Sky News First Edition – Minister Colbeck, aged care vaccines, vaccine rollout

Wednesday, 02 June 2021

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let’s go to Canberra now and joining us live is Shadow Minister Amanda Rishworth. Amanda, good to see you. Thanks for joining us this morning. Now Senator Richard Colbeck, he didn’t know how many aged care workers had the vaccine yesterday in Senate Estimates. It was later revealed that it was about 9 per cent of the workforce, which is a paltry number really. Was it convenient?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Look, I think it was in terribly embarrassing for Senator Colbeck. I mean, the two jobs the government had to get done this year was the vaccination rollout and fixing quarantine. And for the Aged Care Minister, after the tragic circumstances we saw last year in aged care facilities, then this was appalling from the Minister not to have been having a line of sight in an area which the Commonwealth regulates and actually funds. So I think his response was embarrassing. But secondly, I do think it is very concerning that number of 9 percent when the government had promised that aged care workers would be vaccinated, fully vaccinated, by Easter.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, it’s even less in the disability sector. Bill Shorten mentioning yesterday that it’s 1.7 per cent, less than 2 per cent anyway, of those in disability care and residents have had a vaccine.

RISHWORTH: When we looked at the vaccination rollout, it really made the priority being 1A, those people most vulnerable in our community. And the fact that the government has really dropped the ball on this I think is very concerning. What I think is more concerning, though, is the government’s lack of transparency on this and that sort of ducking and weaving about whether one dose is a full vaccination, whether two doses is a full vaccination. I think Australians are not reassured by the government’s responses, and really want the government to be transparent. They’ve missed their target, so going forward what are the new targets to ensure that our most vulnerable people in our community are protected? And indeed, those that work with them, and could transmit this virus are actually also protected and vaccinated? And as of yet, the government hasn’t taken responsibility. But also doesn’t seem to have any urgency around this. The issue of disability workers and residents with a disability in residential care has been raised weeks ago, and we just haven’t seen the government accelerate their efforts in this area. It’s really concerning, and quite frankly, dangerous.

STEFANOVIC: Senator Colbeck, he’s got a little bit of form. There’s already one union this morning is calling for him to resign. Do you agree?

RISHWORTH: Look, I think Senator Colbeck’s performance has been woeful. I’m not sure what he does in his day job, but I would assume that his day job should be ensuring that our aged care residents are fully protected, that all the protections are put in place around the aged care sector to ensure that they are safe from this virus. So I think the Senator has a lot of questions to answer. Last year he couldn’t tell us how many residents have been infected, how many had actually passed away in aged care. So his attention to the detail in the most important time has been very lacking. I think it’s deeply concerning for Australians, and I think the Senator needs to explain himself.

STEFANOVIC: Well, they are explaining themselves in some way by saying that there’s a five day vaccination blitz that’s now coming for aged care and disability workers. Does that assuage your concerns?

RISHWORTH: Look, it’s better late than never, I guess. But I wouldn’t be holding my breath on this. The government has been very clear that this doesn’t seem to be an urgent priority. Now, after they’ve come under pressure, they’re somehow suggesting that they will put their foot on the pedal. I guess we’ll see what the outcomes are. The government’s been saying they will get this done in an efficient, effective manner. We haven’t seen that as a result. But look, I hope they do succeed, because I think our ability as a nation depends on it. But I guess I’m waiting to see the proof that they’ve actually been able to get on top of this and take this seriously.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Amanda Rishworth. Thanks for your time.

ENDS