SUBJECTS: The Government failing aged care facilities in Victoria; vaccine; Christian Porter.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: We learned that last year, the end of last year, the government ceased its incentive program to, which would enable- prevent people working across more than one aged care facility. I think all of us with loved ones in aged care in Victoria today feel a profound sense of anger that this could have occurred. We now learn that in private aged care facilities in Victoria, people are working in multiple facilities. One of the learnings from last year, in all that occurred was that this is one of the biggest risks in cross infection between one aged care facility and other and represents one of the biggest risks of COVID-19 getting into an aged care facility. This is a government which- the federal government – which is incompetent; that’s the only way you can describe this decision. It is a federal government which is incompetent. Incompetent in its management of aged care, and its incompetence is putting lives at risk. We need to see the Federal Government act on this immediately. I think every Victorian with a loved one in aged care today feels a profound sense of anger, in respect of Scott Morrison and his government.
JOURNALIST: Should the government know how many aged care workers are vaccinated?
MARLES: Well, the government should know how many are vaccinated. But what needs to be happening here is the government needs to actually get on with the vaccine rollout, across the country, but very much in respect of aged care workers and those who are in aged care facilities. It’s clear, and it’s obvious that that’s what should occur. And that needs to occur in every respect in terms of making sure that there is the proper vaccines available, that there is the logistics in place. But there’s also a public confidence campaign, which is encouraging people to be vaccinated. We’ve seen nothing like the public campaign in this country that exists in either the United States or the UK, to encourage people to be vaccinated. And it’s part of the reason why we’re seeing vaccination rates so low.
JOURNALIST: Should the vaccination be mandatory for aged care staff?
MARLES: Well, I think that’s a question which our health experts need to look at very closely, and I understand they are. And ultimately, they need to come to a decision on that, and we should be following that decision. But I think it is a question they need to look at.
JOURNALIST: Why do you think the government is still resisting an independent inquiry into the historical allegations against Christian Porter?
MARLES: I think now that Christian Porter has stopped his litigation in circumstances where, you know, there’s been no apology, it now needs to be the case that the government has an independent inquiry into these allegations. It’s obviously a difficult circumstance, but Christian Porter is not a private citizen, he’s a member of the Australian Cabinet. And so long as these allegations are out there, un-investigated, there is a cloud, which hangs over this whole situation, and not the least of which hangs over Christian Porter himself. And, that’s why there should be an independent inquiry so that this matter is properly dealt with.
JOURNALIST: Are you calling on the government to make sure that they have the figures before Estimates today of how many aged care workers have been vaccinated because this is a major issue; staff that have travelled between facilities?
MARLES: Well, I think we need the best information possible and I think the government needs to get that as soon as possible.