‘Elderly COVID patients could be left to die naturally’: Abbott

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Australia’s former prime minister, Tony Abbott, sparked controversy on Tuesday night when he claimed the country was suffering from ‘virus hysteria’ and suggested that some elderly COVID patients should be left to die naturally.

In his comments, delivered in a speech to the Policy Exchange thinktank in London, he said that in his time as health minister in the Howard government he would never have contemplated ordering people to stay at home.

Mr Abbott told the think tank that the economic cost of lockdowns meant that families should be allowed to consider letting elderly relatives with the coronavirus die by letting nature take its course.

He delivered the speech on the eve of the national accounts in Australia being released, which showed that Australia was officially in its first recession since 1991, with the economy contracting by 7 per cent.

The 7 per cent contraction is the biggest Australia has ever experienced, eclipsing the previous biggest fall on record of 2 per cent in June 1974.

While the contraction in Australia was extreme, for the same quarter in Sweden, which did not have a strict lockdown more in line with the argument Mr Abbott was proposing, their economy contracted by 8.3 per cent.

“Six months into the pandemic, the aim in most countries is still to preserve almost every life at almost any cost,” Mr Abbott said.

“When new cases peaked at about 700 a day, the Victorian government put five-and-half million Melburnians into virtual house arrest, under night-time curfew, and banned at other times from leaving home for more than an hour a day, or from travelling more than five kilometres.”

Mr Abbott referred to the situation in Victoria as a ‘health dictatorship’ and said it was costing the government as much as $200,000 to give an elderly person an extra year of life, which is substantially more than what they would pay for life-saving drugs.

“Lockdowns can reduce disease but hardly eliminate it, the result is not just a stop-start economy, but a stop-start life,” Mr Abbott said.

“In this climate of fear, it was hard for governments to ask how much is a life worth, because every life is precious and every death is sad; but that’s never stopped families sometimes electing to make elderly relatives as comfortable as possible while nature takes its course. Likewise, people anticipating serious health problems sometimes elect not to be resuscitated.

“When a trauma victim comes into an emergency department, almost no effort is spared to keep that person alive. But when a cancer patient wants access to very expensive new drugs, governments normally ask tough questions about how much good life will be gained before making it available; and what the alternative might be.

“Governments have approached the pandemic like trauma doctors; instead of thinking like health economists, trained to pose uncomfortable questions about a level of deaths we might have to live with.”

Mr Abbott said that if mandatory shutdowns had avoided the initially predicted 150,000 deaths in Australia, the $300 billion the government had committed to soften the economic impacts of the shutdown meant that it would have cost $2 million per life saved.

“If the average age of those who would have died is 80, even with roughly 10 years of expected life left, that’s still $200,000 per quality life year – or substantially beyond what governments are usually prepared to pay for life-saving drugs,” Mr Abbott said.

“Now that each one of us has had six months to consider this pandemic and to make our own judgements about it, surely it’s time to relax the rules, so that individuals can take more personal responsibility and make more of their own decisions about the risks they’re prepared to run.”

Addressing Australia’s recession figures Deloitte Access Economics economist Sheraan Underwood said Australia had performed much better than most other nations primarily because of its superior performance addressing the pandemic.

“Only a handful of nations have seen less damage to their economies amid the coronavirus crisis,” Mr Underwood said.

“The underlying equation is simple. The greater the success against the virus, the greater the success in protecting economies against the pandemic.

“The defence of Australian lives and livelihoods has seen us thread the needle. Australia has seen both less economic damage and relatively fewer lives lost than most nations, including the US, the UK and most of Europe, including Sweden, which has taken a different path than many others.”

Mr Abbott’s comments were also roundly criticised by Australian politicians.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said the comments marked a new low for the former prime minister.

“The fact is, there are over 450 Australian families who are grieving lost ones, who have lost their lives while being residents of aged care to COVID-19,” Mr Albanese said.

“Tony Abbott was never known for his compassion. This is a new low.

