Hotel quarantine inquiry to reopen

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Hotel quarantine inquiry to reopen after receiving new phone logs from Dan Andrews

By Brett Lackey For Daily Mail Australia

In a bombshell development, the inquiry into Victoria’s bungled hotel quarantine program, the source of the state’s second wave of COVID-19, is set to be reopened. 

On Friday, the Board of Inquiry, chaired by retired judge Jennifer Coate, said it would hold an extraordinary sitting at 2pm on Tuesday to discuss the program. 

The board has reportedly received new phone logs from Premier Daniel Andrews and his staff and previously unseen documents from the Department of Health and Human Services that warranted reopening the inquiry. 

The inquiry into Melbourne's hotel quarantine scheme is set to be reopened after the board received new phone logs from Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) and his staff and previously unseen documents from the Department of Health and Human Services

The inquiry into Melbourne’s hotel quarantine scheme is set to be reopened after the board received new phone logs from Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) and his staff and previously unseen documents from the Department of Health and Human Services 

The inquiry had wrapped up on September 28 after hearing from 63 witnesses, including Premier Daniel Andrews, senior government ministers and public servants.

It is due to hand down its final report on November 6.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) secretary Chris Eccles both resigned after appearing before the inquiry.

Mr Eccles resignation came on Monday, after his phone records were handed to the inquiry at the weekend.

In a statement, Mr Eccles conceded the records show he spoke to former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton at 1.17pm on March 27, the day it was decided private security guards would staff quarantine hotels.

‘The telephone records do not in any way demonstrate that I, or indeed anyone else in DPC made a decision that private security be used in the hotel quarantine program,’ Mr Eccles said.

‘I am absolutely certain I did not convey to Mr Ashton any decision regarding the use of private security as I was unaware any such decision had been made, and I most certainly had not made such a decision myself.’

The two-minute phone call between Mr Ashton and Mr Eccles occurred in a critical six-minute window when, according to the former police chief’s messages tendered to the inquiry, the decision to use guards was made.

Ms Mikakos’ resignation came the day after the premier appeared at the inquiry.

In her response to closing submissions, Ms Mikakos said Mr Andrews’ evidence about private security should be ‘treated with caution’.

She said it was ‘implausible’ to suggest no one made the decision to use private security guards in the botched program.

Pictured: The Pan Pacific hotel in Melbourne where guests were seen walking to a convenience store in breach of quarantine restrictions
Pictured: The Pan Pacific hotel in Melbourne where guests were seen walking to a convenience store in breach of quarantine restrictions

Pictured: The Pan Pacific hotel in Melbourne where guests were seen walking to a convenience store in breach of quarantine restrictions 

Lawyers assisting the inquiry had previously argued the decision wasn’t made by one person or government department.

Instead, it was a ‘creeping assumption that became a reality’ following a 4:30pm meeting at the state control centre on March 27.

‘Such a submission has insufficient regard to the realities of governmental operation and decision-making,’ Ms Mikakos’ submission reads.

‘The board ought to treat with caution the premier’s evidence where he sought to explain the reference to the use of private security in the hotel quarantine program.’

Meanwhile, The Age on Friday revealed the Department of Health and Human Services had been asked to supply documents to the inquiry relating to questions over the accuracy of testimony provided by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.

Victoria’s second wave of coronavirus, which resulted in more than 18,000 new infections and 750 deaths, can be traced back to outbreaks at two Melbourne hotels used in the quarantine program.

The $6 million inquiry is led by retired judge Jennifer Coate.


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