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Tag Archives: Royal Commission

Aged care’s pandemic reply still a mess, unions say

The Morrison government has failed to respond specifically to the findings of the recent Aged Care Royal Commission and the problem points and issues revealed from it – and the longer which that persists, especially on the findings specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, the longer the crisis over the aged care sector will go on, members of Australia’s union movement said on Tuesday.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) asserted that the government – specifically aimed at Prime Minister Scott Morrison and indicted by association, Greg Hunt, the government’s health minister, and Richard Colbeck, the government’s minister for aged care – will not address shortages and shortcomings in providing responses to staffing levels, training or transparency within the aged care system.

“This Government needs to take responsibility for the years of understaffing and low wages in aged care. There have been 685 preventable deaths caused by COVID-19,” said Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president.

“In the midst of a crisis in aged care which has been exacerbated by a pandemic, aged care workers need more funding, and they need that funding to be tied to outcomes for staff and residents so it cuts through the bloated for-profit system.

“Yesterday, the Morrison Government opposed legislation to require aged care providers to publicly report on how they spend their revenue. Accountability for government funding is long overdue,”

O’Neil and the ACTU were responding specifically to an announcement on Monday from Hunt regarding a $132.2 million investment package which, in representing the government’s official response to the findings of the Aged Care Royal Commission as it pertains to the needs brought on by the pandemic, included a detailed breakdown of spendings on top of a $245 million funding in August.

“This investment directly addresses issues raised by the Aged Care Royal Commission and will improve and support the health and wellbeing of aged care residents most significantly impacted by COVID-19,” said Hunt upon announcing the new package of investment.

“For our aged care sector, the revised plan allows flexibility to manage individual situations in each state and territory [and] also builds on and consolidates the critical and successful work already undertaken by the Commonwealth government,” said Hunt.

Colbeck said that the current updated plan attached to the new investment was created upon conjunction with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s Aged Care Advisory Group (ACAG), thereby meeting one of the Royal Commission’s aims.

“While we hope there won’t be further COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care facilities or in home care, if it does happen, key learnings will inform the future work of the ACAG and be shared with the aged care sector,” said Colbeck.

Previously, Annie Butler, the national secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), said that her union had welcomed the six basic conclusions from the Aged Care Royal Commission’s findings, but still fears that maximum protections for older Australians living in nursing homes and aged care facilities will not be met.

“Nursing homes desperately need additional nurses and care staff to provide safe, effective care outcomes for residents, not just to enable more visitors,” Butler said in October, shortly after the Royal Commission’s findings were released.

“While that is critical for the wellbeing of residents, more staff are urgently needed just to meet basic needs for residents in far too many nursing homes.

“Our members have been on the frontline during the pandemic and have witnessed how it has stretched staff and resources even further, again demonstrating the importance of having sufficient staffing levels and skills mix, to cope with intensified demands and workloads,” added Butler.

O’Neil suggested that the government utilise a quota-based system which possesses a variety of skill sets to suit the needs of a maligned aged care sector, whose shortcomings in a privatised status continue to be greatly exposed during the pandemic.

“The crisis in aged care won’t be turned around by one announcement, this government shows no commitment to the long-term change which it has been told again and again is necessary,” said O’Neil.

“We need minimum staffing levels with a mandated mix of skills on every shift in every workplace. This announcement takes us no closer to this goal.

“Mandated training requirements are urgently needed to ensure that workers and residents are safe. This announcement will do nothing to improve training,” O’Neil added.

Butler suggested that any additional funding, regardless of when it would become available, be used in a targeted budget approach in intended areas rather than a government-based value-for-money tactic would be of better use to the sector.

“We welcome the recommendation for immediate additional funding, but reiterate the need for greater transparency for any additional government funding, because aged care providers must be held accountable – and actually use the money for its intended purpose of employing additional nurses and carers for the depleted sector,” she said.