“This is someone who was a member of the Morrison government and had the privilege of being the prime minister of our country. And to make the comments that he did, I think, will cause a great deal of hurt for Australians who read those comments, particularly the families of those who have been impacted by COVID-19.”

Finance minister Mathias Cormann told ABC News Breakfast that sacrificing the lives of the elderly for the good of the economy was not an approach the government would be taking.

“The Australian government, working with states and territory governments, has been totally committed to suppressing the spread of this virus, to protect people’s health as well as to protect people’s livelihoods,” Mr Cormann said.

“It is true that we’ve got to find a way into the new normal and into the strongest recovery as soon as possible, but we have got to do so in a way that is COVID-safe.

“We cannot do it sacrificing the health and the lives of any of our fellow Australians.”

In the Senate, Labor’s Kristina Keneally used Mr Abbott’s comments to attack the under pressure aged care minister Richard Colbeck for his performance during the crisis.

“Tony Abbott is calling for Australian families to take a decision to just make their relatives as comfortable as possible while nature – coronavirus – takes its course. That’s appalling,” Ms Keneally said.

“By Tony Abbott’s standards Richard Colbeck’s doing a fine job, because Richard Colbeck is just letting old people die. He’s just letting old people die in residential aged care.”

Watch Tony Abbott’s speech in full:

What do you think of Tony Abbott’s comments? Are they lacking in compassion for older Australians? Are they disrespectful of the people who have already lost their lives to the virus?

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Written by Ben

152 Comments

Total Comments: 152
  1. 0
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    What a complete utter moron this dope is.. stay over there you goose Mad Monk ..,

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      What a vile creature he is. The LNP should hang their heads in shame that they elected him as their leader.

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      Agree TOR888. What else do you expect from this scumbag. No empathy for the sick, the poor or most vulnerable. Typical ideology of the right wing conservative LNP govt.
      I hope he gets COVID and he can rot to death in the gutter.

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      And further, this is the bloke who boasts about being taught by the Jesuits, but they would be turning over in their graves now to hear his latest epiphany on the sanctity of life.

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      Abbott the worst PM Australia ever had still making stupid comments,it’s about time the media stopped giving this creep oxygen…go back to England Tony even though your as popular as a crap in the swimming pool over there as you are here in Australia.

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      Abbott the worst PM Australia ever had still making stupid comments,it’s about time the media stopped giving this creep oxygen…go back to England Tony even though your as popular as a crap in the swimming pool over there as you are here in Australia.

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      The only moron is people like you who cannot read and understand what the man is saying. Try understanding what he has clearly said through the lense of logic and fact rather than your political bias of the man or your indoctrination by the ABC.

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      You are spot on popster. What he said was twisted until it had no resemblance to his original statement. Most commentators on forums I have found don’t even read or listen to the articles and just open their mouths and spout bile.

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      diamond – I heard what he said and I read what he said. Nothings twisted, he said what’s been reported. A disgusting individual.

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    Thank God for a conviction politician when we have them.

    Our age sees life as a possession, rather than gift. As such, we have much confusion and existential fear. Eventually, the budget will win over and see a certain priority prevail in the death stakes. Angst ahead! as the luvvies come to face the fact that lifestyle politics leads nowhere.

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      Its a gift? From God or the right wing of the Liberal party? Do you know the difference?
      if someone wanted to take your ‘gift’ away you’d just roll over and go belly up as long as it was an ex liberal prime minister?
      What about Dutton?
      Would you give up your ‘gift’ to him?
      If you think money is more important than people you do not understand or know the ‘gift giver’ at all.
      The ‘gift giver’ thought people were so important he was prepared to give up an infinite and eternal everything for us. The only thing Tony is giving up is credibility …

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      So well said leigh

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    I thought that as the mad monk he had given up his UK citizenship. I wonder if his ideas would make some in the UK very concerned about a foreigner who appears to only have a scant regard for older citizens.

