The minister in charge of Australia’s aged care system doesn’t feel personally responsible for residents dying from coronavirus.
Some 683 aged care residents have died in nursing homes with COVID-19.
Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck has used a Senate estimates hearing to defend the federal government’s response, putting the blame on Victoria.
“I don’t feel responsible personally for the deaths that have occurred – as tragic as they all are – that have been caused by COVID-19,” Senator Colbeck said on Tuesday when asked if he felt ministerial responsibility for the deaths.
“The approach taken by the Australian government more broadly has saved lives.
“The thing that would have saved lives … is the prevention of the escape of COVID-19 in Victoria, leading to the second wave.”
In September, the Senate censured Senator Colbeck for failing to take responsibility for coronavirus outbreaks across the sector, after failing to tell an inquiry how many people in aged care had died from the virus at the time.
Senator Colbeck told Tuesday’s hearing he wasn’t fazed by the motion as it’s not the opinion of his colleagues.
Labor senator Kristina Keneally asked the minister if he wanted to stay in the portfolio when a ministerial reshuffle happens later this year.
“Yes I would,” he replied.
Aged care staff working across multiple sites arose as an issue during Victoria’s outbreak, as it made it harder for infection control.
It led to more workforce funding and an industry program to reduce sharing staff.
The hearing was told that as of September, 4.5 per cent of Victorian aged care staff now work across multiple sites, compared to seven per cent in June.
Senator Colbeck also defended only having two interview transcripts available on his ministerial website.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has more than 420.
Senator Colbeck said Australians could access transcripts of his interviews through media monitoring website Isentia.
“They’re not on my website but they are available through other sources,” he said.
Senator Keneally asked if he knew other ways Australians could read his interviews.
“Not offhand, no.”