Thursday, 10 December 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Aged Care
My question is to the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Colbeck. This year, 2,000 aged-care residents contracted COVID-19 and tragedy struck 685 people, who died under this minister's watch in residential care. Why has the minister not resigned?
Actually, Senator Polley's not correct with the number of people who've died as a result of COVID in aged care. The number is 693. Eight people who had been receiving home-care packages have also tragically passed away. To each one of those 693 families and their communities, I extend my sincerest condolences and the condolences of the government. It's a tragedy that we've had to suffer the pandemic that we have this year. I think, as we come to Christmas, it is the pertinent thing for us to do to reflect on the year that we've had, to reflect on the tragedy that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us all and to again extend our sincere condolences to all of those families who have suffered a death because of the effects of the pandemic.
As I said earlier, when I was asked about my position, I will continue to work at the pleasure of the Prime Minister with respect to my portfolio responsibilities. I take my role in this place and in my portfolio extremely seriously. We are in the middle of a very significant reform process. I look forward to the final report of the royal commission, which is due on 26 February. I continue to work with my department and my colleagues on the reforms that we will bring to this place off the back of the royal commission report. I continue to apply myself to the role, which is the responsibility that the Prime Minister's given me, and I will continue to do that, hopefully, through the process that we'll go through with the reshuffle.
In the Morrison government's broken aged-care system, we heard shocking stories of ants crawling from wounds and older Australians not dying of COVID-19 but of neglect. Is the minister confident he will remain in portfolio at the end of this month?
I take my position in this extremely seriously. Quite frankly, none of this that we're dealing with is about me. The thing that is in my focus is that 1.2 million Australians are receiving care, whether that be CHSP home care, veterans care or residential aged care, as part of the service delivery provided by aged-care providers around the country. They are my focus. This is not about me. I will continue to have and place my focus on all of those Australians who are receiving care—that is my responsibility—and I will continue to do that assiduously while ever I hold this role.
Under this minister's watch there was no dedicated plan for COVID-19 in aged care. Tens of thousands were attacked and assaulted in his broken aged-care system; ants crawled from wounds; 693 older Australians in residential aged care died. As a result, the Senate censured this minister. Will this be your last appearance in question time as Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians? Because it should be.
This government has never pretended that everything was all well with the aged-care system. It was this government that called the royal commission into aged care. The interim report of the aged-care royal commission reflected on over 20 years, across a number of governments of both political persuasions, about the impact and the progression of the aged-care sector. It was this government that took the responsibility to call the royal commission. It is this government that will respond to it. This opposition has at every opportunity failed to act, including in the budget reply speech, where not a single cent or home care package was allocated. As I said before, whatever happens in the reshuffle, this lot will still be on the other side.