable countries in the OECD, the average they spend is around 2.5%.
"I’m not saying that’s exactly what’s needed, but I think it gives us a sense of the scale and the scope of what’s going to need to be considered.”
As for fears the government might fall short of serious change when it releases its full response around budget time, “I think the indications are that they will do a serious response, but [there have been] 20 reports over 20 years and that hasn’t happened.”
“We want to ensure that…there is a desire to fundamentally reform the system. Because anything short is not going to cut it.”
Former MP Kate Ellis on the culture in parliament house
The revelation of the alleged rape of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins and subsequent allegations of sexual misconduct have sparked multiple inquiries into the culture of parliament house.
It's a subject on which Kate Ellis is an expert. Ellis was a Labor MP from 2004 to 2019, and held various ministries in the Labor government. She was then – and still is – the youngest person to become a federal minister.
Ellis retired to spend more time with her young family.
Her coming book, Sex, Lies and Question Time, published in April, discusses the history of women in parliament, their triumphs, but also the adversities faced by female parliamentarians and staff. It draws on contemporary accounts.
Ellis describes her time as a parliamentarian as "the best job in the world" but says "if you're a woman in our federal parliament, you are treated differently than if you are a man."
She chose to "overstep the line" as an employer, when she was a minister, to warn staff of the hazards of the life and culture around parliament.
"There are several occasions where I would sit my staff member down and actually play more of a maternal role...kind of talking about the culture, making sure that they were okay and making sure that they knew that they could come to me.
"Now, that's not the traditional role of an employer. Normally what people do outside of their strict work hours is up to them. But just having seen enough of the Canberra culture, I felt that it was my responsibility to play that role. And it's something that I did on a number of occasions."
David Littleproud on The Nationals and net zero
Scott Morrison has indicated he wants to embrace a 2050 target of net-zero emissions. That, however, requires bringing the Nationals on board, and a vocal group in that party is fighting a fierce rearguard action.
The Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud, who is Minister for Agriculture, is sympathetic to the target - so long as there is a credible path to get there, which won't disadvantage rural Australians.
In this podcast Littleproud says he believes the pathway could be settled this year.
"That's not in my remit. But there is a hope to accelerate that and to make sure that we can provide that [pathway] as quickly as we can. The money's been set aside for a lot of that work and some of that work's already been completed."
As for that Nationals, "our position is we want to see the plan first. Our party room hasn't got to a juncture of dismissing it. We want to see what the plan is and who pays for it."
Asked whether agriculture would have to be exempted for the Nationals to sign up to the 2050 target, Littleproud says, "Well, with respect to ag, I think it cane be part of the solution".
On the ANZ's announcement this week it would stop lending to Australia's biggest coal port, the Port of Newcastle, Littleproud is scathing:
"Well, they're a pathetic joke... We had a banking royal commission and here we are, a bank telling the Australian people about how society should run. That is not their role. Their role is to provide capital."
Anthony Albanese on his new frontbench, Joel Fitzgibbon, and Labor’s imminent workplace policy
Last year, Anthony Albanese was criticised for his lack of cut-through during the COVID crisis, as Labor was sidelined by a hyperactive government.
This year, amid ALP leadership speculation and now a shadow ministry reshuffle, Albanese is seeking to assert himself more forcefully, declaring last week “I will be leader of this country after the next election”.
With that election possible within the year, the need for Labor to outline its policies, including on climate change and industrial relations, is becoming more pressing. Albanese is still intent on taking his time on climate policy, where international developments are fast-moving, but the IR policy is imminent.
This week, the opposition leader joins the podcast to discuss the reshuffle, and his and his party’s goals.
“Labor will always stand up for the interests of working people,” he says, and that commitment will be at the heart of its workplace policy.
The policy’s “priorities are very much on job security and income security.”
“Whether it be people in labour hire companies…working next door to someone but earning less money… whether it be people in the new gig economy who are sometimes working for almost nothing in some cases, whether it be issues of workers who are having to bid against each other.”