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      Not just ‘given up his UK citizenship’ Garyand, he had to renounce it to be eligible for election to Federal Parliament. Maybe UK is more forgiving than I, but anyone who ‘renounces’ their Australian citizenship would not be a person who I would favour for a prominent Australian Government appointment.
      Nevertheless, I suggest Mr Abbott’s comments reflects the attitude of the some of the extreme right (ie Fascist) wing of the Liberal Party. Fortunately most Liberals have more empathy and compassion than Mr Abbott.

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    Why do people give so much attention to has been pollies. They are dragged up in the media ad nauseam as page fillers or minute users when real news is light on. I dont care what Tony, Jeff Kennett, Paul Keating or any other voted out, ego stroking, waffle monger has to say. They should all gracefully fade away on their generously paid pension lifestyle and stop this pretence that they know how to solve the worlds problems because their time in office proved beyond doubt that it just aint so.

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      Well said, the same could also be said about the expert celebs that know about as much about Covid as most of the rest of us, which certainly includes me and that is zero.

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      So how much is he being paid on top of his pension for this jaunt. I do find it irritating that ex pollies are given these lucrative grace and favour jobs when they leave parliament.

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      Triss, Mr Abbott is paying for this trip himself along with the required quarantine when he returns- not that it is any of your business. And the trade job that has been mooted is NOT a ‘grace and favour’ job at all. The Australian Government has nothing to do with appointments made by the UK Government. It is not unusual for positions like this to be canvassed worldwide and candidates assessed/appointed on their merits.

      Mr Abbott is still a young man and whether you agree with his views or not, he would be doing nothing wrong by seeking paid employment, parliamentary pension not withstanding. After all Mr Rudd, Mr Keating, Ms Gillard and a host of other ex-polititians are all in paid employment one way or another. Why single out Mr Abbott for your derision?

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      KSS, one would not expect anything different from the tribes on this site. comments such as, “I hope he gets COVID and he can rot to death in the gutter.” show the low level of certain contributors. Mr Abbot is not saying anything different to many commentators, especially economists, but the hate merchants of the left will seize on the same comment by Mr Abbott and without thinking, pile on with the usual abuse.

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      Sceptic, don’t be so quick to paint the left with full responsibility for the vitriolic comments. I suspect you might find many of those members making comments are more aligned with hate merchants of the right.

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    Absolutely disgusting and it shocked me that he could possibly think like this. He is a Catholic who voted against euthanasia so why would he do this!
    When he lost his seat he went up in my estimation with his lovely conceded speech stopping people booing his opponent and his talk about values.
    He is in London where so many have died. This is so sad and disappointing!

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      Just because he says he’s a Catholic doesn’t mean he is one.

      He might pretend to be, but it is all just grandstanding and ingratiating himself with so-called religious people. This man has proved time and time again that he holds none of the beliefs of any religion let alone Catholocism. Actions speak louder than words. He has not got a religious bone in his body.

      Like many politicians, he is just a hypocrite. Take Tim Wilson, an avowed gay man and who was once a Human Rights Commissioner. Not only does he represent a party who is so anti-gay and so anti-human rights, it’s not funny, but as soon as he was elected he promptly forgot about both those issues and voted with the government on things that he supposedly should be diametrically opposed to. His hypocrisy is absolutly breathtaking, But for a salary of over $200,000 a year, of course you do what you have to.

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      Don’t you remember Paddington how he just could not stop harping on when he was pushed out?
      He took every opportuniy to interfere until it became patently obvious that he was unhinged.

  6. 0
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    Watch all the trolls and morons pick up on this ….. social media will be abuzz with inane comments and criticism.

  7. 0
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    What a disgraceful person.

    So what does he suggest we do with the elderly; when they get the virus do we just leave them be and try not to help? Many of these people get sick, are treated and come out the other side. Of course many don’t but who and how do you make that decision when they first get the virus.

    I know he’s a strong follower of the Catholic Church but playing God is not up to him. And he calls himself a Christian.

