Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews has wiped his hands of responsibility for the state’s bungled COVID-19 hotel quarantine program, saying he doesn’t know who gave the go-ahead for private security to run the scheme that’s been largely blamed for spreading Victoria’s deadly second wave of the virus.
Appearing via video link, the Premier was asked directly at today’s hotel quarantine inquiry if he knew who made the decision to hire private security guards.
“No, I don’t,” Mr Andrews said.
He added that he had “no expectation whatsoever” that ADF support was available for the program, adding that his comment was not a criticism of the National Cabinet.
“I had absolutely no expectation whatsoever that in the establishment and the running of hotel quarantine there would be significant extensive ADF support. That was not the case for every state,” the Premier said.
He also wasn’t able to identify a specific date or document in which he learned that private security would be used in the program.
“I announced these arrangements at least in broad terms, on the 28th, so I must have been informed of those final decisions prior to then,” he said.
When asked if he had a view on the decision to use private security, he claimed that he couldn’t recall having a view “one way or the other”.
Mr Andrews was, perhaps ominously, the 13th bureaucrat to appear at the inquiry and claim he didn’t know who pulled the trigger on the hiring of private security for the hotel quarantine program.
Andrews ended his evidence at the inquiry by making an apology to Victorians.
“I want to issue an unreserved apology to all Victorians and I want to say that you, Madam Chair, I await the final report, the conclusion of your work, so we can understand better what has occurred, and so that I, as Leader of the Government, can take the appropriate action to ensure that these sorts of errors never occur again.”
Victoria’s opposition leader, Michael O’Brien has again called for Andrews to resign following his appearance at the inquiry today.
“Daniel Andrews’ testimony to the Hotel Quarantine Inquiry today proves Victorians can have no confidence in this arrogant, lying Premier. Andrews and his ‘gang of eight’ have no choice but to resign,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Victorians have a Premier who will not tell the truth. Victorians deserve better than lies and cover-ups from a Premier whose second wave of COVID-19 has killed over 750 people and cost thousands of jobs.”
He described the hotel quarantine failure as “the most disastrous failure of public administration in Victoria’s history”.
“Our communities and state economy have been crippled by the second wave. Daniel Andrews’ disastrous mismanagement of hotel quarantine has ripped the soul out of small businesses and communities.
“Hundreds of deaths. Thousands of businesses closed. Hundreds of thousands of jobs lost. Millions of Victorians locked down. Andrews has failed his most fundamental duty to the people of this state. He must go,” he said.