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Byron Shire
May 26, 2024

Thus Spake Mungo – Murphy and the octogenarian

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I will turn 80 next year, which means that the issue of aged care is rapidly assuming more than academic significance.

I still hope and expect my last years to be spent peacefully at home, but given my declining health I have to accept that it may not be possible – I will have to go into some sort of home. And the prospect leaves me with gloom and apprehension.

This is almost certainly unfair – almost all aged care facilities are doing their best and most are managed, and managing, very well. The ABC’s wonderful series about bringing four-year-olds into one of them for regular visits shows that with ingenuity and diligence an aged care home can be a place of joy and hope.

Some of my older female friends have taken the plunge. After a usually brief period of assimilation they have found the transition both comfortable and beneficial. I can’t say the same for my older male friends, because they are almost all dead. That is another article altogether.

There is more than enough anecdotal evidence to demonstrate that some facilities are clearly dysfunctional, with neglect not uncommon and even willful murder occasionally revealed

But there is more than enough anecdotal evidence to demonstrate that some facilities are clearly dysfunctional, with neglect not uncommon and even willful murder occasionally revealed.

And sometimes not revealed – covered up – so that the homes can operate to the satisfaction of their owners, often rich entrepreneurs who have built financial empires over the graves of their victims.

So it is not surprising that they are regarded as places of last resort;

twilight homes, God’s waiting rooms where the frail and helpless are left to die. Or, that there is community outrage at the lack of adequate supervision, from within the industry or the government.

There is a royal commission under way, with the likelihood of reform, although given the complexities of the area it may take quite a while to implement

This was the case long before this coronavirus inveigled its way in, but the number of deaths in the last months has forced matters to something of a tipping point. There is a royal commission under way, with the likelihood of reform, although given the complexities of the area it may take quite a while to implement.

And Australian politics being what it is, the blame game is also well under way: is this ongoing disaster the fault of the states, and particularly Victoria, under the socialist dictatorship of Daniel Andrews who is axiomatically responsible for everything, or does the buck stop with the commonwealth, who, as Scott Morrison once admitted with unwonted candour, are the people who can dole out the money?

Well, as is almost always the case where disputes over federalism erupt, it’s a bit of both. Andrews is stuck with the day to day running of the institutions, which has seldom been optimal, and at times catastrophic. He can pay for whatever Morrison is willing to fund, beyond the fees (frequently exorbitant) levied on the hapless residents, but obviously it just isn’t enough.

It wasn’t before COVID-19 emerged, and it certainly isn’t now. And it is more than disingenuous for the feds to claim that they had a plan ready in the event of a pandemic, and that it was in the process of working. There wasn’t and it isn’t.

Brendan Murphy, the newly minted head of the health department, has been drawn into the deception

Sadly, Brendan Murphy, the newly minted head of the health department, has been drawn into the deception. Having been promoted, presumably on the strength of his credibility in his role as the government’s chief health officer, he is now pushing spin rather than substance.

His extraordinary intervention in the commission, demanding the right to defend Morrison’s plan, has been more than embarrassing. His line was that the plan must be working – because the death rate in aged care homes in Australia compared with the rest of the population was less than that in England.

And it may be, but it is still more than the rate anywhere else –  Australia ranks among the worst in the developed world, depending on how you do the numbers. To claim that as some sort of triumph is as mendacious as anything coming out of Morrison’s office. Even The Australian wasn’t buying it.

But what The Australian was buying, indeed vigorously promoting, was the distraction: the reason for the stuff-up in hotel quarantine restrictions was not only entirely Andrews’ fault, which goes without saying, but could have been avoided; Andrews knocked back an offer from defence personnel who were willing, and probably eager, to take over.

He installed private contractors who bonked their way through the buildings while the stir-crazed detainees surged out to spread the virus across Melbourne, across Victoria, across the nation

Instead, he installed private contractors who bonked their way through the buildings while the stir-crazed detainees surged out to spread the virus across Melbourne, across Victoria, across the nation. Criminal negligence, if not deliberate sabotage. The man must resign, or better, suffer ritual disembowelment.

According to this theory, the gallant Diggers were ready with every assistance, and Andrews had churlishly refused them: no ifs, no buts. And ScoMo’s Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds, had a timeline to prove it.

Except that she didn’t. What the timeline in fact shows is that there was certainly an understanding between commonwealth and state officials that assistance would be forthcoming, if and when it was required, and that Emergency Management Victoria commissioner, Andrew Crisp, was well and truly in the loop discussing details of how it could be implemented with the officers of the ADF.

Crisp is firm that those negotiations did not involve Andrews or his office, and that neither the premier nor any of his ministers actually made a request

Initially that was to be limited to transport, specifically collecting those bound for isolation from the airport to their hotels, but extending that to using defence personnel as security once they got there was also on the table. Crisp is firm that those negotiations did not involve Andrews or his office, and that neither the premier nor any of his ministers actually made a request.

This can be dismissed as plausible deniability – or even somewhat implausible deniability. And in hindsight the decision was unwise, although Western Australia pursued the same strategy without unleashing the horrors of the garden state’s second wave. But there is no smoking gun. As is so often the case, we are looking at a stuff-up rather than a conspiracy.

