House debates

Monday, 24 August 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Aged Care

3:21 pm

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the government's own report on the COVID-19 outbreak at Dorothy Henderson Lodge warned that even well-managed providers needed help to respond to an outbreak on day one? Can he confirm he received this report in April but it was kept secret until the royal commission published it this month? Why didn't his government do the things it was told were necessary to keep aged-care residents safe?

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

The matters were raised in the report, as the member has said, but the assertion that she has made following on from that is not correct. The myriad preparations, plans and advice that were provided to the aged-care sector from the government and from its various agencies have gone to the matters that she has raised. In particular, they have gone to the issue of workforce preparation, which was the subject of quite specific advice and letters, and even webinars and projects, to the sector to that effect. I'm detecting, through the course of these questions, that the opposition is of course going to raise issues. That is appropriate in this parliament, but the assertions they're making simply aren't stacking up.

What we have sought to do, and what we have been doing from the outset with this pandemic, is to ensure that we have a plan in place. That plan has been pulled together by the expert professionals here in Australia to ensure that we can be as prepared as we possibly can be. That plan has been continually informed and refreshed by the reports, whether on Dorothy Henderson Lodge or Newmarch—or the other inquiry that we have now instigated into St Basil's, by the same people who did the report on Newmarch—to ensure that the continued response that we provide and deliver on the ground addresses the learnings that come from dealing with a one-in-100-year pandemic as it impacts on the aged-care sector.

As the minister himself has noted, in all states and territories other than Victoria, there are no cases. There have been significant cases in Victoria, and the key distinguishing feature between Victoria and other states and territories is the scale of the community outbreak that has occurred. To that end, I commend the New South Wales government and Premier Berejiklian, who, through their procedures, plans and protections, despite many challenges and the many outbreaks that have occurred, have been able to keep that under control. That has saved hundreds if not thousands of lives in New South Wales, and New South Wales have been able to do that while continuing with a plan of keeping the economy open and keeping people in jobs. New South Wales have proven to be the gold standard here, and I commend them for their great work.