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Malcolm Turnbull says he was “very surprised” that the Morrison government had not developed a thorough plan for Covid-19 outbreaks in aged care while declining to join criticism of Daniel Andrews over the Victorian lockdown measures.
The former prime minister also urged the government not to abandon legislated increases in compulsory superannuation, saying the argument advanced by some Coalition members that people were better off with the money in their hands now was “all a bit patronising”.
In a wide-ranging interview with the ABC on Monday afternoon, Turnbull made a number of remarks that will be seen as unhelpful to his successor, Scott Morrison, and his former Coalition colleagues.
Turnbull said the federal government’s lack of a detailed plan to deal with aged care outbreaks was surprising because the issue was “not something that has come out of left field” – effectively backing up criticisms aired at the aged care royal commission but rejected by Morrison as unfounded “assertions”.
Given the vulnerability of people in aged care, Turnbull said: “It deserved a lot more thorough, rigorous thinking in advance.” It was “pretty obvious that aged care facilities were going to be a very serious problem” in light of the international experience.
Pressed on whether the federal government was shifting blame, Turnbull said he had not noticed the aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, standing up to acknowledge that the commonwealth was “absolutely responsible for all of the problems in aged care” and for the failure to develop adequate plans after the Newmarch House outbreak in Sydney.
But Turnbull said it would be unfair to single out Colbeck because it was “a whole-of-government issue”, with the oversight and involvement of the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the health minister, Greg Hunt.
“This was a front-and-centre issue, so yes, Richard is the minister, but everybody in the government should have been very alert to this issue – the health minister, the prime minister, everybody, state governments as well, even though it is a federal government responsibility.”
Turnbull also refused to join Morrison and Coalition members in levelling criticism at the Victorian premier for the extension of lockdowns in that state.
“I am very reluctant to join in everyone else criticising Dan Andrews, he has a very difficult job, and managing the pandemic is hard for everybody,” Turnbull said.
Asked if he could understand Morrison’s frustration with the situation, Turnbull said the problem was that the prime minister had not spelled out an alternative and that the issue was caught up in “a lot of politics”.
While there was “a lot of blame to go around” for the high rate of infections in Victoria six weeks ago, “they are where they are”.
“So the question I think that could be asked of Scott Morrison is: what would you suggest Dan Andrews should do differently right now?”
On the planned rise in compulsory superannuation contributions from their current level of 9.5% – which the government is considering abandoning – Turnbull said the Coalition would be better off sticking with the already legislated increase.
He said it was a vexed issue because some made the patronising argument that the money was better in people’s hands now. Superannuation was a “great achievement” and was intended to fund people’s retirement, he said, and any attempt to chip away at that was “unfortunate”.
Turnbull also said the government’s early access to superannuation scheme – allowing people to withdraw up to $20,000 during the coronavirus crisis – would eventually be seen as “a poor-quality decision”.
He dismissed the controversy about the appointment of Tony Abbott – his longtime political rival – as an adviser to the UK government’s board of trade as “a bit of a beat-up”. He noted that Abbott’s role would be unpaid and he was “not going to be representing Britain anywhere”.
Turnbull said the former prime minister Julia Gillard’s takedown of Abbott, then opposition leader, over misogyny had become “one of the great speeches of parliamentary speeches of our times, because it spoke to fundamental values and in a very powerful, emotional way”.
“Tony has got to live with his, what he has said about women, he has got to live with his treatment and abuse of Julia Gillard, he has got to live with the incredibly effective framing of him by Julia Gillard in that speech in the House.”
Source: The Guardian
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