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      You don’t just die ‘naturally’ with this virus. That implies some sort of peace instead of coughing your heart out. What about the toll on medical staff, or do you just leave people,on their own

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      Greg, That is exactly what we have done to those poor people in the nursing homes. The way we have treated them is brutal and cruel. We have locked them up in their rooms with no human contact and let them die alone. There was a show on SBS on Monday night which was partly filmed in a nursing home and partly in a hospital in London. The residents were treated with respect and the ones who were dying had their families allowed to visit. They were suitably clothed in PPE. None were left to die alone. In the hospital people who were expected to not survive rallied when family members were allowed to visit.

      The nursing home residents were allowed to be together in the lounge with temperatures checked every two hours along with those of the staff. We have lost our humanity in Australia.

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      “Collateral damage”

  8. 0
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    Tony Abbott talks common sence as usual. The Abbott haters will come out in force to try and discredit and insult him. The elderly must take what precautions they can, but for most if they catch the virus it will kill them, just as ordinary flu kills thousands of old people each year. Tony says family and friends must do what they can to make the old comfortable but death is inevitable. He makes the point that health authorities already make hard descisions about elderly paitents with incurable ailments and ration the availability of drugs. I say this as a seventyfive year old with a raft of medical problems which will provbably carry me off if I catch the virus. However I have had a rock and roll life, done what I’ve wanted and will have no regrets. Never forget Jesus said, ” In my fathers house are many mansions, I go to prepare a place for you.”

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      A man at ease with life. Good to see.

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      Its ok to make that decision for yourself and thanks to the fact that it is not acceptable practise you do have that choice – as do all of us who are in the vulnerable age groups. You do not however have the right to say it is ok for all 65 and over. You and he are playing God. While the resources and the will and good people prevail then the right thing must be done and putting $’s first is not that. Euthenasia, choosing not to be treated, is – and is also what I would choose if I catch it and could choose. But he voted against us having that freedom of choice.

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      I can’t stand ‘The Abbott’, but I agree with you John. I don’t want my children and grandchildren’s lives destroyed to save a handful of old people who would likely have died before long anyway. Of course we should do what we feasibly can to protect the aged and vulnerable and to make those who do catch the disease as comfortable as possible, and give them the best possible chance of survival. But shutting down the economy and throwing hundreds of thousands of lives into disarray is not a good solution. How many deaths by suicide have resulted? How much mental illness caused by shutdowns? How many families in despair and unable to visit loved ones? How many old people died lonely and heartbroken, because loved ones couldn’t be with them? I would rather die a few years sooner than die alone, knowing my grandchildren are unemployed and at risk of losing their homes because the government valued my life over theirs.

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      I agree with you 100% youngain and I’m near the target age.
      Make me comfortable and let me go, give us all the choice.
      Don’t let me suffer and die alone, that decision is utterly and completely disgustingly reprehensible and there is no excuse for it in These days of isolation suits etc.
      all this is just a gigantic push to see just how much the government can make you give up before you say NO THATS ENOUGH. I’m amazed at people’s low threshold of capitulation.

    • 0
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      Thank you John!

      My sentiments as well – I could get the flu tomorrow and that could be the end for me but I don’t expect the country to fall flat on it’s face to save me!

      This virus to me is just another flu and it is up to US to avoid getting it – same as the flu – destroying our country and economy because of a Chinese brewed contagion because others like myself ( over 70’s) is utter madness! After all we do have a set no of years in our lives and we should live them to the full – not panic over a virus – learn to live with it.

      Doing as we are doing suggests we never die, only the virus can kill us – really?

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      It’s not a trade, old people dying won’t save one young person. The arguement is nonsense.
      The virus may not be killing young people but it is leaving them with long lasting or even permanant damage. This damage could end up costing millions over a lifetime.

  9. 0
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    Once again we are witness to Tony Abbott’s flawed logic. Whatever you may think about Daniel Andrews, the numbers tell the story: over 400 infections per a few weeks ago, now fewer than 100. Following Abbott’s path to lift restrictions would see Victoria overwhelmed. As for letting the elderly die, it reveals Abbott’s inhuman streak. When he dismantled all agencies that monitored CO2 emissions in the first days of his government, he showed same noxious disregard for younger generations. It’s time the mad monk was led to a mountain and left to contemplate his puerile philosophies.

