Independent candidate for Flinders

The failure of the Coalition to tackle the aged crisis prompted me to put my hand up to be the Voices of Mornington Peninsula endorsed Independent Candidate and replace the Aged Care Minister in his seat of Flinders. 

My long fight in aged care has revolved around accountability and transparency for the billions of dollars of taxpayer money handed out to providers. This theme is apparent in all aspects of government spending – sports rorts, car park rorts. This government uses our money on projects it thinks will get it re-elected, not on what is best for all of us.

Trust and confidence in government are at historic lows. Party politics, political donations and ego driven politicians have destroyed our trust in public institutions. 

My focus on accountability and transparency is the key to restoring trust in government. 

Policies should not be determined by vested interests – such as fossil fuel companies, aged care providers –  and those who donate millions to political parties. We need politicians and public servants to act in the best interests of all Australians.

The first thing I can offer is to restore trust in your federal MP. You can trust that I will listen – and that I will do what I say I will do.

Here’s 2 videos – a short introduction video and a longer video.

John Howard calls independents “groupies”

Former Prime Minister John Howard has been called out for his appalling and sexist language in describing the “teal” Independents as “groupies”. Surely Howard knew the negative connotations of the word “groupie” – commonly used to describe young women who follow around rock groups and celebrities to offer them sex.

Article published in Pearls and Irritations

Aged care homes with outbreaks

The Covid outbreaks aged care homes Excel spreadsheet contains data obtained from the Department of Health’s Weekly COVID-19 outbreaks in Australian residential aged care facilities.

To explain some background about how this weekly report came about – and why I continue to update Excel spreadsheets that summarise the data.

I began naming aged care homes during Victoria’s outbreak in 2020, when the data was “top secret”.

At a Senate inquiry hearing on August 4, 2020, Dr Brendan Murphy, secretary of the Department of Health, and Senator Richard Colbeck, the Minister for Aged Care at the time, refused to name the aged care homes with outbreaks during Victoria’s second wave. They explained that providers didn’t want to be publicly named because they were worried about “reputational damage”.

In my view, it is not the role of the Department of Health or a Minister to protect aged care homes from reputational damage. So I began preparing a weekly list of the outbreaks in Victorian aged care homes in 2020.

After a month or so weeks of updating my list (mostly from intel from members of my Aged Care Matters Facebook Group), the Department of Health released its first Weekly report on 11 September 2020. At that time, an outbreak was defined as one resident or staff testing positive for Covid.

More recently the Department has listed only the names of aged care homes with two or more Covid cases.

This data has been released every week. However, many people told me they found the reports difficult to understand. So I began presenting the data in a simple Excel spreadsheet. The spreadsheet includes the number of cases (residents and staff) and deaths (residents) in each aged care home.

With the Omicron wave, my spreadsheets have enabled people to track the outbreaks in each aged care home over time. This has been important for families who do not receive timely information from the aged care home.

It also enabled people to observe the increased number of aged care homes with outbreaks.

Date Number aged care homes with Covid outbreak
Dec-03 28
Dec-10 36
Dec-17 54
Dec-24 105
Jan-07 495
Jan-14 1,107
Jan-21 1,198

On 31 December 2022 – when Omicorn was spreading like wildfire in aged care homes – the Department did not release the weekly data. No explanation was given for this failure to keep the public (including families) updated.

The weekly report recommenced on 7 January 2022.

In the sheet titled “7 Jan”, the entries highlighted with yellow indicate the aged care homes homes that went into lockdown because a staff member tested positive (i.e. no residents tested positive). In NSW, for example, about 15 per cent of aged care homes were in lockdown on 7 Jan because a staff member tested positive (i.e. not a resident).
The outbreaks caused by staff bringing Covid into the aged care home were preventable. They could have been avoided with all staff having a rapid antigen testing before their shift. I first wrote about using rapid antigen tests in aged care homes in The Guardian in  December 2020.
While taking a test may be inconvenient and time-consuming, it is infinitely preferable to putting residents and families through the trauma of a lockdown.
I put notes in a column of the January 7 spreadsheet to indicate the aged care homes that had a surge in case numbers. These were the aged care homes that needed to be watched (hoping they didn’t have a further surge in case numbers). However, it was not possible to track these homes because the Department did not release the names of the aged care homes with outbreaks on 14 January.
On Jan 14, the Department indicated in a footnote of the Weekly Report that there were “technical issues”. Rather than delay the release of the report until these “technical issues” were resolved, someone in the Department decided to cut and paste the Appendix from the previous report, perhaps hoping that no one would notice.
I noticed – and I was appalled! No data is better than misleading data.
With poor communication in many aged care homes, families rely on the weekly report (and my spreadsheet) for accurate information. In my 6 years of advocacy, the Department’s decision to release a report with misleading data was the nadir. It made me despair.
The decision to cut and paste the Appendix in 14 Jan’s report is yet another example of the Department of Health’s lack of transparency and accountability.
If we can’t trust the Department to release accurate information, who can we trust?
Over the past few months, I have frequently emailed a list of mistakes in the Department’s weekly report. On 9 January, I emailed:
Hi there

Thanks for releasing the data – I am sure it has been a busy time with so many aged care homes with outbreaks.

