Taking Note - Aged Care

09 February 2022


The aged-care sector is in crisis. It is. That is clear for everyone to see. It's clear when you talk to aged-care workers, as I have, and as I know all my colleagues have. But, even if you haven't been bothered to go talk to the workforce and understand what's happening on the ground in their workplaces at the moment, a quick scan of the news headlines will show you the state the sector's in. The number of people dying will show you that the sector is in crisis. There are reports of workers under stress and under strain because of the choices they are being forced to make every single day, when they go into their workplaces, about which of the residents in their care who need their urgent attention they tend to. These reports are not hard to find. In fact, you've heard about them today in question time. You can look at the rollout of boosters and see the significant and critical shortages of jabs in arms to keep people safe. It is not hard to see that this is a sector in crisis. It is not hard.

Indeed, if you are willing to spend time playing word games to prove that it is not in crisis, may I suggest you spend that time talking to a nurse or talking to a worker in aged care. They are at breaking point. They go into work every day trying to care for the residents who have served our country, who have been part of our community and who deserve to spend this time in their lives living in dignity. These workers who want to provide that to those in their care do not have the support from the minister and the government they need to do their jobs. These are jobs which they are paid a pittance for—$22 an hour. And then the government won't even stand up and make a submission on their behalf. We have a government who doesn't care and a minister who goes to the cricket and then comes in here and argues and plays word games around whether or not the sector is in crisis.

This sector is in crisis. People are dying. Workers are struggling. This is a crisis, and it deserves the full attention of the minister. It deserves a minister who shows up to work, who shows up to the committee which is there to hold him accountable and who shows up to this parliament and doesn't go into the ridiculous politics and word games which distract people and run down the clock on his answers in question time. These workers deserve so much more from this government. They deserve more than thanks. They deserve to be paid properly for the work that they do. They deserve to be supported by a broader workforce amongst them—by shifts being filled. They deserve to be supported by having the boosters that will protect them when they go into their workplace each day. They shouldn't have to make the kinds of choices that they have to make every single day. They shouldn't have to make choices about which resident in pain or in distress or in need to go to, but they have to make these choices because there aren't enough staff in this workforce and there isn't enough support from the government.

Denying that this sector is in crisis is an absurd thing to come in here and do. This sector has been struggling since long before this pandemic. The royal commission report was entitled Neglect. That was before the pandemic. You overlay these issues on top of a sector which was struggling that much, and then you take a minister and a government more interested in the politics than in supporting the workers caring for our elderly, caring for our aged, and making devastating choices every single day. Those workers deserve so much better, as does every single Australian in aged care.