Victoria’s former health minister Jenny Mikakos has accused her old boss Labor Premier Daniel Andrews of “political deflection” and said the hotel quarantine inquiry failed to answer key questions.
“I believe Victorians deserve to know the truth about an event that has so profoundly impacted them,” Mikakos said in a statement on Monday night. “They do not need another masterclass in political deflection from the premier.”
Mikakos released her statement hours after the inquiry released its final report into the scandal that led to her resignation.
She said the $5.7 million inquiry had “failed to answer key questions,” with retired judge Jennifer Coate unable to identify a single person responsible for the fatal decision to use private security guards in the program.
Some of the private security contractors had inappropriate interactions with quarantined hotel guests which led to a second outbreak of COVID-19 and a long-running Draconian lockdown imposed by the Andrews government.
The decision to use private security contractors has been the focus of the inquiry, with neither the premier nor his ministers or top bureaucrats able to say who made the decision.
Mikakos had called on the inquiry to release un-redacted phone records from March 27, the day before the hotel quarantine program began.
“I am disappointed that the inquiry decided to redact some phone records, including the Premier’s calls in their entirety and to subject these to a non-publication order,” she wrote. “In the interests of public transparency, all telephone call records provided relating to 27 March 2020 should be publicly released.”
My media statement is attached. pic.twitter.com/z5jwWUD6eD
— Jenny Mikakos #StaySafeSaveLives (@JennyMikakos) December 21, 2020
Mikakos, DHHS secretary Kym Peake, and Department and Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles have already quit over the scandal.
If they hadn’t already done so, Andrews said he would have requested and accepted the resignations of Mikakos and Peake.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien says the truth of the situation has been “covered up” by Andrews and his ministers.
“Today, there are no answers. There is no accountability. Nobody is taking responsibility,” O’Brien said in a statement. “Daniel Andrews and his ministers stuffed up then they covered up. Now millions of Victorian taxpayers’ dollars have been wasted with the truth remaining hidden.”
“Daniel Andrews says he is responsible for the decisions made by his government. The report clearly says that ‘systemic governmental failings led to problems.’ Daniel Andrews has failed Victorians and refuses to take responsibility for the largest public policy failure in our state’s history.
“He should resign,” he said.
But Andrews is standing firm.
“Not only will I not resign, because that is just not who I am, I’ll be on the ballot in 2022,” he said.
Coate made 12 recommendations on top of 69 in the inquiry’s interim report, including updating Victoria’s pandemic plan and further exploring mandatory testing for returned travellers.
In addition, she wants the Public Sector Commissioner to examine the inquiry’s evidence as to the lines of accountability and responsibility between departmental heads and ministers.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp should also be tasked with clarifying language used in Victoria’s emergency management manual to ensure there is no ambiguity about the role and responsibility of a control agency.
Andrews said his government plans to adopt all 12 recommendations, after spending the summer considering the report in detail.
Victoria’s second wave of coronavirus, which resulted in more than 18,000 new infections and 800 deaths, was triggered by security guards who became infected at the Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza hotels in May and June.
AAP contributed to this article.