More Victorian Jobs Dept Staff to Front Hotel Quarantine Inquiry

August 30, 2020 Updated: August 31, 2020

Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry will continue to examine the role of the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions in setting up the botched program.

Paul Xerri and Unni Menon, both senior bureaucrats from the department, are set to give evidence to the inquiry on Aug. 31 regarding the contractual and logistical structure of the program

Last week, their colleagues Claire Febey, Katrina Currie and Gonul Serbest appeared before the inquiry.

The trio played a major role in securing hotels and contracting companies MSS Security, Unified Security and Wilson Security to oversee returned travellers.

Febey told the inquiry it was Victoria Police’s preference that private security act as the “first line of security” at the hotels.

“It was my view that Victoria Police should be present onsite at hotels 24/7, and that perimeter or proximate patrol was not adequate,” Febey wrote in her witness statement.

She continued to raise her concerns about the arrangement but was rebuffed.

While the Jobs Department took the lead in establishing the program, two days later the Department of Health and Human Services became the lead agency.

The second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria, which has killed hundreds and led to the nation’s toughest lockdown, can be traced back to outbreaks the Rydges on Swanston and the Stamford Plaza in May and June.

DHHS was responsible for overseeing infection control at both hotels, while Unified Security was on duty at Rydges and MSS was at the Stamford Plaza.

The inquiry heard last week multiple complaints were made about security guards at a number of hotels.

Guards were sleeping in corridors, smoking in stairwells and allegedly leering at female hotel staff and guests.

Benita Kolovos in Melbourne