Monday, October 12, 2020

Covid-19 facts now clear – let’s shout them out

Recent polls that show a majority of Australians support tough restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 may well reflect public perceptions of the risks associated with the disease.

Those perceptions were formed when the disease first emerged, with the dramatic scenes in Wuhan and the agony of the passengers stranded on cruise ships giving them tangible form. As hospital systems struggled to cope, terrifying images of overrun intensive-care units made the estimates of devastating death rates all too salient.

The strong — indeed, unprecedented — reaction of governments, in Australia and overseas, can only have confirmed the public’s fears, transforming vague impressions into deeply held convictions.

It has, however, become increasingly clear that while COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease that can be extremely dangerous for the elderly and for patients with extensive comorbidities, it can be effectively managed. And it is also clear that as the management of the disease has improved, infection fatality rates — that is, the proportion of cases resulting in death — have fallen steeply.

So have the best estimates of the IFR, with Stanford University professor John Ioannidis, in a paper soon to be published by the World Health Organisation, pointing out that the initial studies focused mainly on the epicentres of the pandemic with the highest death tolls, rather than looking at the full range of countries the disease had affected.

Correcting for that bias, Ioannidis concludes that the global IFR from COVID-19 is 0.24 per cent, while that in countries such as Australia is as low as 0.1 per cent.

The contrast with the IFRs used in the modelling that informed our successive lockdowns could not be starker: those IFRs were at least three times Ioannidis’s global estimate, and exceeded his estimate for Australian conditions six times over, as did that used in the modelling Premier Daniel Andrews relied on to justify the most recent Victorian lockdown.

But although it is widely recognised that fatality rates are far lower than initially thought, public perceptions have remained frozen in time. That is, in some respects, unsurprising. Ever since systematic studies of public attitudes to risk began in the 1950s, researchers have found that new threats are judged to be far more menacing than those that are longstanding, regardless of underlying differences in probabilities of occurrence.

Moreover, the greater the extent to which risks are viewed as being incurred involuntarily, and as affecting large groups rather than single individuals, the more likely they will be considered more dangerous than they are.

All those biases have been compounded by today’s media environment. Already in the mid-1980s, Roger Kasperson and his colleagues stressed the “social amplification” of risk that occurs through the media’s focus on catastrophic outcomes at the expense of those instances of a phenomenon that are managed successfully. Now, as the media competes frantically for attention, that process magnifies perceived risks more surely and swiftly than ever.

It is, for instance, a fact that 92,000 Australians have died since the virus first hit our shores; but although COVID-19 accounts for only some 890 of those deaths, and for an even lower share of the total years of life lost, every new case leads the evening news, reinforcing its image as the grim reaper. One might have hoped that the experts would set the picture straight. Perhaps because they see their goal as being to frighten the public into compliance, they have, more often than not, done the opposite.

Never was that clearer than when Jeannette Young, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, grievously misinterpreting a simulation undertaken at the University of Glasgow, claimed that “on average, people who died from COVID-19 lost 10 years of life”.

Since the average age of the disease’s victims in Australia is more than 85, Young’s claim implies that those lost to COVID-19 would otherwise have survived into their mid-90s, despite multiple comorbidities. In other words, were it not for the virus, they would have died a decade after their cohort’s modal age at death — a claim that taxes the credulity of the credulous.

In reality, the best and most recent study — undertaken by France’s National Institute of Demography, drawing on the actual outcomes of France’s first wave — finds that the vast majority of the virus’s victims were already close to the end of life.

Overall, the disease reduced French life expectancy by one-tenth of a year for women and two-tenths of a year for men, which, while by no means trivial, is a smaller reduction than influenza caused in 2008, 2012 and 2015.

None of that means that COVID-19 should be viewed as no more serious than the flu. On the contrary, until a vaccine or a cure become available, the case for prudence remains compelling, as does the need for effective control measures. There is, however, a vast difference between prudence, which rationally weighs likelihoods, and panic.

