SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
SATURDAY, 22 AUGUST 2020
SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s tragic aged care failures and his incompetent Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck; interim report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care; Scott Morrison saying “play the issue, not the man”.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE: We have a coronavirus crisis in aged care in Australia. The alarm bells were ringing in April with the outbreaks in Newmarch House and in the Dorothy Henderson Lodge but the Prime Minister Scott Morrison wasn't listening. The Prime Minister Scott Morrison left Richard Colbeck in charge of aged care and, in doing so, Scott Morrison has failed older, vulnerable Australians; some of our most precious citizens in aged care in Australia.
What we saw in the Senate COVID committee yesterday – Scott Morrison's Aged Care Minister, Richard Colbeck, did not know how many Australians in aged care had died of COVID-19. What we saw yesterday – Scott Morrison's Aged Care Minister, Richard Colbeck, did not even know how many active cases of coronavirus were in residential aged care in Australia. Scott Morrison’s appointed Aged Care Minister – Scott Morrison appointed Richard Colbeck as Aged Care Minister – and Richard Colbeck could not even remember if he had briefed the National Cabinet or the Federal Cabinet about the interim report into aged care.
That interim report into aged care for the Royal Commission was called “Neglect”. Let's just pause there think about that. The report into Scott Morrison's administration of aged care in Australia, handed down by a Royal Commission, was called "Neglect". That's the neglect that's Scott Morrison and Richard Colbeck have been showing for our aged care system. For the mothers and fathers, the grandparents, who live in our residential aged care homes. “Neglect” is the title of that report. It told stories of older Australians living in residential aged care who had open sores, who were suffering from bruises and malnutrition, who had maggots in their mouths. There were signs, the report said, of obvious physical abuse. Any Australian who read the interim report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care would be appalled, would be ashamed. I'm not even sure Scott Morrison and Richard Colbeck cared. If you look at that report from the Royal Commission, it makes clear that our residential aged care sector in Australia, our residential aged care sector in Australia was in no way ready for a coronavirus outbreak.
A highly contagious disease comes along, no plan is put in place, no plan for personal protective equipment, no plan for infection control. The coronavirus crisis comes along in residential aged care; Scott Morrison and Richard Colbeck don’t have a plan. What has the incompetent Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck been doing for the last few months? What has the incompetent Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck been doing for the last few months? He hasn't been developing a plan to deal with coronavirus in our residential aged care facilities. He doesn't know how many people died; he doesn't even know how many people are sick.
Meanwhile, we've got hundreds of Australians dying in residential aged care. As of today, 292 deaths in residential aged care from coronavirus. And let's just think about what those deaths are like... can you imagine dying alone without your family around you? Can you imagine a mother or a grandmother dying unable to touch her children’s hands? To hold the hand, perhaps of her spouse, in the last moments of their lives? This is the aged care system that Scott Morrison is presiding over; that he has left in the control of Richard Colbeck – an incompetent and bumbling Minister. Scott Morrison today has to put aside his stubborn pride. Yesterday he stood by Richard Colbeck instead of standing up for the vulnerable and older Australians who live in residential aged care. Well today Scott Morrison's got to put aside his stubborn pride. He's got to admit he made a mistake in appointing Richard Colbeck Aged Care Minister he’s got to develop a plan to assure the thousands of older Australians who live in residential aged care and their loved ones they plan to keep them safe. Happy to take any questions.
I’ll say one more thing then. Yesterday the Prime Minister said, “let's play the issue, not the man” – that was his defence of Richard Colbeck. Let me make this clear – Richard Colbeck is the issue. Richard Colbeck’s incompetence in managing the aged care portfolio, Richard Colbeck’s lack of attention and care for the people who live in residential aged care facilities, that is the issue. And it is now time for the Prime Minister to do the right thing by vulnerable Australians and ensure that there's a plan in place to protect them.