Feb 04, 2022

Richard Colbeck “must resign” or he should be sacked

Richard Colbeck “must resign” or he should be sacked

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese called for the resignation of Richard Colbeck on Thursday, imploring Prime Minister Scott Morrisson to sack Mr Colbeck if he refuses to stand down.

“If Richard Colbeck does not resign today, the prime minister should sack him,” said Mr Albanese.

“He is simply incapable of fulfilling the task of looking after the interests of old, vulnerable Australians.”

Mr Albanese went on to accuse the embattled Aged Care Services Minister of showing “contempt” for older Australians and highlighted Mr Colbeck’s continued avoidance of any type of formal questioning or scrutiny of his role in aged care. 

“[Older people] deserve dignity and they deserve respect. Not the contempt that we get from a minister who, having avoided appearing before a committee inquiry all year up until yesterday, went before that inquiry and said that it was working exceptionally well,” said Mr Albanese. 

Only last week, Mr Colbeck made headline news across the country after it was revealed that he chose to attend the cricket, rather than a COVID-19 committee hearing scrutinising the government’s pandemic response.

Documents revealed that Mr Colbeck claimed that attending the hearing would be “diverting time and resources” away from the “urgent and critical work” that he and the Department of Health are currently undertaking – when he was in fact at the 3rd day of The Ashes Test in Hobart. 

Foreign Editor of The Australian, Greg Sheridan, is one of many political commentators who have delivered a scathing assessment of Mr Colbeck’s tenure in aged care recently.

“I don’t know how the government arrives at these circumstances. I just think it’s a disaster when he doesn’t appear, but it’s a disaster when he does appear.”

Sadly, these are themes that have been a hallmark of Mr Colbeck’s time in aged care.

Unaware and unavailable

When the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s Interim Report was released in October 2019, thousands of aged care professionals and families around the country looked to industry leaders to validate their concerns and take immediate steps to rectify the situation.

The Interim Report, titled Neglect, was both candid and scathing in its assessment of the Australian aged care sector, but all of the issues raised within the report’s findings were well documented by ongoing media coverage and also highlighted in previous investigations into the sector.

Research contained within the report also estimated that somewhere between 22-50% of people living in aged care were malnourished, a statistic that Mr Colbeck was unaware of when questioned months later by NSW Senator Kristina Keneally.

At this point, aged care advocates across the country began to question if the Minister for Aged Care had actually read the report at all.

The federal government did not have a specific pandemic plan in place for the aged care sector, despite the forewarning of rising death tolls in foreign aged care homes prior to COVID arriving on Australian shores.

Mr Colbeck infamously failed to recall how many aged care residents had died during the pandemic at a senate inquiry in 2020. He also stated that he felt no personal responsibility for the deaths that had occurred.

He also misrepresented Australia’s percentage of aged care COVID deaths in comparison to other countries by using out-of-date data in a parliamentary inquiry last year.

At best, this highlights yet another example of a lack of knowledge or interest in the aged care sector. At worst, it can be viewed as deception, used to make Australia’s catastrophic failures in aged care look better.

Diluting the blame

If one specific act was used to represent Mr Colbeck’s tenure in aged care, there would be no better example than his famous decision to walk out of a senate inquiry before Labor Senate Leader Penny Wong had the chance to reply to his previous statement.

As mounting pressure began to grow for Mr Colbeck’s resignation, Health Minister Greg Hunt took on the primary responsibility of the aged care portfolio after the PM’s cabinet reshuffle in December.

While Mr Colbeck still managed to retain the aged care portfolio, his official title was changed to the Minister for Aged Care Services.

This shift also allowed him to fade into the background and positioned Mr Hunt as the new spokesperson for aged care, but with aged care finally garnering some mainstream attention and scrutiny, Mr Colbeck’s continual missteps and public gaffes continue to haunt the federal government.

Since his appointment as Aged Care Minister in May of 2019, Richard Colbeck has been demoted, appears completely disinterested, and has been panned by industry insiders for his complete lack of insight and understanding of the aged care sector. 

However, the sight of him leaving the sector would give many a reason to smile.

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  1. While this Minister watches the cricket people are in lockdown in the nursing home at the end of our street. When you walk past this facility it looks like a ghost ship. It has been like that for a week now. It must be like being in prison where you never know if you are going to see your loved ones again. This must be traumatising for families and just straight hell for the residents of this facility. The fact that this Minister lied and that he thought it was okay to go to the cricket while others are suffering like this is just unacceptable. He should have resigned earlier. A man with any integrity would have admitted his error, apologised and left.

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