I note with confusion that you are now naming some home care providers in your list of aged care homes with outbreaks. Are you able to tell me why?
On 24 Dec, you listed the following home care providers as active outbreaks:
Integratedliving Home Care Packages
St Basil’s In Home Care
On 7 Jan, you listed
Calvary Community Care
Care Connect
Five good friends
Anglicare SQ South Coast Region Home Care
Integrated Living Australia
Multicultural Aged Care Services Geelong Inc
Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association
Banyule City Council
Hume  City Council
Northern Health Home Care Packages – Level 4
Wintringham Home Care
The Australian Asian Association of WA Triple A Care
You may also be interested in correcting the entry numbers 115 and 237 in the Appendix.
Also – Bupa Clemton Park is in NSW, not Victoria. Also you may want to correct the spelling.
Also, curious that Wesley House (SA) had 1 resident with an active case on 24th Dec. Yet on 7 Jan, had zero (with zero resolved).

Regards, Sarah

I received no reply to my email.

I no longer trust the accuracy  of the data from the Department of Health. Nonetheless, I continue to update my spreadsheets because families tell me my spreadsheets are helpful.

Updating the current spreadsheet involved adding 703 additional aged care homes with outbreaks. It was a mammoth effort.

I also wrote another email to the Department.

Hi again

Could you please forward this email to whoever is responsible for the weekly updates.

Putting on record (again) my extreme disappointment at DoH’s decision to cut and paste the Appendix from Jan 7 into Jan 14.
I appreciate you had technical issues. However no data is better than misleading data.
Did you consider the families who rely on this information (due to poor communication in many aged care homes)? In my 6 years as a voluntary aged care advocate, it was the nadir.
Having said that, I am pleased that you have corrected some of your earlier mistakes – On 21 Jan, there are no home care services in your list of residential aged care outbreaks. You have also listed Clemton Park (spelt correctly in 21 Jan edition) in NSW, not Victoria. Thank you
The report on 21 January has less mistakes than I have become accustomed to seeing in these weekly reports. However, you have listed Catholic Healthcare St Joseph Aged Care twice with different numbers. Does this aged care home have 3 or 8 residents tested positive?
I also note with surprise that Lark Ellen Aged Care (that had 20 Covid positive residents on 7 January) is not listed. Is the outbreak resolved?
Ditto Blue Cross Elly Kay in Victoria. It had 40 Covid positive residents on 7 January. Yet it is not listed in 21 Jan report. Is the outbreak resolved?
I am also pleasantly surprised that Villa Maria Catholic homes O’Neill Aged Care Residence had 21 residents with Covid on 7 Jan, and zero on 21 Jan. Might be worth checking if this is correct.  Also worth checking Whitlesea Lodge (21 residents with Covid on 7 Jan; zero on Jan 21).
I would welcome another conversation with Cameron, if this is possible

I also used compared the data from 7 January with 21 January to identify 10 aged care homes with largest increase of residents with Covid.

Aged care home Residents +ve on 7 Jan Residents +ve on 21 Jan Resident deaths
Estia Health Kilbride (NSW) 0 119 4
Russian Relief Association of St Sergius of Radonezh (NSW) 6 113 8
Cardinal Stepinac Village (NSW) 16 103 10
Uniting Wesley Gardens Belrose (NSW) 0 88 0
Bossley Parkside Care Community (NSW) 50 86 7
Fronditha Clayton Aged Care Facility (2nd outbreak) (Vic) 0 85 5
Bupa Greenacre (3rd outbreak) (NSW) 44 80 5
Forest Lake Lodge (QLD) 0 77 7
Bupa Clemton Park (2nd Outbreak) (NSW) 33 52 0
Constitution Hill Aged Care (NSW) 22 52 2


We need to know the factors that contribute to some homes containing the virus while other homes have had a huge surge. For example, in past fortnight, 105 home had a surge in numbers while 71 had no change in numbers.

Is this due to: Residents not receiving a booster shot? Poor infection control? Unable to access PPE? Inadequate staffing levels/training (e.g. training in how to don and doff PPE)? Poor ventilation?

Protecting older people’s vote

On 27 November, I tweeted “The seat of Mornington is on a knife’s edge because postal votes favour Liberals. e.g. some aged care homes and retirement villages provide ONLY Liberal HTV Cards. At my mother’s aged care home, ONLY the Lib candidate was allowed to visit during the election campaign.

