Topic: National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032, Medicare fraud, JobSeeker, Federal Budget
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: A joint Federal and state government strategy has set an ambitious goal of ending violence against women and children within one generation. The ten-year blueprint will engage men and boys to stop abusive behaviour through prevention and early intervention strategies. And joining us live now is the Social Services Minister, Amanda Rishworth. Amanda, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So I think you would get widespread support when it comes to this and you should as well but how are you going to achieve it in such a short time frame?
MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES, AMANDA RISHWORTH: It's a really important question. We need to end violence against women and children in this country because it is at epidemic proportions. One woman is killed every ten days by a former or current intimate partner. This is just unacceptable. So what the National Plan does is bring together across prevention, early intervention, response and healing and recovery, a focus that has been agreed to with states and territories. But it also outlines what the wider community can do to actually end violence against women and children. So it will require a sustained effort. It will require after this plan, a subsequent plan. But we need to do this. We need this sustained national focus. If we're going to have any chance at turning unacceptable levels of violence around.
PETER STEFANOVIC: And it doesn't know any borders as well, Minister. I mean, it's alleged to have happened in Bronte in the richest suburbs of Sydney just last week. But it's more focused. I think most people would agree on the more remote parts of Australia, those at the lower end of the socio-economic scale and Indigenous communities. So how do you tackle it in those areas?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: It does require both an investment in services and support. But there's no point in putting investment in things that don't work or that don't push in the same direction. So it is about investment, but it's also about a change in attitudes. Part of the prevention is changing the conversation in this country. How often do you hear, for example, people saying ‘why didn't she leave?’. I mean, the more important question is ‘why does he choose to use violence against her?’. That just needs to be a change in the conversation. We do need to promote more respectful relationships. We do need to actually increase gender equality. All of these things play a role in addressing violence against women and children.
PETER STEFANOVIC: A few other issues this morning, Minister. Alarming figures show how much Medicare is being rorted at the moment, $8 billion a year, 30 per cent of the annual budget. Just your reaction to that?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: I am, as many people would be, deeply concerned about these reports. I know that the Government takes any alleged fraud very, very seriously. When it comes to Medicare, and indeed other Government programs, we've seen Minister Shorten taking a very serious approach to potential and alleged fraud within the NDIS. So the Government does take this very seriously. I think most Australians will want to know that the Medicare money that's being spent is on individuals’ health care. So I know that the Health Minister is asking for further information and further advice on this but it is a serious issue that the Government takes very seriously.
PETER STEFANOVIC: I mean, billing dead people, charging for services that weren't necessary, doctors given courses on how to game the system. And this all appears as bad as the banks. Does there need to be a commission of inquiry, in your view?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'll leave that for the Health Minister to respond to. I know he is seeking further advice from the Department. But I think what we want as a Government is to make sure that the Medicare dollars that we are spending go to people's health, to improving people's health. And we take very, very seriously these types of allegations.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Back to your wheelhouse then. The Budget around the corner. There's been indexation rises in recent weeks, but can people expect an extra lift to income support this Budget?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: We have got a very difficult Budget situation. I've said this on a range of occasions that we've inherited a trillion dollars worth of debt. So when we've talked about increases to things like JobSeeker, that is something that we do have to review every budget to budget. But there are a lot of things that we want to do, but we just don't have the ability to do it with the amount of debt that has been left to us by the previous government.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. ACOSS says it needs to be $73 a day. Will that happen?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: In this Budget we are focused on delivering our election commitments. As we've said in the lead up to the election campaign and since the election campaign, when it comes to JobSeeker and other income support payments, we will have to review those Budget to Budget in terms of an increase. Obviously there's been the indexation increase and that importantly has ensured that the CPI increases have flown on to income support recipients. But in terms of cost of living measures in this Budget, the ones that we've taken to the election, we will be delivering.
PETER STEFANOVIC: So that's a no to ACOSS that on $73 a day for this budget.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Look, this is not something that we are able to do in this Budget.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. Well, pensioners, I mean, they're always going to hope for more, aren't they? But they're not on much and they've seen inflation go up, they've seen insurance premiums skyrocket. And so now that's unaffordable for so many. So do you believe the current level is enough?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: When it comes to pensioners, we've taken a number of steps in enacting our election commitments, whether it is to freeze the deeming rate that supports a lot or part of it. Pensioners actually have their assets looked at in a way that is more responsive to what's actually happening. Or whether it is our downsizing policy that supports pensioners to downsize. We put a range of measures in place that do support pensioners and indeed those self-funded retirees. We've got legislation in the Parliament to support more people to be able to access the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card So there's a range of measures that we're putting in place to help pensioners and other senior Australians with the cost of living as well as our medicines policy which actually reduce the costs of medicine. These are all interlinked and things that we're pushing for very carefully in this budget.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Minister Rishworth, appreciate it. Appreciate your time. Thank you.