Ousted health Minister attacks Andrews

 

Former health minister Jenny Mikakos turned on Premier Daniel Andrews, saying his decision to "subvert" usual cabinet process caused Victoria's hotel quarantine disaster.

The Board of Inquiry probing the state government's bungled hotel quarantine program published final submissions it received on Friday.

In the former health minister's statement, Ms Mikakos took aim at Mr Andrews and also threw Jobs Minister Martin Pakula under the bus.

"The haste with which this program was established saw the usual cabinet processes subverted with the Premier," her statement said.

"The features of the hotel quarantine program which have been identified as critical to its failure (hotels, inadequate cleaning, and the use of private security guards) thereafter remained the responsibility of the DJPR (Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions) until July when the program transitioned to the Department of Justice and Community Safety.

"While the DHHS also had critical roles in the hotel quarantine program, it is clear that it did not have responsibility for those particular contractual matters."

She said the fact no cabinet or cabinet committee process was engaged to set up the program was "the root cause of some of the issues which have been ventilated before the board in the course of this inquiry".

"In particular, the failure to follow ordinary cabinet-led decision-making processes is the cause of the differing views which have been given by witnesses as to who had overall responsibility and accountability for the hotel quarantine program," she said.

Ms Mikakos also said the Premier and other ministers should be cross-examined "by those who might be in the best position to contradict them".

"No department or minister cross-examined any of the members of cabinet who gave evidence to the board," she wrote.

"Ordinarily, the board might accept the evidence of a witness that was not challenged in cross-examination. However, a minister in a cabinet government or a secretary of a department might consider it politically disadvantageous or improper to cross-examine a cabinet minister.

"Accordingly, the board should critically review the evidence of the Premier and the ministers where that evidence is at odds with other evidence."

Premier Daniel Andrews maintains he was not aware who hired private security guards. Picture: COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry via NCA NewsWire
Premier Daniel Andrews maintains he was not aware who hired private security guards. Picture: COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry via NCA NewsWire

Ms Mikakos quit parliament less than 24 hours after the Premier gave evidence at the hotel quarantine inquiry on September 25.

Mr Andrews declared he knew nothing about who authorised the use of private security guards at quarantine hotels, and said that Ms Mikakos was responsible.

Ms Mikakos's claim she did not know about the use of private security in hotel quarantine had therefore been contradicted, with footage also emerging of a press conference she attended in March where the topic was covered.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos appeared at the COVID-19 hotel quarantine inquiry on September 24.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos appeared at the COVID-19 hotel quarantine inquiry on September 24.

In late September she told the inquiry she first became aware of the decision to use private security contractors in late May after an outbreak was reported at Rydges on Swanston outbreak.

But a video of a March 29 press conference showed the Health Minister fronting the media with Trade Minister Martin Pakula as he confirmed contractors would be used.

Ms Mikakos ultimately accepted accountability "for the conduct of her department", but urged the board to consider "failures" of her department and the Department of Jobs to raise issues with her about hotel quarantine.

Jenny Mikakos has come down hard on Jobs Minister Martin Pakula in an explosive statement submitted to the hotel quarantine inquiry. Picture: Andrew Henshaw/NCA NewsWire
Jenny Mikakos has come down hard on Jobs Minister Martin Pakula in an explosive statement submitted to the hotel quarantine inquiry. Picture: Andrew Henshaw/NCA NewsWire

"If she was unaware of many critical decisions made when the hotel quarantine program was established or first being run, that is due to no fault on her part," her statement said.

"She had many responsibilities in the state's response to the COVID-19 emergency and she worked diligently to discharge her duties to the people of Victoria. But she played no role in the critical decision to use private security in the frontline, or the terms on which they were contracted. Nor did her department. For those decisions, others must take responsibility."

The Board of Inquiry will hand down its final report on November 6.

Originally published as Ousted health Minister attacks Andrews


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