23 June 2021

Taking Note – Aged Care & Vaccines


This is, I think, the third time in recent weeks I've taken note on similar topics around the rollout of vaccines in aged care, in response this time to questions from Senators Walsh and Gallagher. It's frustrating me that I'm doing that. It's a sign that we still have so many unanswered questions on our side about what's happening with the vaccination rollout, about what's happening in aged care and about how it impacts residents and workers in aged care. The government has two jobs when it comes to this pandemic: quarantine and the vaccination rollout. On both jobs we are seeing failure after failure, delay after delay and excuse after excuse.


Today in question time we saw Senator Colbeck again try to blame the states for a failure to provide data at the time requested by the Senate. It's not the first time he's blamed the states and territories for his errors, for his failures and for the failures of the Morrison government when it comes to the vaccine rollout and when it comes to quarantine. The impact of this is very serious. Just look at what's happening in New South Wales. I echo Senator O'Neill's comments and concerns around what's happening in New South Wales at the moment. People are scared. People are worried, particularly the families of those in residential aged care, the workers who want to keep the residents they care for safe, the in-home-care workers and the workers in our disability sector. This is dangerous, and because the government is botching it people are feeling more scared than they should have to.


We've heard today that only 15.6 per cent of residential aged-care workers have received their second dose, meaning that only 15.6 per cent of residential aged-care workers are fully vaccinated. This is the front line. We saw what happened in 2020 in aged care. Australians watched in absolute horror as COVID rampaged through aged-care homes—in Victoria, especially, where over 600 Australians died. They were horrific scenes, which shook all of us, and the lessons learned should be that we cannot wait, that we cannot delay. This is a race. The Prime Minister says it is not a race, but it is a race. It's a race and Australians want it to be happening quicker, happening faster and happening effectively. They want the implementation going better.


We ask questions about the numbers and about the data over and over again because this matters. How can you possibly track the implementation of something so important if you can't even answer basic questions about who's had the jab and who hasn't, if you can't even have basic delineations between what you're responsible for and what the states and territories are responsible for and if you can't even come into this and say, 'Yep, I'll cop that; my bad. I've made a mistake. I'm going to take responsibility now'? Australians are worried that on your two jobs— quarantine and vaccination rollout—you're failing and it's costing them. It's costing our country. It's costing our future. It's going to impact how we come through this pandemic, without a doubt, and Australians are right to be worried.


I join Senator Brockman in my absolute support for making sure that we take these vaccinations. As soon as I'm eligible I'm getting vaccinated, and I really look forward to the opportunity to do that. More Australians want to be vaccinated, but we want to get this rollout right so that they can be. We need to get this rollout right so that the people who are the most vulnerable in this pandemic, those in our aged-care homes, those working there and those in disability care are safe and can keep those around them safe. That's what Australians want, but they need the government to step up to the plate on their jobs.