The Victorian Health Minister’s very public demands yesterday that the Commonwealth stump up cash for a dedicated quarantine facility appears to be utter hypocrisy in the light of documents released yesterday obtained under Freedom of Information.
The Andrews Labor Goverment has been long touting its “gold standard” hotel quarantine, but now claims that hotels are not fit for purpose in handling returned travellers who may have been infected with COVID-19.
As a result, Heath Minister Martin Foley has demanded the Commonwealth Government take greater responsibility, despite National Cabinet agreeing in March 2020 that the states should manage quarantine due to their ready workforces and proximity to health facilities.
On 12 May 2020, Premier Andrews told a parliamentary committee; “The army of people who are working in our accommodation hotels under a plan put forward by Victoria at the National Cabinet to move to a compulsory hotel quarantine model, which was very quickly adopted around that National Cabinet table by all states and territories. I think it has served us really well. But even with good policy settings this was a unique set of circumstances, and it was very well managed.”
Yet, Acting Premier James Merlino told Parliament on 5 May 2021 that; “hotel quarantine is not a fit for purpose model and never has been”.
However, a chain of emails dated 26 March 2020 released yesterday from Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton to former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kym Peake, and former Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Chris Eccles, and on sent to the Premier’s Chief of Staff, Lizzie Ratcliff, shows the idea of hotel quarantine originated in Victoria, at the suggestion of Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton.
Brett Sutton edited a draft Advice to National Cabinet from NSW, Vic, Qld & Commonwealth CHOs on Next Step Measures.
What had read, “Any traveller coming through the international border will have an enforced quarantine arrangement either in their own home or, in high risk cases, in an alternative facility” was instead proposed by Brett Sutton to read, “In addition to the existing enforced quarantine arrangements for international travellers arriving in Australia, it is recommended that, in high risk cases monitored placement in a facility such as a hotel is enforced for those who would normally reside with others at home.”
Clearly Brett Sutton’s suggestion was accepted by the Secretaries of DHHS and DPC and by the Premier’s Office and duly made its way to National Cabinet, where it was accepted and implemented nationally with varied success. Other jurisdictions managed their hotel quarantine programs reasonably successfully, only Victoria was the standout failure.
For Martin Foley and Labor now to claim Victoria’s hotel quarantine failure wasn’t their fault, that hotels were never fit for purpose as quarantine facilities and the Federal Government should pay for the construction of dedicated quarantine facilities is all a bit rich, given hotel quarantine was their idea in the first place.