Ultimately, O’Neil languishes at the likes of Hunt and Colbeck failing to adhere to finding common ground between the Aged Care Royal Commission’s findings and the needs of the aged care sector itself.

“We have been willing to work with the Morrison government on this issue. So it is deeply regrettable that they continue to ignore the expertise of the workers in the sector,” said O’Neil.



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Why we need an Iraq war Royal Commission – Sign my petition

A guest blog by redcuchulain

People have been asking me why I would want to start a petition into the war in Iraq? Quite simply, I have been waiting around for our political leaders to do it and have been surprised that it doesn’t seem to be a priority. I think someone has to do it.

I work in the healthcare industry and like many industries we have rigid rules about how we must investigate and learn when things go wrong. Compared to the airline industry we are in our infancy. However, at least these days every death is treated as a tragedy and we take what we learned and apply it to help prevent further tragedy. It doesn’t bring anyone back – but at least in some way we respect and honor those who we have injured by making sure their suffering wasn’t for nothing.

A Royal Commission is the only thing in this country with enough authority to get to the bottom of the matter when mistakes happen in the political sphere. There are too many vested interests in not getting to the bottom of what happened with the decision to invade Iraq. This is not intended as a witch hunt. We should assume that people in public life, regardless of whatever side of politics they are on, act with the public good in mind most of the time. Next time when we are faced with this situation we will have different decision makers. It does not help us to think of the people who made the wrong decisions in Iraq as ‘evil’ or ‘lazy’. If there has been deliberate deception then that of course is a matter which should be referred to the courts. I fear that there are underlying systemic issues both in Australia and in our relationship with our allies. Only a Royal Commission can get to the root of the problems so we can do better next time.

I ask you to please sign my petition which I will deliver to both the PM and the leader of the opposition.

The Peter Principle

Tony-Abbott The Peter Principle suggests that people will tend to be promoted until they reach their “position of incompetence”, and that is exactly what we are seeing with this Coalition government. They had six years in Opposition to develop their policies, and access to the Parliamentary Budgetary Office to cost them, but when it came to the crunch the cupboard was bare.

The assessment of the potential of an employee for a promotion is often based on their performance in the current job. Tony Abbott has been described as a very good Opposition leader. Personally I can’t see it, but that’s because I think all members of Parliament have been elected to help run the country. Achieving anything was never on Abbott’s radar. His entire being was devoted to “attack dog” and truth and decency were no impediment. He wanted to win at any cost as Tony Windsor revealed. But what now?

Over six months in and it is patently obvious that the Coalition have no plan at all other than to “slowly and methodically” pay hundreds of millions of dollars to private consulting firms and mates to see if they can come up with a way to make the Coalition’s election promises feasible. We have well over fifty reviews and audits and white papers and green papers in progress. Any discussion of policy or direction turns into “the mess left by the previous government”. They fail to realise that they were elected to fix this perceived mess rather than waste time bemoaning it. You don’t employ a new CEO to sit there saying “wasn’t me, was the other guy”.

The Royal Commission into the home insulation programme is a blatant attempt to discredit the previous government. The money would be far better spent implementing the recommendations from the eight inquiries we have already had. The Royal Commission into unions is another blatant attempt to discredit all unions, silence the collective voice of the workers, and taint the Labor Party for their traditional association with the unions. There do seem to be some problems in the construction industry but this would be far better investigated by a police task force who can actually prosecute people. If I was giving evidence about intimidation by bikies I would rather talk discreetly to the cops than to a televised circus who has no power to lock anyone up.

In the ultimate display of NIMBY, the Coalition is claiming success in its promise to “stop the boats”. If the boats have stopped why are we paying the US $3 billion for unmanned drones and spending $7.5 million on orange disposable life rafts and $5.7 million on an intelligence gathering technology that aims to locate ”security threats” on the water before they reach Australian shores. Not to mention the $16.8 million cost of extending naval vessel, the Triton, for six months and the $25 million cost of increasing the contract for the armed patrol vessel, the Ocean Protector. All they have done is build a very expensive dam against the rising tide of refugees, thus inundating transit countries who are far less able to help these people than we are.

