The aged care services minister has denied the sector is in crisis despite thousands of cases in residential facilities and reports of widespread under-staffing.
Richard Colbeck says he doesn’t deny the circumstances are extremely difficult but the infection rate — around 0.6 per cent — was the same as last year despite Omicron’s virulence.
“The sector is performing extremely well despite the difficulties of the Omicron wave,” Senator Colbeck told a parliamentary COVID committee on Wednesday.
“There have been so many attempts to talk down the aged care sector, they have worked extremely hard and the statistics demonstrate the work they’ve done … is having a positive effect.”
Vaccination rates had also made a big difference in minimising the potential impact of the outbreak, the minister added.
Senator Colbeck was also forced to defend his decision to attend the cricket in Hobart instead of a committee hearing in mid-January.
He backed his decision, saying he was balancing his sport and aged care portfolios and it would be hypocritical to not stand by it.
“All through that weekend I continued to work on matters relating to both of my portfolios but particularly aged care, even though it was a weekend and I was attending the test match,” he said.
“So it was a decision that I made. I have to stand by it and live with it, Senator. Other people will make judgements about it, I’m sure, plenty already have.
“I am very cognisant of the balance between my portfolios. It was a decision that I made, I have to stand by and live with it.”
Senator Colbeck says there was no prioritisation of the sport portfolio, but the test — the first Ashes in Hobart — was of significance after he’d worked with Cricket Australia for months to ensure the match took place.
“I have never refused to appear before the committee – the circumstances was around timing,” he said.
“I was only too happy to work with the committee to organise an appropriate date.”