Victorians Deserve Answers: Australian Federal Treasurer

August 9, 2020 Updated: August 9, 2020

Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg has again called out the Victorian government over “significant failures” in its hotel quarantine system, saying mistakes were made and must be explained.

Genomic testing indicates the program could be linked to a significant number of cases and sparked Victoria’s deadly second wave coronavirus outbreak.

Frydenberg, who is currently self-isolating in Canberra ahead of the next federal parliament sitting, said it should never have gotten to the point where the state was recording hundreds of new cases and multiple deaths a day.

“It’s very very difficult emotionally, it’s difficult obviously on the economy as well,” the Victorian MP told Sydney radio 2GB on Aug 10.

“We know with respect to quarantine, there have been very significant failures with deadly consequences. Victorians deserve answers. I’ll leave that to Daniel Andrews and his government to provide.”

An independent review of the quarantine program is set to begin next week, after the state’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said she was “deeply sorry” if she hadn’t done enough to prevent the virus spreading.

“Let the independent (hotel quarantine inquiry) judge do her job, let the cards fall where they may. I believe there is nothing to fear in seeking the truth. The truth will set you free,” she tweeted on the weekend.

It is not yet clear whether infections in Victoria’s outbreak have peaked, although there have been encouraging signs in recent days.

Victoria racked up a record 17 deaths on Sunday from the virus, taking the national toll to 295.

The state recorded 394 new cases on Sunday, which was less than the previous three days.

“It appears we’re on the plateau,” National Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said on Sunday.

He also again reminded Australians, not just in Victoria, that in the absence of a vaccine there are just two blunt tools to tackle the virus – extreme social distancing and level-four restrictions as seen in Melbourne.

However, Coatsworth said Australia was well placed to benefit if and when a vaccine was produced.

NSW recorded 10 new infections in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday, including a Hornsby Hospital healthcare employee in northern Sydney who worked on August 6 from 11am to midnight while infectious.

Queensland went for a fourth straight day with no new cases.

Given the uncertain outlook from the impact of the virus on the economy, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann hasn’t ruled out further changes to JobKeeper.

Last week, the government announced a further $15 billion injection into the wage subsidy program with changes allowing easier access for businesses, that are aimed at outbreak-hit Victoria.

The scheme will step down from a fortnightly payment of $1500 a week to $1200 at the end of September and then down to $1000 from December to March.

“We’ve been flexible in the past when it comes to what has been a rapidly evolving and fluid situation,” Senator Cormann said when asked if the reduction was too soon.

Colin Brinsden, Rebecca Gredley in Canberra