Andrews says Mikakos was responsible for hotel quarantine, but he’s unsure who chose to use private guards

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has told the inquiry into the state’s hotel quarantine scheme that Health Minister Jenny Mikakos was responsible for the failed program.

In a written statement, Mr Andrews said Ms Mikakos was in charge of the program following a cabinet meeting on April 8.

“I then regarded Minister Mikakos as accountable for the Program. The CCC (Crisis Council of Cabinet) was provided with regular reports by Minister Mikakos containing data relevant to Victoria’s response to the public health emergency,” he said.

Ms Mikakos told the inquiry her department was not solely responsible for the program, known as Operation Soteria.

The Premier also said he was unaware of who made the critical decision to use private security guards as the first line of defence at the hotels.

“I do not know who made that decision,” Mr Andrews wrote in his statement.

“After National Cabinet made its decision, I expected that there would be a mix of different personnel playing different roles in the Program, including members of Victoria Police.”

The question of why private security guards were used at the quarantine hotels, instead of ADF personnel or police, has been central to the inquiry’s lines of questioning.

Mr Andrews joins Ms Mikakos, Police Minister Lisa Neville and Jobs Minister Martin Pakula in telling the inquiry he does not know who made that decision.

Mr Andrews’s early evidence focused on the days leading up to the establishment of the quarantine program.

He said not mandating compulsory quarantine for returned travellers posed too much risk to the community.

“In my judgement, very serious risk, perhaps an unacceptable risk for community transmission,” he said.

When asked by counsel assisting the inquiry, Rachel Ellyard, whether he was involved in the design of the program, Mr Andrew said it was a “deeply operational matter that would not be determined by my office or my department”.

More to come.

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