Victorian Government Spent $7.7 Million on Inquiry Lawyers

By AAP
January 31, 2021 Updated: February 1, 2021

The Victorian government spent more on lawyers representing them at the hotel quarantine inquiry than it did on the entire probe.

The inquiry, led by retired judge Jennifer Coate, cost a total of $4.8 million but was unable to identify a single person responsible for the fatal decision to use private security guards in hotels.

More than 18,000 COVID-19 infections and 800 deaths can be traced back to guards working at Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza in May and June.

According to figures given to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee’s (PAEC) COVID-19 inquiry, the government spent at least $7.7 million on legal representation.

The Department of Health and Human Services spent $6.25 million, the Department of Premier and Cabinet spent $1.01 million and the Department of Treasury and Finance spent $446,000.

The DPC and Treasury stated their legal fees will be reimbursed through insurance arrangements.

None of the departments could say how much Premier Daniel Andrews, ministers Lisa Neville and Martin Pakula and former health minister Jenny Mikakos spent on their personal legal representation.

Liberal MP Richard Riordan, the deputy chair of PAEC and shadow minister for scrutiny of government, said the government spent big on lawyers to “avoid the truth coming out.”

“These lawyers were not hired to help reveal the truth, they were paid to provide departments and bureaucrats a get out of jail free card,” he said in a statement on Feb. 1.

“Every Victorian should be furious that Daniel Andrews has spent millions of taxpayer funds on legal defence to protect his government from being accountable.”

Riordan said Victorians deserved to know who was was responsible for the key decisions and mistakes in the hotel quarantine program.

Private security guards are no longer involved in the state’s new-look hotel quarantine program, which started on Dec. 7.

Benita Kolovos in Melbourne