Albanese says the policy will be in direct contrast to government legislation, drafted last year and now before parliament, which would “cut wages and conditions”.
Will the ALP definitely vote against the government’s measures?
“We’ve said we will not vote for any legislation that cuts wages or cuts conditions such as penalty rates.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on promising budget figures
This week's update shows an improvement on the numbers in the budget that was delivered only 10 weeks ago. The prospects for growth and employment have been revised upwards. While the forecast for the deficit remains massive, at nearly $200 billion, it has been revised down.
But even as we return to some sort of normality, it will be many years before the economy resembles its pre-COVID self. And the Parliamentary Budget Office predicts the federal budget won't leave its deficit behind in this decade.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg joins the podcast to discuss Thursday's budget update and the economy's future.
Frydenberg acknowledges the road back will be tough, for the economy and the budget.
Given the "huge economic shock" of COVID, the "unprecedented spending" will leave us in the red for a long time. "There will be a very challenging fiscal environment for years out of this crisis."
But the economic future looks vastly better than in the hairy initial days of the COVID crisis.
"Very early on it was uncertain, and many of us feared the worst."
"Treasury told me early on in the pandemic that the unemployment rate could reach 10%, and, but for Jobkeeper, reach 15%. That's a very different world to the one that you and I face today."
"Programmes like JobKeeper, the cash flow boost, the JobSeeker Coronavirus Supplement, the $750 payments, now $250 payments to pensioners and to carers and others on income support have very much helped pull Australia through this challenging time.
"Australians go into Christmas with real cause for optimism and hope."
Chief Scientist Alan Finkel on climate, energy and emissions
This month Alan Finkel ends his term as Australia's Chief Scientist.
An entrepreneur, engineer, neuroscientist, and educator in his former life, Finkel describes the role he's held since 2016 as consisting of two activities.
There's "reviewing" – briefing government on all matters scientific, including energy and climate change. And then there's "making things up" – developing programs to support the communication of science, technology, innovation, and research across the community.
Writing for The Conversation, Finkel expresses confidence Australia will achieve the "dramatic reduction in emissions" that is "necessary".
However the road has not been easy, with many political setbacks.
"I was certainly somewhat personally disappointed, and disappointed for the country, that the Clean Energy Target wasn't adopted," Finkel tells the podcast.
"On the other hand, I took a lot of comfort from the fact that the other 49 out of 50 recommendations [in his report] were accepted and adopted and most of them have been implemented."
"Those recommendations – a lot of them have been part of the reason that we've been able to introduce solar and wind electricity at extraordinary rates in the last three years."
The debate currently is whether Australia will sign up for zero net emissions by 2050. While Finkel says "that's a question for politicians, not for me", he adds that "we're taking the right measures already consistent with a drive towards zero or low emissions".
These measures, he says, involve cheaper batteries, solar, wind, pumped hydro, and gas as a "backstop", as we transition out of coal fire electricity.
Asked if a new coal-fired power station project could ever be started, Finkel said that to comply with carbon capture and storage, the cost of electricity from the plant would be "five or six times higher" than electricity produced by solar and wind.
"I would never predict anything...but I can say with some degree of confidence that that economics would be challenging". His message was clear.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Michelle is the pre-eminent political journalist in Australia, always well researched, always probing, well done Michelle, we need more journos like you.
Michelle is a legend - this podcast is brilliant
It's so nice to listen to something so balanced from one of Australia's most respected political journalists. They're short, interesting and a great snapshot of what's going on in the news. She also manages to get some terrific talent - this is the first time I've heard Brendan Murphy on a podcast, even though he should be the go-to expert for the COVID-19 outbreak.
Patience sometimes needs with the guests
There are some episodes I cringe before listening to as it’s political leaders poised to use throw away statements and mantras, but I always find Michelle still squeezes out some useful content against their will 😀