Conga line of deniers turns hotel inquiry into farce

 

The hotel quarantine inquiry has been running since July 20, and has spent 21 days taking evidence from people directly involved in designing and running the program.

In all that time, not one person has admitted making the decision to shun the Australian Defence Force and instead use private security firms. A conga line of government types, from state controllers to deputy secretaries, departmental secretaries, commissioners and ministers, have insisted not only did they have nothing to do with the decision, they didn't even express a view on it.

Taxpayer-funded lawyers have quibbled over the use of words such as preference, direction, formal and informal, to ensure the finger of blame does not end up pointing at any particular government department or individual.

Police Minister Lisa Neville was “cranky’’ she found out Andrew Crisp had belatedly asked for the help of 850 ADF troops. Picture : NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
Police Minister Lisa Neville was “cranky’’ she found out Andrew Crisp had belatedly asked for the help of 850 ADF troops. Picture : NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie

The most senior of those people so far, Jobs Minister Martin Pakula and Police Minister Lisa Neville, were the latest to insist they had nothing to do with it, and didn't know who made the decision.

Pakula's evidence and six-page statement was interesting only for how profoundly hands-off he was.

Neville was interesting for more complex reasons - mostly because many of the key people, including former police chief commissioner Graham Ashton and Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp answered to her.

Ashton has retired now, and you'd have to wonder what the relationship is like between Crisp and Neville, given the minister's admission she was "cranky'' she found out Crisp had belatedly asked for the help of 850 ADF troops in June when she read about it on the front page of the Herald Sun.

While we appreciate the minister's interest, is this really the way members of the crisis council of cabinet should be getting their information? From the media?

Finally, let's not forget what's at stake here. The inquiry has established hotel quarantine breaches seeded 99 per cent of Victoria's second wave of COVID-19, which has so far killed 752 people.

Imagine any other government failure which killed more than 750 people - the government would never survive the scandal.

 

Originally published as Conga line of deniers turns hotel inquiry into farce


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