Getting that balance right is no easy task, with plenty of scope for error either way. But if exaggerated perceptions of the dangers have dominated, it is not merely because of human fallibility; rather, it is also because they accord so readily with the catastrophic zeitgeist of the age.

Fuelled by an apocalypse industry that feeds off the fear it spreads, every threat — from bushfires and droughts to viruses such as Zika — portends the end of life as we know it. With nature unleashing its final revenge on mankind, the moment one drama recedes, another rushes in to sustain the sense of impending doom.

The result is a world view in which the chasms that yawn beneath us are invariably deeper and more menacing than the peaks that beckon us are high and inviting. Lost — or at least badly damaged — is the axiom of progress, the assumption, dynamic in its self-evidence, that although there are terrible setbacks, detours and blind alleys, humanity ultimately moves forward, with Australia advancing more than most.

But no society can live by dread alone. And a society that stands quaking in the antechamber of its own extinction is condemned to a stagnation that no amount of stimulus spending can cure. Eternally “keeping a-hold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse”, it inevitably saps the ambition, aspiration and self-reliance on which sustained growth relies, replacing them with dependence and the desperate search for security. That, and not the staggering debt and unemployment the lockdowns have wreaked, is the greatest threat we face.

And that is why tackling the fearmongers is so important. The facts, as far as COVID-19 is concerned, are becoming clear; it’s time our governments and their advisers proclaimed them from the rooftops.


Strange but true … Donald Trump is better for Australia than Joe Biden

A Donald Trump victory would be better for Australia than a Joe Biden presidency. This counter­intuitive view is widely, if semi-­secretly, held in Australian national security circles, and it is ­almost certainly right.

On foreign policy, despite the crazy tweets, frantic and destabilising turnover of key administration personnel, frequent bouts of boorish personal behaviour from Trump, and numerous outright mistakes, the Trump presidency has been significantly more successful than Barack Obama’s. And much better for Australia.

A Biden presidency would likely reprise Obama, but in a weaker and more woke fashion.

These judgments are provisional, on-balance judgments. Either Trump 2 or Biden 1 could go in several different ways.

The question might seem academic, given how far ahead Biden is. But don’t write Trump off quite yet. The election still depends on turnout, and Trump voters are more enthusiastic than Biden voters. The Republicans have been registering more new voters than the Democrats. RealClearPolitics still has Trump a fraction closer in key battleground states than he was to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

And consider this: at this point four years ago, the Access Hollywood tapes were disclosed revealing shocking remarks by Trump regarding his private behaviour. In reaction, there was hardly a cricket team’s worth of people in the whole of the US who thought Trump would become president.

Yet he won. That doesn’t mean he’ll win this time, but don’t count your chickens too early.

On Trump versus Biden, the arguments are strong that Biden would be more problematic for Australia. On bilateral issues, Trump has been a very good president for Australia. There is not a single issue where Canberra could have asked for much more. This reflects well on Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, the two PMs who have dealt with Trump, and on our diplomacy. It also reflects well on Trump, and the standing Australia has within the US system. Congress and the US bureaucracy supported Australia throughout Trump’s term.

Trump honoured Obama’s deal to take asylum seekers from Manus Island, even though he hated it. He levied tariffs, including on steel and aluminium, on many nations including US allies, but not on Australia. Intelligence co-operation could not be closer. Trump went to great lengths to be a lavish host for Scott Morrison’s visit last year. Such gestures inform the US bureaucracy, and political community, about a relationship’s standing. Military co-operation has increased. Though it started off under Obama, the US marine rotations in the Northern Territory continued to grow.

OK, Trump critics would concede he has been pretty good to Australia bilaterally but has trashed US standing internationally and hurt multilateral institutions. This ultimately damages Australia’s interests. But this is not quite true, or at least there are two sides to it. Trump has done much better in Asia than in Europe. Much of what is labelled global disgust with Trump is actually ­European hostility, plus The New York Times and Hollywood. But a global outlook that doesn’t include Asia isn’t a global outlook at all.

