Martin Foley will be sworn in today as the state of Victoria’s new health minister after Jenny Mikakos resigned in response to the premier’s statements regarding the state’s COVID-19 hotel quarantine inquiry.
Premier Dan Andrews is confident Foley, who is currently the minister for the mental health, will carry on the state’s strict COVID-19 suppression strategy.
“We’ve got to push forward and get this strategy done,” Andrews told the press on Sept. 26. “He (Foley) has the absolute will to see this strategy through.”
Foley said he was honoured to be asked by Andrews to take over as health minister.
“I want to acknowledge the great efforts that Victorians have collectively in a community coming together driven down those numbers faster than the roadmap out had forecasted,” Foley said.
Foley said he looked forward to building a health system in Victoria that can keep infection rates down.
Outbreaks from Melbourne’s hotels resulted in the second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria’s capital city, Melbourne, triggering the Labor government to introduce draconian lockdown rules.
Citizens have protested the lockdown rules for weeks, copping millions of dollars in fines. Meanwhile, the state’s opposition and cross bench, as well as federal politicians who are concerned about the economic and mental health impact, and human rights organisations, have challenged Victorian government ministers over the lockdown rules.
Mikakos acknowledged this in her statement, writing, “I am deeply sorry for the situation that Victorians find themselves in. In good conscience, I do not believe that my actions led to them.”
Andrews refused to answer questions about the hotel quarantine inquiry that led to Mikakos’ resignation. However, Jennifer Coate, the head of the inquiry, has previously said people can answer questions publicly.
“There’s an inquiry going on and I’ve made a judgement that I would not be answering questions,” the premier said.
He did, however, say that Mikakos’ resignation was “the appropriate course of action to take” and thanked her for her contribution to the state Parliament, the people of Victoria, and to the Labor Party.
When asked if any other ministers should resign, the premier said: “I’ve not made the point about shared accountability. I’ve made the point repeatedly about the ultimate accountability is with me.”
When asked if he will also resign, Andrews said: “No I will not. I don’t run from problems and challenges.”
“I don’t run from challenges. I have a very important job to do,” he added.
Andrews said Mikakos’ resignation was her choice and that he did not “put that to her.”
“She made that choice,” he said, while also saying that he and Mikakos did not speak before she resigned but that she did send a text message.
“I did not speak with [Mikakos] before she resigned and I have not spoken with her since. She’s resigned. She’s no longer a minister,” he said.
Andrews refused to be drawn into commentary about hotel quarantine inquiry until he received its report in the next 4-5 weeks.