18 March 2021
You can tell a lot about where this government's priorities lie by comparing their announcements with their follow through. We're about to wrap up the first parliamentary sitting week since the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety released their report, a report that the Prime Minister himself described as harrowing. In response to that report the Prime Minister announced immediate steps to address the negligence uncovered in that report. Eighteen days later, four of which this parliament has sat, and not one single piece of aged-care legislation has been tabled by this Morrison government, not a single measure has been tabled to make sure older Australians are not sitting in private aged-care homes suffering.
Recommendation 13 of that report states:
The Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) should be amended to … give effect to the following characteristics of high quality aged care:
a. diligent and skilful care
b. safe and insightful care
c. caring and compassionate relationships
d. empowering care
e. timely care.
How much time does the Morrison government need to decide whether high-quality aged care should be diligent and skilful with care and compassion? We aren't adjourned until 4.30 pm today. There is still time to table a provision, table a bill, that says high-quality aged care in this country must be caring and compassionate.
What the Prime Minister has had time for this week though is to attack the rights of Australian workers as they continue to work to push through 'WorkChoices 2.0' through the Senate. I have just heard that they have now withdrawn the wage theft provisions, apparently in an act of vindictiveness, because they cannot get their own provisions that reduce workers' rights through the Senate. So now we must oppose WorkChoices 2.0 holus-bolus. I can't believe that what they're spending their time doing is vindictively punishing workers by removing wage theft provisions, which were agreed by all parties to go through the Senate, as an act of retaliation because they can't get their other reduction of workers' rights provisions through. It's amazing what this government can put their mind to when they've got the time and it's amazing what priorities they turn to when they have the levers of power in this place.
Since 1997, we've had 19 reports commissioned to investigate problems in our aged-care system, and 11 of those reports have been since the Prime Minister himself was Treasurer. Elderly Australians are still being subjected to neglect and abuse as this issue has been kicked down the road again and again. Meanwhile, in 2018 and 2020, the Federal Court made two separate decisions that Paul Skene and Robert Rossato were wrongly classified as casual workers when they were permanent employees, and the government took immediate action to dismantle the rights of casual workers. As a heads up to the Prime Minister, when election time comes, Australians will remember where the Morrison government's priorities really did lie.
The bungled vaccine rollout is another prime example of this Morrison government being all about the announcement and not about the follow-through. 'ProMo' and the Morrison government have put more effort into announcing the vaccine than they have into actually rolling it out. Twenty-five media releases and press conferences have been held in the last month. The member for Gellibrand put it best when he said, 'If announcements were vaccines, we would all be immune by now.'
Scott Morrison announced that four million Australians would be vaccinated by the end of March and that the vaccine would get through the Australian population by October. But to date only 200,000 Australians have been vaccinated—not four million, only 200,000—and only an abysmal 25,000 Queenslanders. With only one week remaining in March, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health have a busy week ahead of them trying to vaccinate 3.8 million Australians.
All we have are announcements. There is no real information and no real guidance. The Department of Health website states that 'GPs are critical partners in Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy'. But the feedback that I'm receiving from my constituents is that when they call their GP for more information they're being told that they haven't been briefed on what's going on, that they can't provide any further advice themselves and that hopefully they will know in a month or so. This week, GPs were inundated with calls from patients looking to book in their vaccination after the government launched their national vaccine booking website. Maybe the federal government should have let GPs in on their plans first before they launched their website and before they had another 28 announcements and press conferences celebrating how good they are. Knowing how many doses of a vaccine your clinic is going to have seems like helpful information for an Australian. Of course, the website glitched just hours after it was launched—and it wouldn't be a Morrison government website or app if it hadn't.
The federal government has four key responsibilities to protect the health and safety of Australians through COVID. They've got aged care, they've got international border quarantine, they've got the COVID tracing app, and they've got the vaccines. Somehow they seem to have managed to shaft all four of these health responsibilities to the state governments, or completely bungled them. It's not good enough, and they've got to do better.