The Trump administration, though it prefers deals to institutions and unilateralism to multilateralism, will build institutions, especially in Asia, where it’s useful. This week in Tokyo, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue had its second foreign ministers’ meeting. Foreign ministers of the US, Australia, India and Japan convened. This is a significant stage in the Quad’s evolution. It is the first time an Indian foreign minister has travelled overseas specifically for a Quad meeting, rather than a Quad gathering on the sidelines of a big multilateral meeting. It was important in bedding down the strategic identity of the government led by Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. And it was the umpteenth visit to the region by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who held a long bilateral meeting with ­Aus­tralia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, the night ­before the Quad.

This development of the Quad owes a great deal to the statecraft of Pompeo and US diplomacy. As ever, Asia prefers a Republican administration in Washington rather than a Democrat administration. The Republicans are the party of the Pacific, the Democrats the party of the Atlantic.

Many of Trump’s most ardent critics in Australia demonstrate the narrowly derivative and inadequate nature of their inter­national outlook by slavishly replicating the trans-Atlantic critique of Trump, while displaying no appreciation of the Asian view.

Of course, within Asia the ­Chinese don’t like Trump at all. But the five Asian nations that have stood most strongly for their national interests and against Chinese hegemonic tendencies in the region — Japan, India, Vietnam, Singapore and Australia — have all had a pretty productive experience of Trump.

Asian nations are, like Trump, characteristically much more concerned with results than with process. Trump himself is concerned with what nations do more than with what they say. Australia, partly because of our increased defence effort and our straight­forward political style, has achieved a unique closeness to the Trump administration — certainly much greater closeness than we ever achieved with Obama. This is most unlikely to be repeated under Biden. That is important, because we would ­likely have less influence with a Biden administration than we do with a Trump administration.

Southeast Asia, too, has generally found the Trump administration quite OK to deal with. It is true that Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership, but Hillary Clinton had promised to do likewise and Obama had never submitted the TPP to Congress.

The other area where Trump has manifestly done much better than Obama is the Middle East. Trump has midwifed two new peace treaties between Israel and Arab nations. Everything Obama touched in the Middle East turned to absolute dust. Trump has been a force for stability in the Middle East, while Obama was a force for chaos — as in the fallout of the Libyan intervention and, earlier, the Arab Spring. Biden would re-adopt all the destructive elements of the old-think Obama paradigm in the Middle East, including ­recommitting to the plainly in­adequate Iran deal.

On China, Trump has been ahead of the US political leadership class. He has been erratic at times, and has certainly made some serious missteps, but he has understood the profound ways in which Beijing flouts international norms, and the depth of the challenge it poses to the US and its ­allies. If these issues are now more widely understood, this is partly because of Trump’s advocacy, even as Trump has not been able to make a comprehensive and ­coherent case.

What about Biden?

In some ways, the future trajectory of a Biden presidency is unknowable. There are at least three separate foreign policy traditions in the Democratic Party. One is the hard-headed Democrats associated with Kurt Campbell, the former Assistant Secretary of State and author of the Obama pivot to Asia, which promised more than it delivered but was better than nothing; and Michelle Flournoy, who if we are lucky, might become Biden’s ­Defence Secretary.

These are muscular Democrats, particularly realistic in their views of China.

Then there are the Obama-era global engagers and multilateral institution types, associated with John Kerry, the former secretary of state; Susan Rice, who could well become Biden’s secretary of state; and Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former deputy national security adviser.

This group tends to believe that engagement itself is the objective of foreign policy. It is preoccupied with global institutions and global issues. It is deeply conventional — indeed solidly and anachronistically old-fashioned in its analyses. It suffers acute paradigm paralysis. It is drawn to the lyric poetry of foreign affairs as a kind of spiritual substitute for religion. It is perennially preoccupied with climate change and with sweeping, grandiloquent declarations on such issues. And it is very uncomfortable with, and ineffective in, the use of power.