And the same can probably be said about Morrison’s handling of the aged care crisis, which makes his stubborn insistence that his government really did have a plan to prepare for it all the more puzzling. He says he is sorry if his plan did not meet community expectations. But if there was a plan at all, it has self-evidently failed, and he would do better to apologise unreservedly than to continue to try and defend the indefensible.

To admit to an honest oversight makes better political sense than attempting to bluff his way out of it. And it would help to reassure those likely to become the reluctant clients of the homes, which is considerably more important than saving face.

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  1. A knock-about bloke I know who haunts the roads and byways of the Northern Rivers and writes a mean column, someimes hard, sometimes straight and sometimes sentimental is now a bit long in the tooth with a memory that goes way back, back past the red dog rounding up the sheep on the farm, back when the Darling had water in it, and way back when the ocean was six feet lower that it is today in the Byron area, and he this writer of renown maybe in his mind and in mentality goes way back to the Sentlmental Bloke of C J Dennis, when C J played tennis but did not get to Wimbledon, well he this bloke named Mungo MacCallum has a birthday coming up next year of being an octogenairain as he has been on the road now for ages driving along at 80 before he even got to that age and the stage coach of Cobb and Co used to ply and ride up the gutters and ridges over the mountains and he in this present time wants to tell us to “take care” as he has a lot of writing to do.

  2. On aged care homes – it is scandalous that there is no minimum staff : resident ratio. For the owners and their lobbtists , this is a no-go area but surley if the commonwealth government minisrty had any decency, this is one are that is calling out for reform.

  3. Life & death’s full of puzzles aint it Mungo. The Gove
    of all ‘goves’ said he had a plan that apparently was
    either lost or never was in the never-was file. The
    Vic Premier at least – from April 8th to the now – at
    least kept on asking our fuzzy-Feds for help with
    Victoria’s ‘disabled’. Our ManGo wouldn’t have a bar
    of it. Just under 5 months of asking for support to
    learn there’d be none is a crime against humanity.
    It’s not that far from now that I will be sitting in the
    Goddess’s Waiting Room too. I gave written
    evidence to the Royal Commission & understand
    that perhaps there’ll be improvements across
    the aged & disabled in the ‘distant future.’ Hell,
    even Murdoch’s confused. TheSunburnt Country
    is cooking itself in more ways than one.

  4. The government’s handling of this pandemic has been nothing short of negligence.
    The use of Brenden Murphy ,as the expert fall-guy is sickening ,the poor fool has had to stand there handing out nonsensical advice that was obviously merely political expedience, and anybody with a rudimentary understanding of infection control knew full well that 1.5 metres of separation and 14 days of isolation was nonsense . He also had to argue against the use of masks because Scumo had no masks ,and if the Federal Government aren’t responsible for the Ruby Princess and the isolation program in hotels , who is the responsible body in this reprehensible excuse for National Oversight ? G”)

    • Spot on Ken. I don’t know Brendan Murphy personally, like most people, I only know of him because of his many appearances on my TV screen during these Covid times. As CMO he came across as a matter of fact person, a trusted health official as he regularly addressed the issue of Covid to help the citizenry understand the health crisis. It was comforting that he appeared not to be ‘infected’ by the politics as he stuck to the health science.. But all that now seems a world away after Brendan Murphy’s appearance at The Royal Commission into Aged Care. Now, in his new role as Secretary of The Department Secretary he is rolled out by ScoNO to defend the indefensible – The Federal Government’s appallingness of ‘workplace manslaughter’ in aged care. To poor Brendan Murphy’s own and sudden realisation, we all see once again ScoNO he is a master in covering his own arse.

    • Barry you ask why aged care should make a profit. We get what we vote for, yes – the Private Sector always delivers superior and much more efficiently service than the Government.could ever, ever hope to achieve, yes. The Aged Care sector, the private operators doing a fantastic job (as Little Greggy Hunt wanted us all to believe ) in these Covid times, yes. Making profits ( off the back of poor wage levels, poor staffing levels, poor, if any proper ScoNO Government oversight ) is just a sort fringe benefit that flows to the Private Sector in the delivery of efficient Aged Care services. Just don’t ask the punters what that profit making ‘efficient service’ actually delivers. Oh wait, we got The Royal Commission into Aged Care…..HELP!

  5. Regarding The Royal Commission I ‘wrote on’ the fear
    [unadulterated] of those I knew & worked with in both
    my early & late years. It’s no surprise that the aged
    quite often meet & discuss how to avoid Private Sector
    homes. The truth is – & this may sound blunt but you’d
    best believe it – the 75s through to the 85s plan to take
    their own lives. They believe, rightly, that it’s their right
    to avoid what’s been known by friends & relatives who
    were treated as no more than a money-making joke.
    ScoNo’s got a long way to go in pretending to fix this
    one. And “NO”, it’s not a State issue. Humanity just
    died taking the Country with it.

