Damning email could sink Dan Andrews

 

An explosive email has blown apart Daniel Andrews' suggestion the military had not been made available to help with Victoria's failed hotel quarantine program.

At several of the Victorian Premier's press conferences over the past two months, he has faced fierce questioning over why the state had opted not to use the ADF to facilitate the botched system, which has since been genomically linked to almost all of the state's second wave coronavirus cases.

Mr Andrews repeatedly stood firm, suggesting the help was not there, then in an inquiry into the system's failure last month he doubled down.

"I'm glad you mention the use of ADF, I don't believe the use of ADF support was on offer," he told the inquiry.

However, emails released in the same inquiry yesterday have smashed that assertion wide open.

They show that Prime Minister Scott Morrison's office wrote to Mr Andrews' office on April 8, saying New South Wales had ADF personnel involved in hotel quarantine, and that the same option was there to assist Victoria "if (the government) want to reconsider your model".

This was followed by an army situation report on April 20 warning Victoria was nearing its quarantine capacity of 4000.

Then on June 24, Victoria Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles emailed his Canberra counterpart, Phil Gaetjens.

"The Premier and Prime Minister discussed last night the support that might be provided by the ADF in relation to the current outbreaks in Victoria," the email read.

"ADF security for passengers entering and exiting hotel quarantine. Request between 50-100 personnel."

The email suggests ADF support was very much on offer.
The email suggests ADF support was very much on offer.


Yesterday, the state's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp spoke at the hotel quarantine inquiry.

While the Australian Defence Force was involved in the initial planning of the hotel quarantine program, Mr Crisp told a teleconference on March 27, two days before international travellers were due to arrive, that he did not see a need for "boots on the ground".

He told the inquiry he first learnt a hotel quarantine program would be created at a meeting at about 1.30pm on March 27 with Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville, before it was formally announced by the Prime Minister.

By the time he attended a teleconference at 4.30pm that afternoon, he said he understood a decision to use private guards was already made by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews previously denied the support was on offer. Picture: Andrew Henshaw/NCA NewsWire
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews previously denied the support was on offer. Picture: Andrew Henshaw/NCA NewsWire

As early as March 30, Mr Crisp learnt there were "challenges" with security staff working in hotel quarantine.

A meeting of the hotel quarantine co-ordination team on March 30, involving the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, advised there were issues with private security, Mr Crisp said in his statement to the inquiry.

A Victoria Police representative also advised there were "challenges".

A further meeting on April 4 noted reports that hotel security staff were not following good social distancing practices and breaching physical distancing and infection control practices, Mr Crisp said.

One security guard at the Stamford Hotel turned up to work with symptoms, according to a meeting of the state control team on June 22.

Mr Crisp said the June 24 request as laid out in the email for 50-100 ADF personnel was withdrawn after the Department of Justice suggested an alternative.

"Police and protective services officers were specifically mentioned, and I was asked if I would rescind that request," he said.

 

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp was grilled in the inquiry yesterday.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp was grilled in the inquiry yesterday.


In the days that followed, it was decided corrections staff would take over quarantine.

Mr Crisp told the inquiry he was later tasked to seek 850 soldiers for hotel quarantine after being given a "list of issues" involving private security guarding the hotels.

However, Ms Crisp said he was later directed to rescind the request because other options, including using police and protective services officers, were being explored.

Mr Crisp told the inquiry the Department of Health and Human Services secretary pointed to a list of issues with private security guarding travellers in quarantine hotels, during a meeting in late June, to justify looking for another workforce.

"It was about exploring whether ADF at that time could take a role at the hotels," he said.

"I asked the deputy secretary how many. I was given the number of 850."

Mr Crisp said the request for soldiers was rescinded after a conversation with the department justice secretary, who had been exploring other options with the health department.

benjamin.graham@news.com.au

Originally published as Damning email could sink Dan Andrews


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