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Thursday, 25 February 2021
Page: 78


Senator WATT (Queensland) (15:01): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Sport and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services (Senator Colbeck) to questions without notice asked by Senators Sterle and Pratt today relating to aged care.

This morning as I was leaving home and listening to the news, as many of us do, I was shocked to yet again hear new allegations of extreme neglect in aged-care facilities in our country. New allegations have come to light concerning severe neglect of elderly Australians in the Regis Nedlands aged-care facility in Perth.

Despite how many times we have heard these things occurring on this government's watch, it was still appalling and shocking to hear. Two days before Christmas last year on a 40-degree day, Lea received a call from her 86-year-old father's aged-care home, Regis Nedlands in Perth, telling her he was in an ambulance going to the hospital. Her father Brian was:

… slumped over in the bed, and his back was exposed. I could see his back was really terribly burnt, his whole back was burned. And he was not speaking to us. He was semi in and out of consciousness.

Brian, a double amputee, had been left out on the rooftop terrace for two hours. Nobody knew where he was for two hours. Tragically, he died on 20 January this year.

There were further allegations concerning the Regis Nedlands facility. In the days before Brian Hunter's death, six nursing students were sent to Regis Nedlands for their first clinical placement where they witnessed abuse, widespread neglect, rough handling and sexually inappropriate behaviour.

One of the abused residents was 94-year-old Mr Lee. The report details that one of the students:

… found Mr Lee (who is always in a wheelchair) on the floor near the entrance of his room completely unclothed and sitting in his faeces with [a carer] standing over him. I asked [the carer], did he fall? and [the carer] replied with 'no'.

The student later witnessed the carer dragging Mr Lee to the bathroom.

It is terribly sad and shocking that we continue to hear stories like those emanating from aged-care facilities around the country. They are only two of the stories that have emerged this week alone. For years now we have been bringing to the attention of the Senate exactly these sorts of stories and we have been getting exactly the same kinds of answers to our questions that we saw from Senator Colbeck today. We get the fake concern. We get the: 'This shouldn't be happening to anyone.' We get the: 'I'm as appalled as anyone.' There's just one fact that Senator Colbeck and his predecessors continue to omit from their explanations—that is, they have every power required to actually do something about this and fix this system so that we don't keep seeing and hearing these types of stories.

You would think, listening to Senator Colbeck—whether it be today, the last time we asked him questions or last year when we repeatedly brought these kinds of stories to the chamber's attention—that he is just some innocent bystander as appalled as the rest of us by what is going on.

Senator Polley interjecting

Senator WATT: You're right, Senator Polley. He is probably the one person in this chamber, the one person in this government, who can actually do something about it. The clue is in Senator Colbeck's title: Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services. Senator Colbeck has had every opportunity to do something about this and he has repeatedly been warned about the huge systemic problems in our aged-care services due partly to this government's lack of funding and even more so to the funding cuts this government has imposed, particularly those imposed while the now Prime Minister was the Treasurer of this country. I'm getting pretty sick and tired of hearing Senator Colbeck and other members of this government empathise and express concern and say, 'None of us want to see this,' when actually they could be doing something to fix it.

We do have a royal commission underway, and tomorrow, I understand, the government will be receiving the final report of that royal commission. But several months ago the government received from the royal commission an interim report, titled Neglect—in case there was any doubt about what is going on in our aged-care system—and still, despite that royal commission report, we continue to hear these stories. The fact is that the government just don't care about what's going on in our aged-care facilities. They just don't care that elderly Australians are being neglected and treated like this when they deserve all of our support in their twilight years. The government have had every chance to fix it and they just keep ignoring it. (Time expired)