The Chinese have learned to play this group like the strings of a harp. Thus Xi Jinping recently ­declared that China would be carbon neutral by 2060. This earned Beijing worldwide good publicity, but only a very few commentators stopped to ask how you could square this alleged commitment with the fact that Beijing has approved the construction of more new coal-fired power stations this year than in the past two years; that it is financing new coal-fired power stations all over the developing world; and that a vast ­proportion of its Belt and Road ­initiative projects are fossil fuel projects.

The reconciliation is actually simple. The year 2060 is science fiction territory for any government commitment. Beijing can make these announcements and not be impeded or constrained by them in any way, do just what it likes at home, and gullible ­Western opinion — European opinion, especially — will fall for it every time.

Biden gives every sign that he will be a dithering and weak president. He often tells friends that all politics is personal. Kam­ala Harris said at the vice-presidential debate that Biden told her foreign affairs is not complex, it’s just relationships.

In this, Biden betrays the same conceptual confusion as both Trump and Obama, to think that personality will seriously influence geopolitics. But it is surely London to a brick that Beijing will seduce Biden with some nonsensical falderal on climate change, and in return face significantly ­reduced geostrategic pressure from Washington.

The third Democratic Party foreign policy tradition is the “new left” wave of woke activism, which is where all the energy in the contemporary Democratic Party resides. That will merge with the second tradition to almost certainly make climate change the centrepiece of Biden foreign policy — a priority he has already announced anyway.

Biden and Harris are both committed to cutting US defence spending, which means probably an inferior US presence in Asia.

Taken altogether, this all likely means trouble down the track for Australia. Obama sandbagged former prime minister Tony ­Abbott with a viciously partisan speech at the G20 summit in Brisbane. It was the most blatant US interference in our domestic politics in decades, and it was done without notice or consideration for Washington’s Australia ally.

The hyper-partisan Democrat activists who produced that monstrosity, on fire with self righteous zeal for their pet causes, are influential in Biden’s camp today.

A second Trump administration, on the other hand, would likely be a somewhat moderated version of the past four years. Trump has much more experience now. He will still be constrained by the fear of im­peachment and all the normal checks and balances of the US ­system, plus the normal loss of authority a president experiences in his second term.

Anchored as we are in Asia, not Europe — even less Manhattan, Hollywood or Silicon Valley — Trump Mark II would likely be better for Australia than Biden.

Strange, but true.


Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner labels Greenie plan to replace shark nets as 'pure madness'

Conservationists have sent a report to Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner outlining a $33 million plan to replace shark nets and drumlines with non-lethal alternatives.

Biologist with the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), Dr Leo Guida, said their report offered non-lethal shark mitigation methods that "modernise and improve beach safety".

"The current methods are 60 years old, and there's nowhere else in our daily lives that we would accept safety standards that are 60 years old."

"The wildlife cost is too high and quite literally for no safety benefit whatsoever," he said.

But Mr Furner has described suggestions to remove drumlines and shark nets as "pure madness".

The renewed call for the replacement of shark nets comes as hundreds of images of marine life caught in nets and drumlines off Queensland's coast are released under a right to information request made by a documentary film crew that is associated with AMCS.

What are the alternatives?

There have been two fatal shark attacks at Queensland beaches with nets or drumlines in place since 1962, including at Greenmount Beach in September.

Alternative shark mitigation measures recommended by the report include the use of drones to monitor beaches and eco-shark barriers.

Eco shark barriers are made of plastic with 25 to 30-centimetre-wide gaps, aimed at deterring marine life from entering an area, without entangling them like nets do.

SMART (Shark Management Alert in Real Time) drumlines, which alert a Department of Fisheries contractor when a shark has been caught so it can be tagged and relocated, have not been recommended as a replacement to nets or traditional drumlines in the report.

The report, co-signed by AMCS, Humane Society International, Sea Shepherd, No Shark Cull QLD, Ocean Impact, and the documentary Envoy: Shark Cull, has called for both major parties to provide a timeframe for the removal of shark nets and drumlines.

