Senate debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020


COVID-19: Aged Care

12:23 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

  (i) the Australian Government funds and regulates residential aged care,

  (ii) the Morrison Government failed to protect aged care residents from COVID-19 by ignoring:

(A) the interim report of the Aged Care Royal Commission,

(B) the warnings from experts and unions, and

(C) the warnings of Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Newmarch House,

  (iii) the Australian Government has not produced a COVID-19 plan for aged care,

  (iv) more than 450 aged care residents have died from COVID-19, and

  (v) the Aged Care Royal Commission has said that if the Australian Government had acted upon previous reviews of aged care the suffering of many people could have been avoided; and

(b) censures the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians for:

  (i) failing to recall the most basic and tragic facts about aged care residents,

  (ii) describing his management of aged care as a 'high water mark',

  (iii) dismissing deaths as a 'function' of aged care, and

  (iv) failing to take responsibility for the devastating crisis in the aged care sector, which has caused death, grief and untold trauma for vulnerable Australians and their families.

And I seek leave to make a short statement of no more than one minute.

Leave granted.

I thank the Senate. The neglect of older Australians has to stop. I do not move this censure lightly. But, if this government, the Morrison government, will not act to protect older Australians, this Senate must act. Senator Colbeck has been warned repeatedly. Every three months since he has become minister, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has told him that standards were not met in as many as 45 per cent of site audits and 100 per cent of review audits.

Today's Daily Telegraph tells us that every week 100 older Australians are being raped, assaulted and killed in aged-care facilities. This is appalling, it is distressing and it is shocking, but most of all it is unacceptable. This nation must do better. This minister must do better. The Morrison government must do better, and the Senate should express its view that it must do better by censuring this minister. The country has lost confidence in this minister. He has lost the confidence of the parliament. He has lost the confidence of his colleagues and he should be censured. (Time expired)

12:25 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a one minute statement.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

The government—Liberal and Nationals senators—in this chamber strongly oppose this motion. We stand with our colleague, Senator Colbeck, who is doing a very good job in a very challenging area in a very difficult context. Every death from COVID-19 is a tragedy and we send our condolences to affected families and loved ones. We continue to work, and Senator Colbeck continues to work, day and night to safeguard the most vulnerable in the community, with the government providing over $1½ billion in additional support to the aged-care sector to date to support senior Australians in aged care.

Minister Colbeck has acknowledged, taken responsibility and apologised for not having the number of deaths in aged care due to COVID-19 at his fingertips at the recent Senate inquiry. The resources supplied to the national COVID-19 health response plan to support the aged-care sector are a clear demonstration of the important work undertaken in support of aged-care residents through the COVID-19 pandemic. Let me say I know firsthand how strongly Senator Colbeck performs in this— (Time expired)

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that motion No. 776 be agreed to.