Elderly Services Minister Richard Colbeck defended his record and accused Labor of having “no plan” to fix the sector in a heated exchange during the Senate estimates.
Asked by Labor senator Murray Watt if he should be kicked out of the portfolio amid reports that Prime Minister Scott Morrison is ‘about to sack one of his scandal-ridden ministers’, senator Colbeck hit back by attacking the opposition, which is under pressure. to describe his electoral commitments.
“Government is the only party that can give anyone confidence in the future of the aged care sector because the opposition has no plan,” Senator Colbeck said during the hearing. “They didn’t put $1 on the table.”
Senator Watt said the aged care system was in “absolute crisis” with more than 17,000 confirmed cases and more than 700 residents dying this year.
“How can someone trust you if he is a resident of a nursing home?” Senator Watt asked Mr. Colbeck. “If it is a family member of an elderly person, if it is a worker? »
The minister hit back, saying the government had provided a $3billion figured response to the 148 recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Care of the Aged and charted a “clear course” for reform.
He said Labor seemed to imply “that if you were in government no one would have died in aged care from COVID”, which “doesn’t add up”.
“We could have brought in rapid antigen tests and we might have released vaccines. We might have paid the workers,” Senator Watt replied.
Senator Colbeck said the government was providing testing to the sector and there had been an “improvement in performance” in care for the elderly with less transmission of the virus.
“After all the neglect, after all the horror stories, after all the staff shortages, do you finally accept that Australia’s aged care system is in crisis?” asked Senator Watt.
The Minister replied that he had to be ‘very careful with my language’ and that ‘a lot of people wanted to denigrate the aged care sector’, which was ‘really hard working’.
“I pay huge tribute to the providers and, in particular, the workforce.”