The conservation groups have estimated that replacing nets and drumlines would cost $33.4 million, with ongoing costs of $4.1 million per year — based on a 2019 review of the shark control program and the market price of the suggested alternatives.

However, eco-barriers have had mixed success, with a trial in northern New South Wales showing they have a minimal impact on marine life but can be damaged in strong surf conditions, posing a moderate risk to surfers.

Call for more immediate action

The State Government removed drumlines from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park after a 2019 Federal Court ruling found that killing sharks did nothing to reduce the risk of unprovoked attacks.

The State Opposition has since committed $15 million to replace drumlines in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park with SMART drumlines.

Dr Guida said "it's great to see" both parties taking steps toward more modern methods, but more immediate, state-wide action is needed.

"We don't want to see our wildlife destroyed."

But Fisheries Minister Mark Furner said the State Government had allocated $1 million per year towards shark control innovation, including the use of drones along some Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast beaches.

"Their proposal to remove shark drumlines and also nets from the waters is just pure madness," he said.

But Mr Furner said drones could not be used along beaches close to airports, making drumlines and nets necessary.

"You would leave swimmers, surfers, beachgoers, unsafe by not having that protection."

According to data from Queensland Fisheries, at least 3,400 turtle, mammal and other bycatch species have been caught in nets or drumlines since 2001.

But Mr Furner said the state's shark control program has "served Queenslanders well in both persuasions of government".

"I'm convinced that the officers of Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol and contractors do their very best to make sure bycatch is released live."

State Government to re-visit potential trial

Mr Furner said the cost of replacing all nets and drumlines in Queensland had not been calculated by the State Government.

"We're looking at trialling different measures first and then coming up with a suitable alternative," he said.

In March, a Department of Fisheries Shark Control Program Scientific Working Group voiced its support for a trial that would see some nets replaced by traditional drumlines during the 2020 whale migration season.

"Shark drumlines aren't ones that you can go into Bunnings and purchase. It's something you need to manage and provide for." "We'll revisit that next year," he said.

The State Opposition's spokesperson for Fisheries, Tony Perrett has been contacted for comment.


Sarah Holland-Batt reveals horrific story of father Tony’s time in aged care home

Your regulators will NOT protect you

A Gold Coast man, much loved by his family, was sent to one of the city’s best aged care homes after developing Parkinson’s. But before long trouble started, and his daughter discovered a horrifying secret.

Set among lush tropical gardens in the heart of the Gold Coast, the aged care home seemed an oasis of peace in a desert of decline.

But appearances can be deceiving. While the facility’s fountain splashed prettily in the courtyard – just like in the brochure, there was abuse occurring behind its closed doors.

The horrible secret was uncovered by award-winning poet and academic Sarah Holland-Batt, who discovered that her father, retired mining engineer Tony, was not only being deliberately targeted by a carer, but was also the subject of catastrophic failures of our aged care system.

In August last year, Sarah was called to testify at the Royal Commission into Aged Care, to detail the five years of maltreatment her father suffered after leaving the family’s Sorrento home due to the progression of his Parkinson’s Disease.

Despite searching for the best aged care address on the Coast, Sarah describes her father’s experience as a “drumbeat of failure” – from being left in soiled clothes, to being given the wrong drugs, to suffering repeated injury and not being treated for serious infections and even broken bones.

In March this year, just one week before Australia’s aged care accommodations were forced into lockdown, Tony died after contracting pneumonia. Surrounded by his family, and at last away from his nursing home nightmare, he passed away peacefully in hospital.

While she misses her father every day, Sarah says she is so grateful his battle is over – that he never again need fight against Parkinson’s, the pandemic, or his aged care provider.

And even though his funeral was held virtually, thanks to Covid restrictions, Tony’s legacy may be greater than he ever imagined, with his daughter being hailed a crusader who is both hoping and helping to overhaul the ailing aged care industry.

With a glittering literary career behind her at the age of just 37 – including winning the 2016 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry, as well as being a critic, editor, poetry columnist for The Australian and an Associate Professor at QUT (and holding a few Masters degrees and a PhD), Sarah is now finding herself increasingly absorbed in her voluntary work to reform aged care.