They remain committed to spend $22 billion on paid parental leave even though the productivity commission said replacement wage PPL was inequitable, very costly, and of little benefit. All expert advice is that childcare is far more important in improving female workforce participation.

In the face of concerted worldwide action on climate change and investment in renewable energy, they insist they will “axe the tax” and get rid of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. This has nothing to do with making your electricity bill cheaper. If they truly wanted to do that they could easily make power GST free just like fresh food and encourage competition through the renewable energy sector. This is once again just a blatant attempt to discredit the previous government by blaming everything that happens on the “carbon tax” which is in fact a temporary fixed price emission trading scheme if we want to be correct.

For a government who wants to cut red tape, Direct Action and PPL are going to be administrative nightmares. We already see Operation Sovereign Borders requiring “the co-operation of 15 departments” – how many public servants will these three policies alone occupy?

Rather than being flexible enough to react to circumstances, or adaptable to changing conditions, or willing to take expert advice, the Coalition have a script which they are determined to deliver regardless of the cost or what is happening in the rest of the world.

The author of the Peter Principle suggests that “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.” Rather than seeking to promote a talented “super-competent” junior employee, Peter suggested that an incompetent manager may set them up to fail or dismiss them because they will likely “violate the first commandment of hierarchical life with incompetent leadership: [namely that] the hierarchy must be preserved”. We mustn’t have any of those pesky scientists or expert public servants or, God forbid, women, showing us up.

Peter goes on to say that “Staff who find themselves with what they consider to be incompetent superiors may try to “manage upward” and support or manipulate them to be more effective, or may simply devise ways to minimise the damage and influence they have on the organisation.” Peta Credlin is never more than a few feet from Tony. She sits at the table with world leaders carefully managing what her creation says and does.

A similar theory was proposed by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon series. In his 1996 book, The Dilbert Principle, Adams suggested that “the least smart people are promoted, simply because they’re the ones you don’t want doing actual work.” We really need to find something to keep George Brandis occupied or he is just going to keep spending a fortune on trashy books to fill his gargantuan custom-made bookcases, and on “networking” at weddings. Other than approving raids and redefining human rights, George has spent a lot of time correcting grammar in preparation for ‘repeal day’ – the so-called bonfire of regulations.

The deregulation of financial advisers should give us all a clue about the mentality of this government. They have our money to invest but they refuse to be obligated to invest it in our best interest. To paraphrase Gough Whitlam…

Well may they say God save the Queen, because nothing will save the country (other than an election).

We can afford $25 million for a Royal Commission, but not $9 million for indigenous legal aid.


“THE Abbott government will strip funding from the peak Aboriginal legal aid organisation and policy positions in its state affiliates, but has moderated the extent of cuts to at-the-coalface services following an outcry from the indigenous community.

The Coalition today will announce the defunding of the peak National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and all law reform and policy officer positions within each state and territory affiliate, saving $9 million over three years.”

The Australian, Dec 17, 2013

“FORMER Labor government ministers, including former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, will be compelled to give evidence as part of a $25 million Royal Commission into the botched roof insulation program.

The Abbott Government will announce the scope of the judicial inquiry, which will be led by prominent Brisbane lawyer Ian Hanger and will be asked to report by mid-2014.

In a move designed to expose the role played by former Labor ministers, the Royal Commission will examine what “advice, warning or recommendations” were sought or given to the former Rudd Government.”, Novemember 25th, 2013

It does seem odd that we can afford $25 million for a Royal Commission, when so many other things are being cut. I’m sure you can all make a case for the hypocrisy of the Abbott Government. In fact, there’s a compelling case that hypocrisy is one of their core values.

But what seems most odd to me is the political strategy behind the decision. What do they hope to achieve?

As Sir Humphrey Appleby (“Yes, Prime Minister”) put it:

“In the world of government there are two principal rules:

  • One, never look into something you don’t have to, and
  • Two, never start an inquiry unless you know in advance what the results will be.”

