15 June 2021

Taking Note – Aged Care & Vaccinations


I also rise to take note of answers to questions asked by Senators Pratt, Watt and O'Neill. We've been in this pandemic for one year now, and in that time there's been time to learn, to look at what's happening on the ground, to think of solutions and to roll them out. On the two things that we know the federal government is ultimately responsible for—quarantine and vaccinations—we've seen failure after failure.


On the vaccine, Scott Morrison has said that the vaccine rollout isn't a race, and he could not be more wrong. It is a race, and Australians are paying the price for his failures in it. South Australians don't want any more excuses. They don't want any more deadlines missed, avoided or dodged. They don't want to hear the federal government continue to blame the states or, indeed, anyone they can look at or point to. They want the federal government to take responsibility, and they want the federal government to deliver. They want to be safe, and they're fearful that they're not safe.


Nowhere are the government's failures on the vaccine rollout more stark than in aged care, where we have lost Australian lives and where workers and residents alike are fearful of this virus and of what happens if the vaccinations aren't rolled out quickly and they aren't protected and kept safe. And can we blame them after everything they have been through these past 12 months? They expect the federal government to deliver for them. They expect to be kept safe.


It's not just aged care; it's the disability sector as well. Just today I met with advocates from this sector who told me that their staff are yet to be fully vaccinated and that their workforce are concerned about their safety. The PM promised to vaccinate vulnerable workers by Easter, and with good reason. Easter mattered. It was a promise with reason, because the Australian winter is the most dangerous time for this virus. It's when respiratory diseases are at their highest and Australians are most vulnerable.


They promised Easter with good reason, and they have failed to deliver on it. That has left Australians less safe. That has left people who work or live in aged care less safe and more fearful. It has left people who work in the disability sector less safe and more fearful, and it is simply not acceptable.


There were two jobs: quarantine and vaccinations. Hotels aren't meant to be quarantine facilities; they're meant to house tourists. This has been a failure of the federal government. It is a failure which affects Australian lives. It is a failure which affects South Australian lives.


The vaccination rollout is failing, too, in its speed of delivery. It is so important that the federal government get this right. It is important for confidence, and it's important for the safety of some of our most vulnerable workers and our most vulnerable Australians. Instead of coming in here and defending it, puffing up your chests and saying, 'We've done a great job, and therefore that's it; game over, we're done,' you actually need to keep working on this. You need to keep working every day, doing everything you can to keep South Australians safe. You always need to be looking to do better and roll out better. You need to spend less time focused on excuses for errors and failures in delivery and more time working out solutions to these problems. You need to spend less time focused on Labor, although you might want to think about some of the things we've suggested to fix this, such as purpose-built quarantine facilities. An advertising campaign wouldn't go astray. Channel 9's done a pretty good one. You can listen to us and our positive suggestions, but spend less time focused on the politics of this and more time focused on the things you're responsible for: the rollout, the delivery and the implementation—the fundamental roles of federal government and the responsibility you have to keep your fellow Australians safe. It's a clear, linear responsibility that you hold.


There's a clear job ahead of you. Australians expect it of you, and if you don't deliver you are leaving Australians less safe and you are leaving them fearful. After the year that we have had, after the lessons that we have learned, it's time to take responsibility. It's time to actually set targets and meet them. It's time to stand up for South Australians.