Elderly Services Minister Richard Colbeck said he was standing by his decision to go cricketing as a deadly outbreak of Omicron swept through the sector, saying he ‘continued to pay attention to the care of people elderly” in the three-day Ashes test.
“I’m very careful about balancing and acknowledging the different parts of my portfolio,” Senator Colbeck, who is also the Minister of Sports, said during a Senate COVID-19 committee hearing on Wednesday afternoon.
‘I wasn’t just cricketing,’ he said, detailing virtual meetings held over the three days with aged care operators and the health department, discussing issues such as clinics recall and lack of staff.
The Tasmanian senator said he takes the responsibilities of sport and aged care seriously and that the first Ashes Test to be held in Hobart was “an important event” for the state.
The committee chair, Labor Senator Katy Gallagher, referred to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comment that Senator Colbeck’s involvement in cricket ‘didn’t pass the pub test’ and asked: ‘Why should you keep your job?”
She pointed to data showing that at the time there were outbreaks in thousands of aged care facilities, which were under such pressure that former NSW Premier Mike Baird, called for the deployment of the military to help provide care.
The minister said he had “continued to work diligently and pay attention to the items that need attention” in the aged care sector during the three days of the test match from January 14.
“It’s a decision I made, I have to stick with it and live with it,” he said.
“I spent most of the day working on the eldercare outbreak on the morning of the 14th.”
Senator Colbeck said ‘other people will pass judgments on this’, there were other parliamentarians at the Ashes test that day, naming shadow agriculture minister Julie Collins who he says has quit Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese’s regional tour of Queensland ‘to make sure she could be at cricket.
“So I wasn’t the only one,” the minister said.
Senator Gallagher asked the Minister if he accepted that the residential care system for the elderly “is in total crisis?”
“No, I don’t accept that the system is in total crisis,” he replied.
“I know he’s certainly working very, very hard to manage the impacts, particularly of the Omicron outbreak. My view, and the data to back it up, is that the industry is performing and doing exceptionally well. performed in the work he does.”
Independent Tasmania Senator Jacqui Lambie slammed Senator Colbeck for telling the committee he couldn’t attend a January 14 hearing because he didn’t want to ‘divert resources’ from the Omicron government’s response , suggesting that he “wasn’t being truthful” and “would rather go for it”. with crickets and drink mousses.
Senator Colbeck said he stands by his statement and did not want the Department of Health to be distracted from responding to the high number of cases in the community and aged care sector at the era.
“I have never refused to appear before the committee,” he said.
“The conversation we had was about timing.”