“When all of this happened to my dad, I thought surely his case had to be an anomaly. Then I started reading and researching and really following the Royal Commission – as well as giving evidence to it – and I’ve ended up with a very good sense of just how badly the system works,” says Sarah, who was born and raised on the Gold Coast but now lives in Brisbane.

“What happened to my dad is actually frighteningly common. The failures that he experienced are emblematic of the industry, not an anomaly at all.

“What is really terrifying is knowing how extremely hard it was to fight against that system for any sort of care, let alone justice, for my dad. And I’m well-educated and relatively young. I have the time and resources to do it, but I barely could. How does anyone stand a chance?”

Sarah says she and her mother noticed the first signs of neglect within weeks of her father moving into the aged care home in 2015.

She said despite fighting for better care, and even after referring issues to police, they continued to battle for his safety and wellbeing throughout those last years of his life.

“Even after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Dad was able to stay at home for the next 15 years, but ultimately he had to move for safety’s sake,” she says.

“So Mum and I did all the inspections, we were extremely diligent and we chose the aged care provider that appeared to have the nicest environment … we didn’t just pick any old one, and it was not cheap.

“But almost immediately we noticed these small things started happening, little things were not being tended to. He had a cold sore that no one had noticed – but how could you not notice when you’re brushing his teeth?

“These small things were really bothering me. I’d come in and he’d be wearing clothes with dried food on them, but they weren’t breakfast foods. Did they dress him in dirty clothes?

“The first big thing we realised was that he wasn’t getting his medication on time. Madopar is extremely important for Parkinson’s patients as it stops the tremors, which then prevents falls, but it must be delivered at an exact time so that it’s an uninterrupted coverage.

“They were missing the window by hours and hours, so he was experiencing huge troughs of no medication and he was repeatedly falling.

“Then he was prescribed medication which actually cancelled out the Madopar altogether, and as a result he fell and broke his hip. That is a catastrophic injury for someone of his age, let alone with Parkinson’s. He never walked again.

“Then no one would come when he called to go to the toilet so he’d try to get there without his wheelchair and fall again … it was a constant drumbeat of failure.”

While these systematic failures were shocking in both their regularity and damage, it was the next injury which up-ended the lives of the Holland-Batts.

After questioning an enormous swelling the size of a tennis ball on Tony’s elbow, Sarah and her mother were pulled aside by another carer and told a horrible secret.

“We were trying to figure out how this infection had occurred, it had obviously been swelling for days, but no one had any answer,” she says.

“But then one carer pulled us aside and said the woman who had been showering Dad had been victimising him. That this woman had let this infection fester and didn’t report it because she didn’t like him.

“She was the night shift carer, she worked alone and she was in charge of showering, she just watched him suffer.

“The whistleblower told us she had seen the woman close the door on Dad, telling the other carers that he was sleeping when he was actually awake and sitting in a dirty incontinence pad, she’d heard this woman yell at him to get his ‘nappies’ in the hall – knowing he can’t walk.

“She’d seen her push his wheelchair away from the bed so that it was out of reach, and tell him that she was ‘sick of your sh**.

“Well, after we heard this, I hit the roof.

“Mum and I wrote to the facility manager demanding answers and insisting this woman be dismissed and asking for assurances that this would never happen again.

“Instead, the manager rang us up to organise a mediation between the carer, my father and ourselves. It just … it was beyond belief. There was nothing to ‘mediate’, she hurt my father when he was at his most vulnerable.”


Sarah says their concerns were never met with appropriate regard and the carer was simply moved to a different ward.

She says she then turned to police and the aged care regulator, but still no action was taken.

“When we finally met with the manager, he showed up wearing a St Patrick’s Day T-shirt and mardi gras necklaces. Just no respect for the seriousness of the situation. It was just a small detail but so indicative of the whole situation. It was profoundly inappropriate.

