Covid-19 & Aged Care

24 August 2020

Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (16:44): I rise in support of this motion. The Morrison government has repeated the line that, once a virus gets into the community, the consequences for aged-care homes are inevitable. What an excuse! 'Inevitable'—as though there was no way the dire consequences and deaths in aged care could have been avoided or mitigated. I don't accept that, Australians don't accept that and the government certainly shouldn't accept that.

It's one thing for the government to blame community transmission for the shocking death toll in aged-care facilities, but it's another not to have properly planned for outbreaks. We saw what happened overseas. We saw what unfolded at the Dorothy Henderson Lodge and Newmarch House outbreaks in April. But did the government learn from those lessons, especially to expect the sudden departure of regular carers and nurses and to provide PPE training? Of course not. Seven months into the pandemic, the federal government's learnings have been slow and deeply disappointing. I give my deepest condolences to the families of the 328 loved ones who have lost their lives in residential aged care because of COVID-19 and the seven people who contracted COVID-19 and passed away while receiving in-home care.

The weaknesses in our aged-care system have not been caused by the virus; they have been exposed in glaring focus. The minute we knew the virus was spreading, the federal government should have snapped to attention. The system was already broken. We don't need the royal commission to tell us that the current system, largely motivated by profit, is not fit for purpose, unless that purpose is to make money off our most vulnerable. Going forward, I hope the government realises that aged care can no longer be business as usual. Enough with the excuses. Government must act responsibly now.

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