Andrews to take the hot seat at hotel quarantine inquiry today

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is booked in to give evidence to the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry today — its final day of testimony.

Mr Andrews will be the final witness interviewed by assisting counsel and inquiry chair Jennifer Coate.

He announced the inquiry on July 2 after it became clear that there were serious problems in the hotel quarantine program that had led to a fresh outbreak of the coronavirus in Victoria.

“It is abundantly clear that what has gone on here is completely unacceptable and we need to know exactly what has happened,” Mr Andrews said in a media release at the time.

The inquiry was ordered to examine, among other things, the decisions made by and communications between Government agencies, hotel operators and private contractors and contractual arrangements.

Since then, more than 750 people with COVID-19 have died in Victoria and the state has suffered billions of dollars in economic damage, not to mention the psychological and social harm from the lockdown.

One of the key questions the inquiry is seeking to answer is who made the decision to use private security guards in the program in the first place.

So far — after hearing from dozens of witnesses including nurses, security guards and public servants right up to senior advisors and ministers — it’s a question to which no-one has provided an answer.

But everyone has been clear that it wasn’t them.

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Health Minister Jenny Mikakos told the inquiry she wasn’t consulted on the hotel quarantine program.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos yesterday gave evidence to the inquiry that she wasn’t even aware that security guards were being used until reports surfaced of an outbreak centred on the Rydges hotel in late May — let alone consulted on the decision use them.

Until today, Mr Andrews has effectively cited the inquiry to deflect questions about who was responsible for the quarantine program.

He told journalists at the daily coronavirus update yesterday that it would not be appropriate to provide a “narrative”.

He said he would “provide answers to any and all questions asked of me tomorrow by the inquiry”.

“That is why the inquiry has been set up and I think we should allow the inquiry to do its work rather than presupposing where they will or won’t get to.”

However, Mr Andrews declined to say whether he would be able to provide answer on who made that first fateful decision.

“To be honest, it’s not even I think appropriate for me to speculate on what they may or may not [ask], lest that be seen as me inviting them to cover certain material or not,” he said.

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