“The manager was not shocked or surprised or even interested in what had happened to Dad, just upset that we’d been told. He was only worried that the whistleblower hadn’t followed ‘protocol’.

“But as she said to us, she told us because she knew he’d sweep it under the rug.

“He said he couldn’t do anything unless the whisteblower came forward, which was frightening for her, and so I went to the police instead.

“They said it was a civil, not a criminal, matter – which is something that needs to be changed, elder abuse should be considered a criminal act – and so I contacted the aged care regulator.

“That was beyond a farce. There was no fact-finding, no investigation, no interviews, no evidence sought … just a flurry of letters, false statements and false promises – which were simply accepted at face value.”

Sarah says she felt physically ill during this time, worrying that the carer in question would abuse other residents or that she would sneak back to her father’s room.

Ultimately, she says all she could do was ask the whistleblower to come forward, which she eventually did.

“I was then called by the aged care manager who said the carer was no longer at the facility, effective immediately. But I later found out they just moved her to a different aged care home.

“I could not have done any more than I did, but I was never even able to affect any action. What hope do we have to protect our loved ones when the system prefers to protect its failures?”


Sarah says even after the carer left the facility, her father’s care was still sub-par.

She says he suffered another fall where he broke four ribs, but at the hospital they discovered another dark secret.

“They found two other broken ribs that were partially healed. So he’d broken bones and no one had noticed it, or reported it. He was given no pain relief, no treatment, not even any supervision.

“This was a man who was fiercely loved and cared for by his family, but he had years of neglect that we actually paid for. How is this happening? How are we not marching in the streets to change it?

“We should all be terrified of the future if we don’t change the present situation.”

Sarah says while her father’s battle is over, she will never stop fighting for change within the industry until it’s a place where not just basic care is guaranteed, but the best care is delivered.

She says she is eagerly awaiting the final recommendations of the Royal Commission, due to be delivered in February, but says she is concerned that the Federal Government will not commit to all of the changes.

“I initially wrote a submission to the Royal Commission and they called me up to testify, ever since then I’ve continued to write about it and speak about it.

“The commission’s final report will be handed down in February 2021, but the Government will no doubt just cherry pick what it wants to action. It has no appetite for the overhaul we need.

“Why even have the commission if we’re not going to commit to change?

“We need to see a change in staff-to-resident ratios and more stringent training and skill requirements for staff. Right now, you can work as a carer with absolutely no qualifications. None. This is hard physical, mental and emotional work for which you receive little pay and little support … add to it that anyone can do it, and it’s little wonder we’re not getting the best staff.

“Having said that, so many of the staff are wonderful people but they have way too much work and no support. They are breaking under the strain and when they do, it’s the residents who suffer.

“We also need to see financial accountability from aged care providers. They’re given enormous federal funding - resident fees make up only 20 per cent of the funding, and 80 per cent is contributed by the taxpayer - but there are no regulations on how they spend it. All they have to do is meet accreditation standards, which are ridiculously low, and then they get a pile of cash which they don’t have to account for.

“The provider can choose to spend that money on care, on their grounds, on staff or just keep it for profit.

“We need a national register of aged care workers so that if there is abuse, as with my father, that worker is not just quietly moved around like a Catholic priest. We need absolute transparency.

“And we absolutely need to overhaul the regulator so that it has teeth. We need someone to complain to and who will take action when we do. That was the most outrageous thing of my family’s journey.

“It felt like I was screaming into the abyss while my father was being ground down.”

Sarah says while the outcome of her fight to change aged care is yet to be determined, she’s confident that her father would be proud.

“Dad was a very private person and so I worry sometimes about sharing so much about his life,” she says.

“But above that, he was a very ethical person with a strong sense of justice. I believe that, on balance, he would want me to tell his story. He would want to serve the greater good.

“I just want to see some action come from this. I’m tired of hearing the government say they will ‘consider recommendations’ and yet do nothing. It’s about creating meaningful change, it’s not about paying lip service or keeping up appearances.”

Because as Sarah knows far too well, appearances can be deceiving.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here

No comments: