House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Private Members' Business

Aged Care

11:34 am

Photo of Gavin PearceGavin Pearce (Braddon, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Aged Care and Indigenous Health Services) Share this | Hansard source

Labor never misses an opportunity for self-congratulation, and this motion is another outstanding example of backslapping by those opposite. Today I want to focus my attention on their claim that they are delivering the safe, high-quality care that our older Australians so desperately deserve. As Australians would recall, in the lead-up to the 2022 election Prime Minister Albanese and Minister Wells stood in front of the media day after day promising all sorts of things. They promised that they would better understand the issue and that they would deal with this in the government they would lead. 'We can do better than this,' Mr Albanese said. 'I will make it the Labor government's mission to fix this,' he said.

Nothing is more important than keeping our most vulnerable loved ones safe: on that we all agree. It must be our No. 1 priority to protect those who cannot protect themselves and who have put their trust in us as a government to protect them. Yet, while those on the other side are patting themselves on the back and talking about how they are making food more tasty, the statistics on the care and the protection that they have failed to give our loved ones is confronting. The Department of Health and Aged Care report every week on the COVID-19 outbreaks in residential aged-care facilities. This is on their website for all to see. The statistics point to a government that is failing to do better as they promised those living in aged care they would. In fact, safety is much, much worse.

These are the facts. The Liberal-National government, from the outbreak of the pandemic until 2022, was in power. During those 29 months, 2,415 lives were lost to COVID-19 or COVID-19 related issues in residential aged care. It's sad. It's terrible. This was at the height of the pandemic and was at a time when we were developing our response to an unknown virus. We were transitioning from having no vaccination program, we were developing and improving vaccinations and treatments, and we were managing the upheaval of the pandemic and the issues that it was bringing to every aspect of Australian's lives.

During this time, the coalition was guided by trusted medical professionals who offered calm, expert and consistent advice. As we began to emerge from the pandemic in 2022, these same health professionals warned that the pandemic would continue to change and evolve. Governments would need be prepared to respond as needed and learn the lessons of the previous two years. They warned us in the first quarter of 2022 that we were moving into a critical time in aged care and that the federal government would need to act to prevent a wave of winter deaths from COVID-19 and the flu. All sides of politics were privy to this advice. The Albanese government was elected in May 2022. Now, remember that I said that 2,415 lives were lost in the 29 months to May last year. The latest weekly report is that in the 15 months of the Albanese government, under their watch, 3,444 lives were, sadly, lost in aged care to COVID-19 related causes. That is 3,444 in 15 months, under the watch of the Albanese Labor government.

This is not better; this is much worse. Yet those opposite were handed the strategy to protect and prevent these deaths. You were left with a range of effective vaccinations and treatment protocols. With this advice, you are left with the best medical experts and their experience, yet you have overseen the loss of more lives to COVID-19 than were lost during the height of the pandemic. Not a single week has gone by without someone losing their life to a COVID-19 related cause in a residential aged-care setting, yet here you are, standing up and patting yourselves on the back. Shame on you. I call on you, the Albanese government, to address this terrible failure and update us on how you will do better.


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