Minister Colbeck is clearly out of his depth.
Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck has again been caught out using incorrect figures regarding coronavirus deaths in nursing homes.
It comes months after he was forced to apologise for his failure to know how many elderly Australian residents had died from COVID-19 while in aged care.
Senator Colbeck defended Australia’s nursing home death toll when questioned by opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally in a parliamentary hearing in October last year, declaring New Zealand had experienced a similar rate of aged-care deaths to Australia.
He said 72 per cent of Kiwi coronavirus deaths were linked to New Zealand nursing homes compared with the 75 per cent seen in Australia.
Senator Keneally seized on an October study produced by the International Long-Term Care Policy Network that showed the New Zealand figure was not as high as Senator Colbeck claimed. “You’ve got Slovenia, 81 per cent; Canada, 80 per cent; and Australia, 75 per cent. … New Zealand doesn’t even have a ranking here,” she said.
Senator Colbeck replied: “New Zealand sits at about 72 per cent.”
ILTCPN reports shows the 72 per cent figure had been accurate in July but was outdated by the time of the Senate hearing, with the proportion of New Zealand deaths linked to aged care falling to 64 per cent by October.
Asked to clarify where Senator Colbeck had sourced the data in a question on notice, the Department of Health responded last week by saying the 72 per cent figure he used had been accurate as at July 22. They did not correct the record and say the figure was outdated.
On Tuesday, a Department of Health spokesman told The Australian: “The question did not ask for an updated figure.
“Unfortunately, since this data was reported, three additional people not residing in aged care in New Zealand have died from COVID-19, accounting for the percentage decrease in deaths linked to aged care (72 per cent to 64 per cent).”
Senator Colbeck declined to comment.
The opposition’s aged-care spokeswoman, Julie Collins, accused Senator Colbeck of getting his facts wrong again and the department of trying to cover up his mistakes.
“He didn’t know how many older Australians died in aged care from COVID-19 and now he has been found misrepresenting the situation in other countries,” she said. “Instead of correcting the record, the Morrison government has covered up Colbeck’s mistakes to try to make Australia’s tragic failures in aged care look better.”
Ms Collins also took aim at Scott Morrison for failing to completely remove Senator Colbeck from the aged-care portfolio after he was relegated to Aged Care Services Minister in a cabinet reshuffle in December.