Morrison fails on Aged Care

10 February 2022

Speech by Libby Coker MP to Parliament on 9 February 2022:

Aged-care workers and families of residents in aged-care facilities in my region are angry and distressed because the Morrison government is still not listening to them. Instead, we see that two-thirds of residents in aged care across our nation are malnourished, we see staff overworked and underpaid, and we see the Morrison government doing little to care for our most vulnerable.

Yesterday, I met with nurses from the Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation, who were rallying against what is happening in aged care. They told me harrowing stories that illustrate the crisis that continues in aged care. They told me about elderly people stuck in their rooms with wounds untended, receiving no water, and incontinence pads unchanged for long periods of time. They spoke of how overstretched and understaffed they are and how devastated they are because they cannot provide the quality of care they truly want for our elderly and the care our elderly deserve.

Staff said they felt abandoned by the Morrison government. They spoke of battling daily to fill shifts and find PPE and rapid antigen tests for staff due to the lack of supplies. A quarter of aged-care workers' shifts are not being filled. This is crippling the sector and compromising care. It's distressing and demoralising for aged-care workers to see the suffering, the isolation and the indignity.

Despite aged-care providers and their staff doing everything they can, the sector is buckling under the pressure. The aged-care sector desperately needs the federal government to provide them with the resources they need to keep residents and workers safe.

Shamefully, the government is failing to keep our elderly safe. They know that the aged-care sector is in crisis; they would not have sent the ADF, the Australian Defence Force, in unless this was so.

The Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services showed his heartless attitude towards our elderly citizens by attending the cricket during this crisis. He is unfit to be the minister of this portfolio.

It is a complete failure of the Prime Minister's leadership that after two years of disastrous incompetence the minister continues to hold his position as Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services.

This crisis hasn't happened overnight. This crisis is the result of nine long years of disgraceful neglect by this government. The pandemic's exposed the weaknesses and neglect of the aged-care sector and placed aged-care residents in an extremely dangerous situation.

Tragically, we've had more deaths in aged care in the month of January this year than in the whole of last year. After 21 expert reports and a royal commission, the Morrison government knew about the crisis in aged care but has failed to fix it. The PM is responsible for the aged-care system in this country. He is responsible for the funding cuts. He is responsible for the terrible neglect and dire situation this sector is in.

And he's still trying to bury the findings of the royal commission. Of the 148 recommendations, over half are not being implemented or aren't being implemented properly. There was nothing in the Morrison government's response to the royal commission to improve wages for overstretched and undervalued aged-care workers. Nothing can improve the sector until workers are paid decent wages and given secure work. People earn more working as a casual in Woolworths or Coles than as an aged-care worker. If we're going to see quality of care improved, we need to change this.

The Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy said the Morrison government would not consider an increase for aged-care workers, not even a paltry $5 increase. According to her, this increase would make the system unsustainable.

The Prime Minister's announcement of two $400 payments to aged-care workers is an insult. Aged-care workers need support, more staff and resources, not a pathetic payment that won't even be received by manythat's right: only six per cent of aged-care workers are in full-time employment, and the payments are only available to permanent staff on a pro rata basis.

This government has ignored the recommendation to require a nurse to be on duty 24/7 in residential care. This is critical to improving care for frail Australians.

We must do better. Our parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents and loved ones in aged care deserve better. We must change. The coalition has had almost 10 years to make change in aged care. Instead, we see neglect.

It is time for change, a change of government, to a government that will restore respect and care in our aged-care sector.