Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Prime Minister

4:50 pm

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] Prime Minister Morrison must be allergic to responsibility, judging by the lengths that he goes to in order to avoid facing a problem and doing something about it. I wonder if he checked the job description before he decided to stick his hand up to be Prime Minister, because, if he did, he should know that the first job of being Prime Minister is to keep Australians safe—not photo ops, not slogans, not money for mates but keeping Australians safe. Time and again we see that, when the Prime Minister fails to do his job, he looks for someone else to blame. Lockdowns caused by leaks from hotel quarantine? Well, blame the state premiers! Low vaccination rates? Well, blame the health advisers; blame the Australian people. Continued outbreaks in aged-care facilities? Blame the essential workers.

But the people of Australia know who is really responsible. Who has failed to deliver a national, purpose-built quarantine system? It's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Who failed to order enough vaccines and instead decided that it wasn't a race? Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Who failed to get aged-care staff vaccinated by Easter? Again, Prime Minister Scott Morrison. This is who we have leading the biggest national health response in a hundred years: a Prime Minister who blames low-paid essential and insecure workers in aged care, rather than doing what is necessary to keep people safe. Four months after he promised that every aged-care worker would be vaccinated, only one-third have received both doses, because there just weren't enough vaccines to give them. Then he pinned the blame on the aged-care workers. He set a deadline for them to get vaccinated or leave the jobs that they love, but then he went to ground when it came to doing his part. He didn't ensure supply. He didn't ensure that it would get to the workers. He didn't ensure that they could access the vaccines that they need.

The Senate Select Committee on Job Security recently heard evidence from aged-care workers and employers about just how hard it has been to get vaccinated. Employers reported that it wasn't staff hesitancy but the lack of access to vaccines which was delaying the rollout. Mr Greg Reeve, CEO of Heritage Care, said:

… it's been the accessibility. … There doesn't seem to be a significant reluctance to getting vaccinated; it has been about access to the particular drugs required.

Carolyn Smith from the United Workers Union also outlined the barriers that aged-care workers face. She said:

Imagine a worker who lives in an outermetro area and works across two different facilities, sometimes up to 50 hours a week, all at the times when immunisation clinics or GP clinics are open. She was told there was going to be Commonwealth run vaccination in her facility and when she turned up she was told it was only for residents and only if there were any leftovers would she get the vaccination.

Aged-care workers have been trying to get vaccinated, as is required by the national cabinet, but they have been trying to get access to vaccines that don't exist and at times when GPs are open and hubs are open. Without urgent action, what hope do they have?

Prime Minister Morrison has failed on aged-care vaccinations. He failed to ensure that staff had access to the vaccinations they need. He failed to meet his Easter deadline, and I wonder exactly who he is going to blame when he fails to meet his new, re-worked September deadline when aged-care workers trying to do the right thing with no support will be faced with losing their jobs. In a time of crisis, Australia needs a real leader. Instead, Prime Minister Morrison has shown he is prepared to throw anyone under the bus to avoid his responsibility—even Liberal state premiers, health advisers, the people of Australia, and the dedicated, essential and hardworking aged-care workers of this country. He has shown that he won't even take responsibility for members of his own government. How can we call him a leader when he allows members of his own government to spout dangerous misinformation— (Time expired)


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