Monday, 18 October 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator Colbeck. I note that the department of statistics data for Australian fatalities has not been updated since 30 June 2021. At that time, deaths in Australia during 2021 were noticeably above the five-year moving average, even after allowing for a small number of COVID deaths. Given that, until 30 June this year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics posted that data six weeks after the period, why is the reporting of death data now 15 weeks after the period?
I thank the senator for the question. I'll have to take that question on notice. It may very well be that there's some delay in data being transmitted between agencies. For example, we know in Victoria that the deaths due to COVID are reported into their public health emergency system, or PHESS, which is where we use our death data and report our death data for COVID deaths. That is then transmitted across to their database for births, deaths and marriages, and there is sometimes a period of cleansing required to certify whether or not a death has been caused by COVID, for example. I will undertake to get some information on that, but I suggest that that may be part of what's occurring, because there has been some movement up and down in the reporting of deaths over the last 18 months or so. I've had some experience with that, particularly in relation to COVID as deaths are recertified. In fact, in the last few days, I had the number of deaths from COVID in aged care reduced because somebody who was thought to have passed away actually hadn't. So there are some issues with respect to reporting and translating that information through the system. I'm happy to take that on notice and report back to the chamber.
I did advise the minister's office of the subject of my question today and directed his office to my question on notice No. 3970 asking for the same information. It's been outstanding for 12 weeks. Minister, how many people died in Australia in July, August and September of 2021?
In the circumstance that you did advise my office, I haven't been advised of that. I can only apologise to you for not having the data with me right now. But I clearly don't have that information. If there is a delay in the reporting, I suspect it has something to do with the explanation I gave you in response to your primary question, but I am happy to chase that information up and come back to the chamber as soon as possible.
I reject the assertion that the government, or anyone, is hiding anything. I've given the chamber a quite plausible rationale for the fact that there are some delays in the reporting of deaths in this country. There is no reason for us to hide at all. I also reject the assertion that somehow the death data has any relationship, or should have any relationship, to vaccines. The overwhelming data in this country right now indicates to us that vaccines work. We can see that in the data. We can see that in the circumstances in the general community right now. If anybody has any questions with respect to the fact that vaccines work, just look at the data that's available right now. (Time expired)