Many people with similar experiences replied to my tweet. These quotes provide anecdotal evidence that the disparity of candidates’ access to aged care homes and retirement villages has a long history.

Similar experience

Can confirm this. We were knocked back from speaking to residents in several aged care homes, and even prevented from doorknocking. I believe the Liberal candidate had early knowledge of where the mobile voting centres (voting busses in aged care centres) would be too.

Heard so many accounts of this in Kooyong in (the) 2019 election (when) working for Oliver Yates. Lots of voters told us about this in a range of nursing homes in the area.

Same thing happened during the federal election. That’s a lot of votes – more than enough to win. It needs to be changed. I don’t want any bias to any candidate.

(Kerryn) Phelps lost her seat by less than the number of votes that were cast by a facility in her electorate that had a major turn out by the residents to vote for Sharma.

Saw this here in Sydney at aged care facilities during the federal election. It feels like vote harvesting.

This is also an issue in Hawthorn electorate where there are many aged care homes.

That was a tactic during the federal election as well. (The) VEC must ensure this bias does not happen in future. It’s illegal, in my opinion.

That has happened in my electorate in Federal elections.

I live in suburban Adelaide, where a lot of residents are in nursing homes and retirement villages, including my mother-in-law. Liberals sent out forms to request postal voting with their own material in the same envelope. So the oldies thought (the) AEC endorsed the Libs.

This is nothing new

When my parents were alive, (living in) RSLLifecare. They received only Liberal HTV mail, and only the Liberal candidate visited.

This is nothing new. When I stood against Peter Reith in Flinders in the 1990s, a particular retirement village asked Peter Reith to speak. When I found out about this, I approached them (to speak). But they refused. They said it was a personal invite.

It’s been happening for years, nothing is ever done about it.

When I ran I was not allowed in the aged care home at all. One home did allow me to drop off HTV cards to her and she said she would put them on the table. I later found out she was a member of LNP and had sought to be the candidate at that election but had lost to the actual candidate. So perhaps she didn’t even put my HTVs on the table.

This issue has been known about and reported to the AEC and VEC election after election. They don’t do anything.

I worked in an aged care facility on the Gold Coast in 2007. I wheelchaired a resident to vote, she was told that (staff) had already voted for her. Both resident and I were furious. This behaviour has been going on for years.

In 2019 election, we put our flyers in each residents’ post box at the retirement village. Our flyers were removed.

I’ve heard anecdotally that the incapacitated are “assisted” to vote by relatives or home management, and that staff at the aged care home fill in the ballots.

Assisting older people to vote

Way back last century I watched as nursing home residents had their ballots completed by staff at a desk, no residents present or consulted.

One [aged care home] even allowed Liberal Party paid “volunteers” to “help” the nursing home residents vote in the booth!

Where I work there are “helpful” people who visit and assist with voting. There isn’t enough staff so homes are grateful. I reported it when told by a few residents that the person told them who to vote for.

Don’t forget the Liberal volunteers who go in to nursing homes to “help” them fill out their forms. I had the pleasure of removing one of these hags when she attempted to fill out the form on behalf of my Mum. Mum was in late stage Alzheimers & non-verbal at that time.

A few years ago a Sandringham aged care home signed my father up (to vote) for the 1st time in 40yrs, despite (him having) no capacity.

Amended dignity: our elders denied their human rights again

Just when you think this government can’t get any more sneaky. In a virtually unnoticed move, the Coalition government has snuck an alarming last-minute amendment into an aged care bill before Parliament that removes the legal and human rights of aged care residents.

Michael West Article

“Political Stunt”: how the Budget cash splash means profit to providers over aged care reform

The federal government announced its $17.7 billion aged care budget with bells and whistles. Peak bodies for providers described it as a “big win for older people”. However, it is aged care providers, not older people, who have won.

Michael West Article

Why were we so poorly prepared for COVID-19?

There have been three areas of major failures during the Covid-19 pandemic: hotel quarantine, aged care, and the vaccination rollout. These are all areas of Commonwealth responsibility. Scott Morrison not only failed to coordinate a national approach to quarantine and aged care but he and his colleagues sat on the sidelines providing unhelpful commentary.

Article in Big Smoke

End neo-liberal experiment: gutting of bureaucracy led to vaccine and aged care failures

Lynelle Briggs, one of the aged care royal commissioners has recommended that the federal Health Department be the major “service delivery agency” of the reforms the aged care sector so desperately needs. In the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety,  Briggs states: “The Australian Department of Health and Aged Care will need to step up to the requirements of a major hands-on service delivery agency if it is to lead and guide the aged care sector effectively through the reforms we recommend.”

The department simply does not have the capacity to be a “hands-on service delivery agency”. Its expertise is outsourcing.

Michael West Article