Witnesses forget or don’t know but will there be any repercussions? 24 September 2020
There’s a piece in this blog entitled “Good legislation and there it finishes” (see News and Politics).
Early in the article appears: “How much of Australian government and business and even charitable groups are bound by wonderful ethical motives or clear-cut guidelines of how to do things, then do not deliver?”
Is there any better example of this than the side-stepping going on in Victoria about who is responsible for security guards being used at quarantine hotels and unwittingly starting the State’s second wave of COVID-19?
Bureaucrats, politicians and Ministers of government have all been asked the question at the hotel quarantine inquiry and so far, according to their answers, none of them are responsible.
Indeed most of them don’t know who should be held responsible, some have said they can’t remember what was said at meetings. This isn’t some inquiry into a fiasco from the 1990s, it’s all happened since March 2020. Six months.
Responsibility is certainly not mine has been the mantra. The witnesses thus far called have made it very difficult for Premier Daniel Andrews who will be the last witness called.
Yesterday, this farcical situation went further when the Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said she didn’t know private security guards were working at quarantine hotels for two months before she found out. This despite her department being the lead agency for quarantine matters.
I certainly cannot imagine WA Health Minister Roger Cook flying so blind in a matter like this? Cook has been proactive, thorough and on point since COVID-19 raised its ugliness.
What I would like to know is will there be any repercussions from this inquiry? Remember, Victorians have died because of the poor governance of the hotel quarantine issue. This is no Minister caught with her hands in the till or Opposition member having a sexual fling outside his marriage and using party funds to entertain his companion.
People have died.
In the examples of wrongdoing mentioned (theft and sexual misconduct) someone usually cops it. Surely some, if not all, of the witnesses called to the inquiry have to suffer some form of demotion due to dereliction of duty.
Or has Australia become a nation with good legislation that isn’t carried through? Full of people voted into power who know how to get elected but don’t know how to do the job?
In today’s The Australian, the Member for Kew, Tim Smith wrote a piece which is republished here. Have no idea about Tim’s credentials. He might even be a wrong ‘un too from the Liberal side of politics? But he deserves the space because his thoughts are well put.
WE WILL NEVER FORGET By TIM SMITH
“I don’t recall. No, those meeting notes with my name do not jog my memory. The decision to use security guards was already made, I don’t know by who. That was not my responsibility. I heard something about the ADF, but I don’t recall what.”
Each senior figure speaking before the hotel quarantine inquiry should be made to read the transcript of their evidence and donate a considerable sum from their handsome taxpayer-funded salaries to the victims of this disaster for every time they used a version of those words.
Hundreds of Victorians have died. Thousands of businesses have collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of Victorians have lost their jobs.
The people entrusted to navigate Victoria through this pandemic steered it onto the rocks of the second wave — and are now they obfuscate, buck pass, dissemble and perhaps even lie under oath. It is a conga line of incompetence, insincerity and insensitivity. And it is a gross insult to the families who have lost loved ones because of them.
Premier Daniel Andrews has hidden behind this inquiry each time he’s been asked about the catastrophic decisions made by his government in the establishment and running of the hotel quarantine program. He has hidden behind the inquiry even when the former judge running it made it clear there was nothing stopping him talking about it.
He promised Victorians that the inquiry would get to the bottom of what had occurred, which he conceded had involved grave mistakes that led to the devastating second wave and heartbreaking loss of life.
Adding insult to grotesque injury, the most senior witnesses to the inquiry this week have been a pantomime of amnesia, bureau-babble and cowardice.
From the secretary of the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet Chris Eccles saying he sometimes had no recollection from meetings he had chaired, to the forgetful police commissioners (past and present) who couldn’t remember what notes they wrote at the meetings.
We’ve had three senior ministers say repeatedly that they weren’t aware of matters within their portfolios and didn’t seek to ask any questions about them.
We’ve had a cringeworthy performance from the Secretary of the Department of Health which has left everybody reeling at the fact that she is in charge of our entire health system, let alone the pandemic response.
We’ve had spaghetti bowl organisational charts and utopian mission statements. We’ve had emergency management plans with more acronyms than a United Nations summit.
But nobody — not a single person — has said they were responsible for the decision to use private security guards instead of police or the ADF, or that they could possibly identify who was.
It’s beyond farce. It’s beyond an embarrassment. It is undisguised contempt for Victorians. It insults our dead and compounds their families’ grief.
The Andrews government caused this second wave. And it’s now clear how it happened when you see the calibre and character of the people in charge. They reflect the character and calibre of the bloke who put them there.
There is no honour in these people and the person who leads them. They have no interest in easing the pain of Victorians. They have no interest in giving grieving families answers, or devastated business owners the truth about why a lifetime’s work has been sacrificed.
They are just out to save themselves. That none is accepting responsibility for the greatest public policy failure in living memory means everybody must. Starting from the top.
But Andrews can redeem himself on Friday by doing what a true leader should: accept responsibility, and apologise to Victorians. Then show he means both by relinquishing his position and gracefully exiting Victorians’ lives. The deaths have been too many, the destruction too great, and his culpability too deep for any other course of action.”