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Thursday, 22 October 2020
Page: 63

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (15:57): The discussion this afternoon is about one of the most vulnerable sectors of our community. There have been more than 680 COVID related deaths in residential aged-care facilities but there is no readiness plan for any sort of pandemic. This system has never been stress tested. There has been no plan in aged care.

In the Liberal government's first budget after they came to office in 2013, there was a $1.3 million cut in aged care. That was never returned. They are thinking in the never-never now, but once recommendations are made by the royal commission they'll have to do something. They are sitting on their hands waiting while, regrettably, 680 people have died. This government has staffed the sector of funding, which has resulted in a workforce shortage, underpaid and undertrained employees and a lack of PPE. At the start of the pandemic there was one pair of gloves per day for aged-care workers dealing with people in a vulnerable state—and they say they had a plan! They had responsibilities, and they have been shown to be lacking. And now we see that the sector itself was thoroughly unprepared. From Newmarch onwards, you could see the lack of preparedness in the sector.

The health minister will no doubt stick to his line from July this year, which was that the sector is 'eminently prepared'. That's certainly not the evidence coming out of the royal commission today. In fact, that's not in any of the evidence taken by the royal commission. It's seen a litany of stories of things such as open wounds infested by ants, malnutrition, starvation. Even today one in five are being maltreated. This is a national disgrace. And it's not just that there's some corporate responsibility out there. Aged care is the responsibility of the federal government.

Now, you can cut back all the agencies around it. You can cut back regulatory authorities that are supposed to be doing their job. But the thing is that ultimately you cannot give away responsibility. You can't shoulder that somewhere else. This government just will not live up to its responsibility when it comes to aged care. As a matter of fact, I think they thought all their problems in aged care went down the drain of a kerosene bath years ago.

I think the royal commission did call this right in their interim report: Neglect. You can't run around it. This is a hand-picked royal commission—by the way, a royal commission they were taken to kicking and screaming. It wasn't their idea. Labor certainly campaigned on this. The community and the sector campaigned. The government were forced into it. But what have they done since? As I say, they want to sit on their hands and wait to see final recommendations. We should be taking steps to ensure that we fix a broken system, to ensure that residents in aged care get the care they need and deserve.

We would expect that every public dollar going into aged care would find its way into care itself. Only recently I was reading about some big providers making some really big profits in this sector—like $59.9 million profit. One of those organisations was not even providing paid pandemic leave for its workers. These are workers that are surviving on average pay of $23 an hour. No wonder they've got to take extra jobs and work in multiple areas. They're trying to make ends meet. So this is how the providers value care. It's about time we realised this is about the workers who look after our loved ones in a very vulnerable state. This is the value that we put on them for their care. We don't need a royal commission to tell us this is broken. We need to muscle up to our responsibilities and make the changes now. (Time expired)