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      Many of the vulnerable in nursing homes, along with who succumbed to this virus, served this country in the second, Korean, and Vietnam wars. To think that an ex-Australian PM suggests throwing them under a bus because he declares they are no longer useful is galling.

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      He’s not ‘throwing them under a bus’. He’s simply saying that many of them were close to death anyway (which is true) and there should be a limit to the extent to which we destroy young lives to protect those who are close to death anyway.

      The bottom line is that hundreds of thousands die of flu annually. This year, there have been very few flu deaths???? Oh, wait. Maybe COVID is actually only a flu? So, should we lock down the entire nation and kill the economy to protect old people from flu?

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      You’re getting fewer cases because fewer people are being tested.

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      Youngagain, those who die from Covid are not just frail aged in nursing homes. We are all at risk. There have been fewer deaths from the flu due to a take up in vaccinations and things like personal hygiene, social distancing, wearing masks etc also stop its spread. I’m also certain that there are young people who would hate to catch Covid and accidentally pass it onto older loved ones. Even if you don’t die there are lasting side effects. What about verworked medical staff? Sweden’s approach has not helped their economy either

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      Youngagain, your persuasive words are swinging me around to thinking Tone might just be right about letting some “be left to die naturally; you being ‘the first cab off the rank’ undoubtedly.

      But no, I’ll resist as everyone is entitled to their own “opinion”. But Youngagain, remember this, you just aren’t entitled to your own “facts”.

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      Based on the comments of those supporting Abbott, why have hospitals and medicine at all? Why not just let nature take its toll on everyone? The answer is because we are humans, at least most of us are.
      Based on the Abbott view of life, we’d only allow the fittest to survive… hmmm, where did I see that in 1939 to 1945? If Abbott is so keen on a perfect race (oh yes, I remember his sister), I guess he’ll close the door to all refugees, those of different sexual persuasions, and pursue extermination of indigenous, and anyone that doesn’t look or act like him. Who knows, he claims to be a catholic, so does he support elimination of every other religion as well? What a despot.
      Maybe it is Tony Abbott we don’t need, not everyone else. That’s what I seem to recall the election saying. Tony would have to hope he doesn’t sick after all his travels. Under his model he wouldn’t be saved and I sure no-one would care.
      Tony has shown he is a real believer in people only being of value when they are contributing to his pocket, not getting something back for all the money they contributed to his well-being and lifestyle.

    • 0
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      Youngagain. I disagree with you. Everyone should be treated with respect and not left to die just because they are ‘old’. Also, did you know that if you are over 70, you can get a free flu injection every year? This measure seems the complete opposite of what you propose. Anyone can get Covid, and leaving the elderly in this state also makes them a source of infection to others. Aren’t we lucky that Tony Abbott is not the Prime Minister of Australia at this time? Dodged a bullet there – literally!

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      Youngagain – Of course there hasn’t been many flu deaths this year; maybe you noticed that we have been IN RESTRICTIONS for most of it.

      The flu is nowhere near as contagious or deadly, months ago it was reported that flu numbers were down something like 95%, no doubt due to people not mixing with each other as normal.

      And no we don’t closed down the economy for the flu, we have vaccines which massively reduce the spread, the intensity and the death rate of the flu. Vic has gone well past the normal death rate for the flu already in only PART OF A YEAR.

      Again, have no restrictions and instead of 18,000 cases we could be at 180,000 cases…or millions. Instead of 500+ deaths it could be 5,000. or 100’s of thousands and where exactly do we put all the people that would need hospital care? Where would all the beds come from, the equipment needed, the staff???

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      Flawed logic? In this case what he says IS logical!

  10. 0
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    Tony Abbot from the same mould as Trump and Johnston, the good thing is he is out of government. I have lifelong Liberal friends who gave time and money to help him out of parliament. Ignore him we is a wanker, make sure he cannot come back, stay and fry in the UK virus.

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