TRANSCRIPT - Aged Care Royal Commission
23 August 2021
I thank the member for Indi for bringing this motion to the House today. Older Australians helped build this country. They've worked hard and earned the respect, dignity and peace of mind that this government should be providing them now in aged care. But nothing could be further from the truth for so many Australians. The eight long years of steadfast neglect from the Morrison Liberal government have been shameful.
In my electorate of Newcastle, doctors, nurses, academics, lawyers, private business, government agencies and aged-care workers themselves have all stepped up to help rebuild an aged-care system from the ground up. We know the value of an age-friendly community and recently formed the Hunter Ageing Alliance, which will take a lead in helping Newcastle to make this transformation. Founded by Dr John Ward, a geriatrician, Viv Allanson, CEO of Maroba Aged Care, Professor Julie Byles, the Global Innovation Chair in Responsive Transitions in Health and Ageing at the University of Newcastle, and Catherine Henry, an elder lawyer and advocate, the Hunter Ageing Alliance pulls together an incredibly passionate and talented group of people who are determined to get all levels of government, businesses, NGOs and citizens to focus on older people and work together to make Newcastle an age-friendly community.
If the federal government isn't prepared to show leadership, our community stand willing and able to fill that void, but they shouldn't be expected to shoulder the burden of this government's incompetence. The Prime Minister and his government are responsible for aged care. They're responsible for the funding cuts and the terrible neglect revealed by the aged-care royal commission. We've heard appalling stories of people going hungry in aged care, of open wounds going untreated and of shocking acts of elder abuse. Despite the 21 expert reports, and knowing full well that older people are suffering in aged care, the Prime Minister fobbed off, delayed or rejected outright key recommendations of the royal commission. Of the 148 recommendations, over half aren't being implemented properly or implemented at all.
Mr Morrison's record proves he can't be trusted to fix aged care, and it is aged-care workers who see firsthand the shocking impact of this government's negligence. They want more staff, more training, more help. Aged-care workers in my community tell me they aren't able to meet the emotional and clinical needs of their residents because there aren't enough staff. The job they once considered to be rewarding has become a source of pain and despair for so many. They're anxious and scared about catching the virus and infecting residents, because they know so many could die. The Prime Minister promised these frontline workers that they would be vaccinated by Easter. Well, here we are in August, Prime Minister, and there are many who are still not fully vaccinated, and it is not for want of trying. The Prime Minister has bungled the vaccine rollout so badly that one of my local aged-care facilities, a not-for-profit, had to bus all of its staff two hours south to Sydney to get them vaccinated so it could ensure protection.
I've noted previously just how cruel it was for Novocastrians to find out that this Prime Minister sat by and watched our region robbed of Pfizer vaccines, all the while sitting on a secret stash of his own. They were vaccines that could have helped Newcastle as we faced our own COVID outbreaks in aged-care facilities. Many of the workers in those facilities have not been fully vaccinated. The reason? Because this Prime Minister has failed his job. He was too slow to act; he failed to secure enough vaccines for everyone in time. His complacency has left aged-care workers and the vulnerable Australians they care for at risk, and now thousands of older Australians have been isolated from their families for weeks and months because the Prime Minister has delivered the slowest vaccine rollout in the developed world.
You need to take responsibility, Prime Minister, for fixing our aged-care system. It's been 100 days since the May federal budget, and there is zero evidence that there has been any progress on critical aged-care reforms during that time. Shame on you! Don't leave our aged-care workers and older Australians just to fend for themselves. That's not the kind of Australia we know or indeed that we want to live in. It's really time for you to step up, Mr Morrison. People in my community are doing absolutely everything they can to ensure that the most vulnerable of our aged-care residents and citizens are protected. As I said, it's not for want of trying that these people are not vaccinated. You need to get us vaccines and get our aged-care workers vaccinated now.