Yes, I know that the general expectation is – because of the terms of reference – that the results of the Royal Commission will condemn Rudd and Garrett and give the government a stick with which they can beat the Labor Party. That may well be the result. However, there seem to me no scenarios in which Abbott will come out of this a clear winner.

Let’s take the best case for the Coalition: The Royal Commission finds that Rudd and/or Garrett were negligent and condemns them for their rush and lack of proper regulation. As this is already the belief of most of the population (thanks to the current government and the Murdoch media), there’ll be an element of “Did we really need to spend $25 million to find out this?” And as both Rudd and Garrett are no longer MPs, then it’s harder to blame the current Labor Party.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that Royal Commission have a tendency to make recommendations. Potentially, these could be inconsistent with a government hell-bent on removing “red tape” and “speeding up” processes for employers. Even if they’d appointed Peter Reith to head the investigation, it’d be hard to come up with a conclusion that there needs to be more regulation to prevent deaths, but only in schemes that Labor introduce, because under a Liberal Government, employers can be trusted to ensure adequate safety training. And again, $25 million is a lot of money if Abbott is just going to say that they don’t see any need to implement the Commission’s findings.

Of course, that’s the best scenario. What if the Royal Commission were to find that neither Rudd nor Garrett were in any way responsible? Or even, while they failed to ensure adequate safety training, in fact, it was the employers who were principally to blame for the deaths and housefires? Anything which reduces the blame for Labor in the public mind will diminish the Liberal’s capacity to use the Home Insulation Scheme as a political football.

And, of course, it becomes harder for the Coalition to bring up the topic of the Home Insulation Scheme while it’s the subject of a Royal Commission – it could be perceived as trying to exert undue influence. Although, given the way they’ve tried to browbeat the ABC, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.

Whatever, in a time of cutbacks, it’s a lot of money to spend when I doubt that it’ll achieve its aims – which, I’m sure Abbott would argue is to ensure that the same mistakes aren’t repeated. More cynically, I’d suggest that it won’t achieve his actual aim – to change the way people vote at the next election. Those who blame Rudd or Garrett will continue to do so, as will those who wish to exonerate them. But, for most, it’ll be old news. As John Howard said about the WMDs, the public have “moved on”.

Ever since 1975, the Liberals seem to have adopted a fairly standard modus operandi. In Opposition, they say that Labor is the “worst government in the history of the world” and “sending the state/country broke”. In government, they say that things are worse than expected, and it’ll take them a long time to fix things but it’s all Labor’s fault. After a few years, people get sick of hearing whose fault it is and just want things fixed – and the Liberals by that time have usually made such a mess of Health and Education, that Labor only have to have a half-way decent policy to be voted in.

Unfortunately for Abbott, many people seem to have reached the “We don’t care whose fault it is, fix it” stage much more quickly than normal. I don’t see harking back to something that happened under a Prime Minister and Minister that are no longer in Parliament, makes it sound like Abbott has a clear plan for the future. It starts to sound like an argument where someone brings up a time several years earlier when you were in the wrong – you sense that they may just feel that they’re losing the current discussion. “I know I didn’t I ring to tell you that I wouldn’t be home for dinner and you’ve been waiting to eat and when I didn’t answer my phone you got worried, but let’s not forget that in 1996 you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, so I don’t see why you think you have any right to complain!”

When Labor left office, the debt was $284 billlion, and while it would be impossible to turn that around immediately, to argue that we need to scrap the debt limit because there’s no way we can stop it getting to twice that in the next three years, doesn’t sound like the mob who promised us a surplus in every Budget once they were elected. I’m not arguing that the debt needs to turned around that quickly, just that it seems strange that they could attack Labor for incorrectly promising a surplus, but ask us to simply ignore their own guarantees.

