1 February 2022

Bernard Keane is angry: “Hundreds of Australian aged care residents died miserable deaths in January as a consequence of the Morrison government’s staggering failures on aged care regulation, the rollout of booster shots and its refusal to address the aged care workforce crisis. The numbers are horrific, and a national disgrace: according to the government’s own figures, 389 aged care residents have perished as a result of COVID in January alone — far more than the total for 2021 — 282 — and already more than half the 2020 total which was dominated by another outbreak in [Commonwealth-regulated] aged care facilities in Victoria. … Literally every Commonwealth response to the pandemic within its aged care responsibility has been bungled and delayed, and the same disastrous errors have been repeated: the original vaccination rollout; the booster rollout; RAT supplies; PPE supplies; interventions by the Commonwealth aged care quality regulator, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. … [T]hat hundreds of seniors are dying two years into a pandemic due to persistent government failure is a national tragedy that lies at the feet of Colbeck, his portfolio minister Greg Hunt and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. There is no excuse for, no explaining away, no dodging, this disaster. The blood of the dead is on their hands. And the grisly toll of their incompetence grows more horrific each day.”

Morrison is now offering a miserly $800 payment to aged care workers, but as Keane points out, he “has failed to adopt the main [aged care] royal commission recommendation to support the current Fair Work Commission case for a substantial pay increase to retain aged care workers in an increasingly tight labour market — something Labor’s Anthony Albanese committed to do at the weekend.”