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Richard Colbeck under pressure as Jacqui Lambie, Labor question minister’s priorities

Jacqui Lambie has questioned if Scott Morrison has any control over his frontbench after it was revealed the aged care Minister blew off a crucial Covid meeting to go to the cricket.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck has come under fire for attending The Ashes test match on the same day he advised he was too busy to front a Senate inquiry into the government’s Covid response.

Senator Colbeck has claimed he attended the match as part of his commitment as sports Minister.

But his Tasmanian Senate colleague again took the opportunity to lash out at his decision on Thursday.

“Oh, who knows (why this was allowed). Maybe because the Prime Minister hasn’t got many powers left, I don’t know,” Senator Lambie told Nine.

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Camera IconThe Tasmanian firebrand has lashed out at the aged care minister for his decision to go to the cricket. Credit: News Corp Australia, Kym Smith

“I want to say this to the people in aged care: we know you’ve done it really tough. We all want to send our love to you because many of you are back in (self-imposed) lockdown again and can’t see your families.

“And I can tell you what I’m hearing from that … not to mention their workers and not to mention the double shifts those workers are carrying out because people are going down with Covid.

“It’s awful. You don’t have time to go to the bloody cricket, Richard!”

As of 20 January, 1198 aged care facilities across the country are experiencing an outbreak of Covid-19. Close to 170 residents have died.

In a letter to committee chair dated January 9, the Minister cited the “critical work” needed to address the Omicron outbreak as a reason why he could not appear on January 14.

But an update to his register of interest revealed he received free tickets to the day/night test matches in Hobart.

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Camera IconA spokesman for the Minister has insisted his commitment to the role has never been greater. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

In a statement, a spokesman for Senator Colbeck insisted his commitment to the role had never been greater.

“He is in daily contact with department officials and weekly contact with aged care stakeholders, often engaging directly with providers affected by outbreaks,” the spokesman said.

“It should also be noted, play for the day/night match did not start until late afternoon.”

Senator Colbeck was due to appear before the committee between 10am and 12:45pm.

Labor’s aged care spokeswoman Clare O’Neil said the Minister needed to sort out his priorities.

“I think the real question we have here is about priorities and why it’s not possible on this particular day for him to answer questions about the deepest crisis that aged care has been in this country for 40 years but he did find time to go to the cricket,” she told ABC Radio.

“I really want Richard Colbeck to come out tomorrow and just provide a clear explanation of what has happened here because surely he cannot have made that call.”

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