CANBERRA, AAP – The aged care services minister has resisted calls in parliament to resign from the frontbench following a large number of COVID-19 deaths in residential facilities across the country.
A move by Labor to formally call on the prime minister to sack Richard Colbeck and apologise to aged care residents and their families failed in the Senate.
Senate deputy opposition leader Kristina Keneally sought to move a motion but was voted down after a firey question time in the upper house, where Labor targeted Senator Colbeck over his handling of the aged care crisis.
“It is an absolute disgrace, and utter disaster,” the Labor senator said.
“Disease is running rampant through facilities, too few staff to care for those living there, our greatest generation left unwashed and without food. Have you no shame, have you no responsibility, have you no care?”
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Senator Colbeck told parliament there had been 1288 cases of COVID-19 in aged care facilities since the beginning of the year, with 587 deaths, but more than three quarters of eligible residents had received their booster shot.
It was also revealed data remains unavailable on the number of those who have died from COVID in aged care and had also had their booster shot.
The lack of data was blamed on a lag in reporting from states and territories.
“Have there been some issues? Yes,” Senator Colbeck said.
“The Labor party can play their dirty, nasty personal politics but they have no plan.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also defended the government’s response to COVID in aged care after Labor targeted the government’s handling of the sector during question time in the lower house.
“At every moment of this pandemic, we have sought to provide every single support we possibly can to ensure we can be assisting both the workforce and those who are engaged in providing that care,” he told parliament.
When asked about aged care deaths, the prime minister accused Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese of trying to politicise the pandemic.
Mr Albanese said the government was too distracted by its own internal fights to properly manage the pandemic.
“The problem is … their distractions, their dishonesty and their disunity is stopping them looking after the interests of Australians, particularly those people in aged care,” he said.
It comes after the government announced on Monday about 1700 Australian Defence Force personnel would be sent in to assist aged care facilities.
There was another 56 COVID-19-related deaths reported nationally on Tuesday, with 20 of those in Victoria, 18 in NSW, 12 in Queensland, four in South Australia and one each in Tasmania and the ACT.
Nationally, a further 27,642 infections were reported, with NSW and Victoria recording nearly 10,000 cases each, while there were 5178 in Queensland, 1296 in SA, 1092 in the NT, 601 in Tasmania and 495 in the ACT.