Media Releases


April 01, 2021


(Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell Package Plays)

VIRGINIA TRIOLI, HOST: You don’t want to play ‘the blame game.’ Mark Butler is the Shadow Health Minister. Mark Butler, good morning, you’re not here to play the blame game, are you?

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING: That never happens in federal politics. Just on comedy shows Virginia, you know that.

TRIOLI: That’s absolutely true, silly me. The serious part of this however, is of course the Commonwealth has run over, is about to run over its own timeline when it comes to vaccinating the aged care workforce and also those in aged care. You would have heard just before from Annie Butler. Did any of that ring true for you? Is it an issue of workforce? Is it an issue of using the companies they have? 

BUTLER: It’s difficult to know because there is a lack of transparency in all of this. Certainly, they have subcontracted these arrangements out to a bunch of private companies and time and time again I have been told by aged care providers and my own colleagues that aged care facilities are getting all their residence ready, often family members are coming in to provide their mother, or father, or loved one with comfort during the vaccination process and no one turned up. 

Or the doses are sent to the wrong facility. I have had cases here were vaccines meant for South Australia were sent to Western Australian - not just the wrong facility in SA. 

And the numbers are important. You mentioned them when you were on with Annie Butler. Only 10 per cent of aged care facilities have received both doses of the vaccine. That’s the really important point. A lot of these numbers here are reflecting single doses. To be properly protected residents, everyone, needs to receive two doses of these vaccines. The rollout strategy committed to all of aged care being vaccinated by the end of this week. Only 10 per cent of facilities have been fully vaccinated. 

We don’t know how many aged care workers have been vaccinated because those number aren’t being published by the Government. This strategy is really running off course and instead of doing the hard work to get it back on track again the Federal Government, to pick up Shaun Micallef’s point is yet again, is picking up fights with state governments. 

TRIOLI: Well, it is actually though, ‘the blame game’ to one side. It is a division of labour and responsibility between the states and the Commonwealth that is now (I think many people saw it at the beginning) even more clearly can be seen as a failed strategy. We’re surely going to have to work together as Commonwealth and states to get this done. As Annie Butler said the Commonwealth doesn’t have the workforce. Is it time for the state governments to actually step in, with the work force and their healthcare networks and all the other nurse vaccinators besides that they can get and take this over? 

BUTLER: Gladys Berejiklian made that point only this morning. She has made that point on a number of occasions. Other state leaders have as well. They have been keen to take up this strategy, this rollout, and they have been rejected by this Federal Government. The states are busy vaccinating their own health workers and their own emergency services workers. Scott Morrison and Greg Hunt have said that they will take responsibility for vaccinating aged care residents, as they should, and the broader community through their GP network and ultimately, in time, the community pharmacy network as well. And it is those elements, the Commonwealth responsibilities, that are running far behind schedule. And although we don’t have the same time imperative obviously as some countries in the Northern Hemisphere have with their health emergencies, there is a time imperative here. We need to get this generation of vaccines into people before the variants continue to spread and we see the need potentially for booster shots.   

TRIOLI: That’s right. 

BUTLER: And also look what we see with the Brisbane lockout. Every economic hit because of another outbreak with a community which is unvaccinated costs jobs, it costs economic activity. 

TRIOLI: Well, exactly right, and also as we ramp up particularly here in Victoria when we return to international travellers coming back and the potential for variants to come into the country. It’s a real concern. Just finally Mark Butler then, What’s your serious concern here? And if you can quickly, what’s one thing that might fix this that can be quickly done by the Commonwealth? 

BUTLER: Well, better information in the first place. But also, there are obviously lots of vaccines that are in the country that are not in GP surgeries being put into people’s arms. GPs have been telling us time and time again that they are being told by the Commonwealth they might get 50 doses a week or 100 doses a week. That’s simply not enough. We’re supposed to be getting almost a million doses rolling off the lines from CSL in Melbourne every week. There are lots and lots of doses that have been received from overseas that just aren’t in GP surgeries yet. So we’ve just got to get this back on track. 

TRIOLI: Good to talk to you this morning Mark Butler, thanks so much. 

BUTLER: Thanks Virginia.