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31 May 2021




MONDAY, 31 MAY 2021


SUBJECTS:  COVID cases in aged care; aged care workers at multiple facilities; Morrison Government failures on vaccination rollout; Christian Porter dropping ABC defamation lawsuit


KEIRAN GILBERT, HOST: Let's bring in now the Shadow Minister for Government Services, Bill Shorten. This Arcare facility in Maidstone is in your electorate. What's the latest you've heard from your seat in terms of who's affected by COVID? How many positive tests have we seen?


BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: As I understand at this point, there's two workers who have tested positive and a resident, most concerningly because the residents much older than the two workers. I think, Arcare is doing everything it can, I want to make that clear, and the workforce. I can pleasingly say to you that I've had some indirect advice from the family of the resident, that the resident is doing okay.


GILBERT She's okay. Well, that's good news.


SHORTEN: She's not out of the woods, but she's doing OK.


GILBERT Well, that's good to hear. And well, the question goes to how on earth is the whole workforce not vaccinated? How is it not a precondition to work in that sector?


SHORTEN: Well, I think every Australian should be asking that, not just every Victorian. My hometown's locked down yet again, and yet we find out in this vaccine rollout, and I found out - Arcare’s a real time example - on May the 12th, vaccinations were sent for the residents and fortuitously, luckily, there were thirty four extra vaccines or near that amount. So, some of the workforce were able to get the jab. The rest of the workforce have had to sort of ring up GPs, sort it out themselves. And that's a common story across aged care and disability. So, the only reason why people have had any vaccinations who are workforce is because they put too many in the truck. This is not a roll out system. This is a hit and miss sort of lucky dip.


GILBERT One of the problems as well is that one of the Arcare workers also worked at Blue Cross, another facility. There was meant to be an end to workers working across different sites. In fact, there was a single site payment by the Federal Government. What's happened here?


SHORTEN: What's happened is that the safety system, which the federal Morrison Government have on paper doesn't exist in real life. It's a fiction. See, the way that the Government promised us the system was that a lot of aged care workers, you know, they're getting twenty-three dollars an hour. We can’t have them starve and work at one facility. They work across facilities. So the Federal Government said it would put in place a scheme where if an employer who was getting the majority of the hours of the employee wrote to the Federal Government, you could top up that employee with the hours that they couldn't work at the lesser provider. But this paperwork system's too complex. Many employers haven't applied for the money. And so, there's been a blind eye turned to the problem in the industry. And people, in order to survive and eat and pay the power bills, are working at more than one facility. And this is causing a greater risk of infection. Combined with the absolutely scheissenhausen rollout scheme of the of the vaccines.


GILBERT The Health Minister confirmed today, the Federal Minister, that not all families consented to vaccinations of their elderly relatives. I mean, that's hard to get your head around. Why is that not happening?


SHORTEN: First of all, aren't we getting a bit teed off, that whenever there's a problem, Greg Hunt pops up like, you know, the Duracell bunny and blame someone else. First of all, the person who's got sick in the facility, she had the vaccine. Problem is, she hadn't had the double vaccine. The double vaccine’s available today. So, I think before Mr. Hunt starts pointing the finger at people in their 80s and 90s for not having the vaccine, it would be good if they all got the chance to get the vaccine. For example, in disability, the Government says that seven thousand profoundly disabled people, people with disability in group homes, have had a dose, but they're very slippery. They don't say have they had the double dose. And when they say seven thousand, which sounds like a lot, they then don't mention the remaining seventeen or eighteen thousand who haven't had a dose.


GILBERT It's also important for the disability workforce, like the aged care workforce. That's right. And I'll ask you the same question that I put to Claire O'Neil last hour, and that is why is it not mandatory? Why don't we make it mandatory for workers in those sectors to get a jab?


SHORTEN: I think ultimately that's where we’ve got to go.


GILBERT In both spaces?


SHORTEN: Yeah, I think ultimately that's where we've got to go. But to begin with, it would be good if they could vaccinate everyone who wants a vaccination first. But I think at a certain point, just as we have for other medical procedures, you don't allow people who haven't had the flu vaccine into certain key areas of surgery. Sooner or later, that conversation's got to be had and in fact, it's being had now. But before we get the Government blaming people who haven't been vaccinated, it'd be good if the Government could vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated to begin with. That's a really simple start.


GILBERT And finally, before you go, that breaking news, Christian Porter not pursuing the legal defamation action, that the mediation has resulted in an editor's note, should he now be able to move on with his career?


SHORTEN: That'll be a matter for him and Mr Morrison and the electorate to work out. I only saw bits of it. Like all legal settlements, everyone's declaring that they won. I guess time will tell.


GILBERT So, he wants it to be the end of the matter. Do you think it will be?


SHORTEN: I think we'll have to wait and see. It'll be also a question for Mr. Morrison to answer when he gets back.


GILBERT Bill Shorten, thank you for your time.