Yes, I know that most of you will want to argue that Labor didn’t, in fact, “leave a mess”. And I certainly don’t agree that the Government was “dysfunctional” as so many in the media like to write. I think I agree with sentiments expressed by Tanya Plibersek:

“I would give us nine out of ten for governing the country, I’d give us zero out of ten for governing ourselves. I think it’s pretty plain we had too many people playing their own games and not playing for the team.”

I think the mistake the Liberals are making and will continue to make is that they want to keep contesting the 2010 election. My best advice for Labor is not to make the same mistake.

Timid silence


Image courtesy of

I have just enjoyed the most wonderful day with my extended family – a very diverse group of people from whom I learn a great deal, and whose love and support I can always rely on. That doesn’t mean we always agree, far from it. We all have a love of learning (shout out to my niece who just got 99.65 ATAR score in her HSC without doing ANY maths or science – I forgive you honey) and we often have strong opinions that we are more than willing to express.

Having said that, there is always respect for the other person, even when we vehemently disagree. We have practising Catholics, atheist scientists, humanists that reject labels, and many other individual philosophies. We have staunch Liberal voters, people who find Tony Abbott not only inadequate but dangerous, and others who would probably not even vote if given the choice.

I look at all these people and recognise the contribution they make to our society each in their own way. We all do it differently, but I am very proud of my family, what they achieve, and what they do to make this world a better place.

Sometime late in high school, my father, a very wise man, said to me “It is not your job to always point out when people are wrong.” I still struggle with that (hearing family snorting) and have to remind myself often of how insightful those words were and what good advice it was.

We all must recognise that you cannot bludgeon someone into thinking the same way that you do. We should take more time to listen respectfully to each other and to accept that our differences can actually be a productive thing if we can learn to work together regardless of our beliefs.

In the spirit of Xmas, learning, tolerance and inclusivity I listened to what some of our Christian leaders had to say today.

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, spoke about selfies being pictures of “faces that have the self-image of God – those for whom Jesus came to offer new life.”

I found myself wondering what the point of this message was other than trying to make the same old stuff sound hip (and if you think Kevin Rudd is hip then you probably need some PR advice).

Uniting Church president Reverend Andrew Dutney said “Not everyone has been made to feel welcome in our country. If that sounds like your year please take heart. You are never alone on your journey. God is with you, constantly reaching out to you in love.”

If God is with the refugees seeking asylum in this country he must wonder where the hell we are.

Melbourne’s Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart used his annual Christmas message to call on the church to reach out to victims of sexual abuse. “We also recognise that grief is part of faith. Part of us can wonder why bad things happen to good people,” he said.

This “grief is part of faith” thing I don’t understand. It is inevitable that we will all experience grief in our lives, what part it plays in faith is the bit I don’t get. Shouldn’t faith in something be an edifying, uplifting experience? I always thought faith implied confidence and trust rather than grief. And it is more than part of me wondering why the abuse of so many children was ignored.

He went on to say “We sometimes cry out ‘why’ to our God. As a church we’re all tested especially when we see innocent people suffer. During these days of the Royal Commission, we pray especially for the innocent victims of sexual abuse in the church and acknowledge the courage of those victims who have come forward to speak of their abuse.”

I am crying out ‘why’ to the Catholic church and the other institutions entrusted with the care of our children who so abysmally abused that trust and destroyed so many lives in the belief that their reputation was more important than the truth and the protection of our children. It’s nice of you to pray for the victims “during these days of the Royal Commission”. Helping them when they “had the courage to come forward” would have been a more admirable course.

The Archbishop of Westminster urged people to give “a special thought and prayer” to Christians around the world who suffer for their faith. It seems grief and suffering is part of the membership deal. The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell also spoke of this saying:

“We acknowledge the wide scepticism and occasional hostility of those around us, but because we know Christ we should have the courage of our convictions, we should not lapse into timid silence and we should not be frightened to appear to be different,” he said.

Rest assured Cardinal Pell, we will not lapse into timid silence.

I wish all of you the best this festive season and hope we can all remember what is important in life.