28 January 2022

News last week that the NDIS would not reimburse a woman living with muscular dystrophy the $1,300 she spent on rapid antigen tests to ensure her carers were COVID-free shows how low Australia has sunk under the Morrison Government.

Most Australians pride ourselves on the belief that we are an egalitarian society where we take care of one another as needed.

Sadly, this is increasingly not the case, and many are being left behind.

Australians have been welcomed to 2022 with the sight of empty supermarket shelves, swamped testing centres, protracted wait times for test results, the mysterious re-direction of RATs ordered by organisations, and the cancellation of appointments for kids’ vaccinations due to supply issues.

It’s no secret that the Federal Government’s unpreparedness and mismanagement of the Omicron outbreak is the cause for this breakdown in the nation’s supply chain.

The ineptitude has also damaged us internationally, with the United States and Europe warning against travel to Australia.

The Morrison Government sits at the centre of all this chaos, uncertainty and pain.

The Government was warned last year of the need to order RATs, but, in a repeat of the botched vaccine rollout, failed to act and plan ahead.

The Prime Minister’s response (other than attempting to shift blame to the states – again!) has been to reduce isolation times (supercharging the size and severity of the outbreak), and, disgracefully, suggest children should drive forklifts to ease workforce pressures.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so disturbing how little regard Scott Morrison has for the health and safety of young people.

Luckily, the States and Territories rejected the idea.

But amid this chaos, vulnerable Australians – people with disability, older Australians, First Nations people, and the unemployed – are being left behind.

Leaked Health Department data shows vaccination of NDIS participants lags behind the general population, with only 14.8% of all receiving a booster shot and 83.8% double vaccinated.

Amid this, up to 20% of disability service workers have been forced into Covid isolation, leaving some clients without access to vital services, while others cannot get access to free RATs to safely allow carers into their homes for essential support.

Meanwhile, COVID outbreaks are ripping through aged care facilities and a survey of staff found the system is so overrun that some residents are missing out on medication and meals.

Vaccination rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to trail the general population, with less than 50% fully vaccinated in some regions.

Jobseekers face having their payments suspended if they fail or refuse to meet mutual obligation requirements, even as the Government closes Centrelink shopfronts across the country, including in Canberra.
These vulnerable groups have struggled for years as successive Liberal Governments sought to dismantle Australia’s social safety net.

The most vulnerable Australians should be at the forefront of pandemic planning, but this Government doesn’t care and has failed to learn from its mistakes.

A Labor Government will make sure that Australians won’t be left behind, especially in a pandemic.