When did neglecting our elderly become the Australian way?

Feb 11, 2022
Woman holding teacup
(Image: Unsplash)

 The nation is paying the price for Scott Morrison’s decision to offer illusory freedoms over proper management of the Covid crisis.

We are a polite lot in Australia. We do not like to rock the boat. The recent Omicron death toll here has effectively doubled the number of deaths we suffered in 2020 and 2021.

We continue to listen to Scott Morrison and his incompetent team. They roll out their excuses, and their selective comparisons with other countries. We live on an island, and we care how WE are doing. We are now doing very badly, and it is still summer. Imagine what winter will be like.

We have learnt to decipher the weasel words, and to find the callous, and orchestrated, indifference behind them. When people die, and you could have prevented the deaths, then you might have a case to answer. It is more than a political problem – it is a question of humanity.

Of course Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck’s decision to go to the cricket while Omicron was marching unimpeded through aged-care facilities is breathtaking, and insensitive. But he is merely a pawn. Last year he was already hopeless, and then they put Greg Hunt in to ‘oversee’ his work in the sector.

That was merely a cosmetic change, however, and unsuccessful. The time before Omicron emerged was wasted. The sector learnt absolutely nothing from the mistakes of the past. This time around, Morrison has again defended him, saying the minister has listened, and he would take it on the chin, and move on. That is not a response, it is a delaying tactic.

How do the aged care residents who have died move on? How do their grieving families move on? As Prime Minister, did Morrison not know his Minister for Sport was off to the cricket? Did Hunt, his immediate boss, not know? Surely they discussed his appearance before a Senate committee, to discuss his department’s response to the Omicron wave. If not, why not?

Morrison has never understood that as Prime Minister he is ultimately responsible for every problem, he is expected to fix every problem, because he has access to the resources, and the people, to fix them. Of course Morrison does not have the personality or the sense of destiny to take control. He dithers, he deflects, he searches desperately for ways to elude responsibility.
He has now become so predictable in his public appearances that we listen for the “we” instead of the “I” when it comes to accepting the Commonwealth’s major task, which can be condensed into three words: Keep Australians safe.

Attending the cricket is trivial however, when we look at the way the Prime Minister hijacked the pandemic response and opened up the country before it was ready.

The irony of a fundamentalist Christian telling us to throw off the shackles, and take back our lives is not lost on any of us. A man whose every aspect of life is controlled by his religion, telling us to live free, so the economy can roar back into life, and get him re-elected. It was a huge gamble. Now he cries that Omicron was a surprise. No it wasn’t. It was decimating Europe and the US and we were insulated from its damage. Until he opened the borders, we were safe, but grumbling. Now we are in mourning.

Morrison has proved himself to be a spectacularly poor planner. In the early days of the pandemic, he sometimes over-delivered. Much of his response was ‘reputation-repair’ after the Hawaii debacle, but it worked. Deaths were kept to a minimum, health advice was followed, and we felt that our government was putting people ahead of the economy.

Of course the lessons he learnt in the first year and a half have now been forgotten. Economists have almost universally supported leaving the JobSeeker payment where it was, because the poor spend their cash immediately. Not on paying down the mortgage, not buying a speedboat. No, they buy food, and they pay their bills. But Morrison knew better. He reduced it back to starvation levels, and threw out the safeguards.

Morrison and Hunt told us to look at numbers in hospitals, not case numbers. Then, because they thought it was like a cold, they reduced support for testing. They did not buy Rapid Antigen Tests, although they were the only way for us to test ourselves. And so the inevitable happened. The sick were heading off to work, because they had to, and because they had no way of self-testing.

As more became ill, the supply chains collapsed. As the booster shots were certified and deemed essential, we didn’t have enough, in the right places.

The vulnerable groups remained the same that they had been in the first waves. Indigenous communities, those covered by the NDIS, the regions, the economically disadvantaged were all exposed, again. They continue to bear the burden of infections, hospitalisations, lack of testing, lack of boosters.

Amid the rising infection rates, Morrison and Frydenberg were taking the time to boast about the economy. Take a walk along any shopping strip, and see the shuttered shops. Take a look at supermarkets, look at the empty shelves. Ironically, as Morrison lifted restrictions, many self-imposed them. Someone had to do it, because the government went missing.

Morrison’s triumphal progress to another term is looking pretty sick, because he became tangled up in stupid plans to “push through”. This was part of his rebranding as a freedom fighter. And we are paying the price.

Their characterisation of the deaths in aged care this year has sunk to levels of infamy not seen in Australia before. They now regularly insert the false narrative that most (60 per cent) of the elderly Australians dying of neglect in aged-care facilities were ‘at death’s door already, so no harm done’ is the implication.

No, their deaths are not able to be dismissed. That is why we call the facilities “nursing homes”. Not dying homes. People who have lived lives, paid taxes, brought up children, built this country, so the spivs in the Morrison government can write off their deaths as incidental.

More than 1500 people have died in Australia with or from the coronavirus so far this year. The figure is going up at around 80 – 100 each day. The Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer expects more variants, a flu season, and winter to present many more deaths in 2022.

It might be time to retire the lot of them, and see if there is a way to prosecute those who failed us.

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