    • That is if the ‘they’ still have the capacity to make that decision. Maybe I’m being blunt. Or maybe none of us know the future, as much as it is clear to some.

      it seems to me the new radical left has cornered the market on the not purported; they deserve a place in the Guinness book of records, or, preferably, they write science fiction for a living. That might pass.

  6. I had my first taste of such a ward in about 1992, a psychiatric ward for the elderly. Not just a physical oldness but with dementia or whatever thrown in. I was doing a story. I saw two sides. For one, one big large dormitory with some chairs. Then the weekly outing where you could have a cuppa and a bit of music. The first side was scary, not just out of empathy but for the fact it could be me one day. In the second side I spoke to a woman and recorded her story, she had been a nurse herself in her time though her story had since lost some rationale. So a glimmer of hope amidst mostly scary presentiments. I think our care givers have some of the worst jobs imaginable, given the facts, not just of the likely outcomes but of the physical requisites, and then the poor pay on top of that. Still, in these circumstances it’s ridiculous to expect perfection, as it is ridiculous to expect a private practitioner not to have a profit. There but by the grace of … go I.

  7. I have my use of the word ‘purported’ wrong. My personal feeling is we have close to a police state now, if not. No clear way out. Labor and the Greens propose no real alternative, just criticism. Then the far right plumping for patriotism, fair enough really, the near Left wanting change at any prospect, any degradation of what has for a hundred years been improvement really, overall. All the sidekick alternatives, really. More than a hundred years, the West created religious freedom through politics because religious favoritism always meant more war. We have to weigh one thing with another. We cancel the scales, the justice that does exist, we enter a new kaleidoscope of the old we left behind. That’s it.

  8. Personal feelings…….& knowledge is what’s needed.
    I have a ‘carer’ who has cert 3 [fully trained]. I’ve had
    a stroke followed by multiple micro haemorrahages
    & chronic white matter changes + chronic recurring
    migraine & strokes as well as baseline Dementia.
    Having laid that on the line you could say I am
    obviously familiar with all & what ‘doesn’t ‘go on in
    the said sector. We hardly ever look after people;
    young & aged, even when we put a price on their
    heads. Barrow – it does not matter one hoot in hell
    who & what we vote for. Becoming human is all
    we can do. It’s a sick world we’re in & change is
    a must for the future of it.

  9. Yes absolutely Stefanie, it matters little who we
    Support politically.. we need to look after our
    Mums and dads, and Grand Parents at any cost.
    As is with anything that has been owned by the
    Taxpayer’s and becomes privatised . As is the case with Commbank and Qantas its all about
    Profits . And no different to the Nursing homes
    Profit over health and service .. very concerning
    And distressing for families.. Fix it Governments.

  10. Barrow, my man….”Fix it Governments”, you say. ‘The ‘Fix’ lies with the punters, stop voting for governments that keep selling off public assets and outsourcing public services to the private sector. Government does not ‘own’ public assets, government is merely a trustee holding public assets in trust on behalf of the citizenry. Telstra, CommBank, QANTAS, GIO, the list goes on….ALL formerly owned by us collectively and sold off. The punters keep allowing it to happen. Stop crying after the event all the time, don’t vote for them!

  11. Dont lecture on who i should vote for Joachim!!
    You are in no position to do so , your Greens are
    A embarrassment to Australian politics..
    Including your Flannery on Global Warming .
    Your Greens also signed off on the sell off
    Of polls and wires !!

    • Barrow, Barrow, Barrow another tough day for you yesterday eh. At Federal level your ScoNO Liberals try to outdo ALP when it comes to branch stacking. Has your ScoNO and Joshie come out hard ( like they did a few months ago against ALP branch stacking ) on Sukkar and Andrews? Nah, there always different rules for your Liberals. But of course please feel free to keep voting for your ScoNO. How Good is ScoNO. How Good is Newpoll! At NSW State level your Not my Glad in a world of pain with her iDON”Tcare corruption and your Minister Andrew Ferry McFerryFARCE with his asbestos ferries that can’t fit under bridges. But at least Not my Glad and breathe a sigh of relief that Ruby Princess is off the front pages, eh. Whats that slogan again…..”NSW – The Premier State” – premier state all right, eh Barrow, for exactly all the WRONG reasons. But please do feel free to keep voting for Not my Glad to deliver more of the same ‘superior economic management’, yeah.

  12. There’s 3 branch stacking Liberals we can
    do without for starters. See The Age & 60
    Minutes last night. They’ll go on ‘selling us
    off’ even the invisible ones who don’t exist.
    These are the ones who make the Laws &
    then break them. Trustless dead-heads.

  13. Barrow old son, your inner Springbok on the High Veldt being released again, eh, taking a slash at The Greens. Where’d that one come? Lets have those details of The Greens selling Poles ( ‘Polls’, a typo by you my man ? ) and Wires. And please feel free to keep voting for your ScoNO and Not my Glad so they can keep flogging off OUR assets, Then have yourself a good wail after the event with …..”Fix it Governments”, yes. An ‘Embarrassment’ The Greens may be for you ( not for me though )but at least The Greens aren’t ‘Criminal’ like your ScoNO and Not my Glad administrations.


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