Premier Faces No Confidence Motion in Australian State Parliament

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia. Contact him on
October 13, 2020Updated: October 13, 2020

Victorian State Parliament will debate a vote of no confidence in Premier Daniel Andrews this week due to his government’s handling of the CCP virus pandemic.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the Liberal Nationals would be voting no confidence when the motion is debated.

“More than 75,000 Victorians have called out the lies, mistakes and cover-ups that have left us with no confidence in Daniel Andrews and his Labor Government.

“Every single Labor MP will have an opportunity this week to show who they stand with—Daniel Andrews or the Victorian people they were elected to represent.

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Leader of the Liberal Party Michael O’Brien in Melbourne, Australia on Feb. 4, 2019. (Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)

This comes after both Jenny Mikakos resigned last month as health minister and Chris Eccles resigned on Monday as secretary to the Department of Premier and Cabinet in the wake of the hotel quarantine inquiry.

The flaws in the hotel quarantine system are believed to be responsible for the state’s second wave outbreak of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus. The outbreak has killed 791 Victorians and left thousands of people being out of work.

Despite 99 percent of CCP virus cases being linked to the government’s failed hotel quarantine program, Andrews’ Labor government is failing to accept responsibility, a statement by the LNP reads.

“While other states have managed to get the virus under control and to reopen their business, life is still far from normal for millions of Victorians,” O’Brien said.

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said: “I have no confidence the city-centric Labor Government will ever put our best interests before its own and that’s why I’m voting no confidence in Daniel Andrews this week in Parliament.”

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A police car sits outside the Rydges on Swanston hotel linked to being a source of coronavirus outbreaks in Melbourne, Australia on July 14, 2020. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

But Greens MPs have labelled the motion a stunt and said they would not support it.

Greens leader Samantha Ratnam accused the opposition of “Trump-style politics.”

Fellow Greens MP Ellen Sandell also said she would not support the opposition.

“Certainly, the government has made many mistakes during the pandemic,” Sandell said.

“But we think Victorians right now actually want us to work together to get us through this pandemic, out the other side, and then we can ask all those questions,” she said.

O’Brien has called on Labor MPs to back the motion and cross the floor, saying it is “quite clear” that privately, many of them are critical of the government.

But Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said it was “absolutely false” that Labor MPs are critical of Andrews.

“We know that without the leadership of the premier we would not have seen the second wave of this coronavirus hit the very low points that it is hitting right now,” she said.

“His leadership is a strong one; it’s one that has seen us through a terrible period.”

Crossbench MP Fiona Patten, who will not vote on the motion because she is in the upper house, was also critical.

“If we are going to get through this we are going to have to instil trust, and we’re seeing that being depleted through conspiracy theorists but also votes of no confidence that have no chance of getting up,” Patten said.

The Private Security Question

The Victorian government launched an inquiry into the state’s hotel quarantine program in July to uncover the decisions and actions of government agencies, hotel operators, and private security providers that led to the state’s second wave of the CCP virus.

In giving evidence to the inquiry in last month, neither the premier nor his ministers could remember who decided to use private security, nor could the premier remember why he mentioned it at a press conference on March 27.

Because no one could recall who made the decision, counsel assisting the inquiry said the decision was “arrived at by way of a creeping assumption” that went unquestioned before the premier’s press conference on March 27.

But Mikakos rejected this in her response to the inquiry’s closing submission on Oct. 9, arguing: “Had the decision not already been made by that time, the Premier would not have announced the use of private security in the program.”

She said the “weight of the evidence points clearly to an actual decision, not an assumed one,” being made during or soon after a meeting of National Cabinet at about midday on March 27.

Lawyers for Mikakos said it’s “implausible” to suggest no one decided to use private security because it doesn’t account for the realities of “governmental operation and decision-making.”

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Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos in Melbourne, Australia on Aug. 10, 2020. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Mikakos’ submission also warned the inquiry “to treat with caution the premier’s evidence” where he attempted to explain why he had mentioned private security while speaking at the press conference on March 27.

On Monday, three days after Mikakos’ submission, Chris Eccles, the former secretary to the Department of Premier and Cabinet, resigned after phone records revealed he had spoken to the head of police on March 27 as the hotel quarantine program was being hastily set up.

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Victorian government Department of Premier and Cabinet Secretary Chirs Eccles on Sept. 21, 2020. (COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry [CC by 4.0])
Victoria Police submission to the inquiry similarly argues the decision was made before the premier’s press conference.

“It is open to the board to find that, by no later than this point, a decision had been made that the proposed model would involve private security and that all interested agencies understood this,” the police submission says.

Further, Mikakos asserted that the reason why no one can identify the prime decision-maker for engaging private security was because the premier subverted normal cabinet processes when he introduced the Crisis Council of Cabinet.

The opposition only has one chance to move a motion of no confidence in the premier each parliamentary term and, if Labor remains in power, will have to wait until after the 2022 state election if it fails.

AAP contributed to this report.