February 14, 2022

If there were ever a eulogy for this government, it would be this quote:

… I don't accept that it's—

the system—

in complete crisis … my view—and the data supports it—is that the sector is performing and has performed exceptionally well in the work that it's doing.

If there's any quote that sums up the incompetence of this government, the criminal incompetence of this government, it is that quote from the minister for aged care services, Senator Colbeck, made only a couple of weeks ago, after he came back from going to the cricket: 'The system is performing exceptionally well.' Well, 681 Australians have died in aged-care homes since 1 January this year. This is the government's view of a system performing exceptionally well—681 souls taken because of the incompetence of this government. And that's what this government says is a system working well. That is what the member for Higgins presumably means when she says 'living with the virus'. Well, these 681 Australians are no longer living with this virus. And it's tragic, not just due to the impact on those individuals but due to families having lost loved ones because of the incompetence of this government. This incompetence has been on display for the last eight years, but has been well and truly elevated to a new level by the COVID crisis because in aged care there is nowhere to hide. This Prime Minister is the master of buck-passing, of blame-shifting. He will blame anyone he can for his own failures. In aged care he can't blame the states because aged care is purely a responsibility of the Commonwealth government. It's purely under the responsibility of the Commonwealth government that 681 Australians have died in aged-care homes since 1 January this year. One-quarter of shifts have been unfilled, and there are not enough boosters for both the workforce and residents of aged-care facilities. There is a sad lack of PPE, and there are very few rapid antigen tests to be found. This is all to be laid at the feet of the Commonwealth government, a government that has failed every single Australian in aged-care facilities and their families. They have failed every single senior Australian who can't get a meal, who can't get a shower, who can't find someone to take them to the toilet—and Australians know it.

At street stalls what I'm most often pulled up about is what's happening in aged care. I had a street stall outside the butchers at Blacksmiths a few weeks ago and I had a couple come up to me to have a chat. The mothers of both the husband and wife were in separate aged-care facilities around the Lake Macquarie area. Both of them expressed huge frustration that they couldn't see their mums. They were worried about the treatment their mums were getting and they were worried that the staff of the aged-care facilities weren't getting enough support to look after their mums and all the other mums and dads in those facilities. The truth is that in this entire COVID crisis this government has been late, late, late. They failed on the national quarantine system, and that's why we had the Ruby Princess disaster that spread to aged-care facilities in Sydney in 2020. They were dreadfully late in providing vaccines—it wasn't a race, according to the Prime Minister. And yet again they're displaying an arrogance completely unrelated to ability. They ignored the inevitable crisis when they opened up the economy and did not secure enough rapid antigen tests.

All of this was foreseeable, all of this was predicted by experts. The Prime Minister likes to say everyone's exercising 20/20 hindsight, but the truth is that people were warning us about every single one of these issues at the time. What's particularly tragic for the aged-care system is that the system was broken before the COVID pandemic began. The system was broken, and you only need to look at the aged-care royal commission findings to see that the title of the entire review sums up this sector: Neglect. This government urgently needed to take action in the aged-care sector before the COVID pandemic hit. They failed to do that, and what's worse is that they piled on more of their incompetence in responding to the COVID crisis. What's the result of this neglect? It's that 681 Australians have been taken before their time this year alone in the aged-care sector. This motion is really important. The ignorance of the government is shown in claiming that all is going perfectly and the system is performing exceptionally well, and that demonstrates how out of touch they are with the lived experience of every other Australian.