Richard Riordan MP - Crisp - The defence force role was purely to assist with planning and logistics
Alex White, Herald Sun
Victoria Police has launched criminal inquiries into private security companies involved in the state’s bungled hotel quarantine program.
Chief Commissioner Shane Patton told parliament’s pandmeic response inquiry today inquiries were underway for potential criminal activity.
But details about any alleged criminal activity, or how many companies are being probed, remain unclear.
Earlier today Victoria’s emergency management chief revealed authorities believed they could handle the bungled hotel quarantine program without ADF help.
Emergency Management Victoria commissioner Andrew Crisp has maintained ADF support for running the program was never on offer, and he never asked for help.
“We believed that we had the resources within the state to meet the needs of that particular program,” he told the parliament’s pandemic response inquiry.
“There was no offer made by the ADF in relation to putting resources into the hotels for hotel quarantine.”
Mr Crisp said even before a key meeting on March 27 in which a decision was made to use private security companies to run the program, talks had begun with contractors.
“I understand that work had already been undertaken to plan for hotel quarantine, and that there had already been engagement with private security to undertake the primary security role for hotel quarantine.”
Mr Crisp told the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing that the ADF had been working in the state control center for some weeks before the program got underway.
The defence force role was purely to assist with planning and logistics, he said.
Emergency Management Victoria commissioner Andrew Crisp has maintained ADF support for running the program was never on offer.
The bungled program has heightened tensions between the state and federal governments with premier Daniel Andrews and federal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds at loggerheads over whether defence force personnel help was offered.
On the day Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the mandatory hotel quarantine program, he said that ADF personnel would be offered to “assist in compliance with these arrangements”.
Mr Andrews has claimed it was “fundamentally incorrect” that his government “said no” to hundreds of ADF members coming to help.
But an order was made by the Chief of the Defence Force on March 27 to have 100 ADF personnel on standby in Victoria to support hotel quarantine compliance.
On that day Mr Andrews said in a statement that the ADF “will be engaged to support the implementation of these arrangements”.
Mr Crisp is also expected to be grilled over a June 24 request for ADF help specifically identifying the need for help to monitor the quarantine program.
The email request sent at 8.38pm on June 24 requested up to 850 personnel “to provide compliance and monitoring support to Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) at the designated hotels being used for mandatory quarantine.”
The request specifically noted personnel would be required to support the “active monitoring of quarantine compliance by individuals in hotel quarantine.”
But the request was cancelled less than 24 hours after it was made.
WORKSAFE LAUNCHES PROBE INTO SECURITY COMPANIES
Government departments and security companies involved in the bungled scheme are being investigated by WorkSafe.
The workplace watchdog head Colin Radford has revealed the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions are among the 20 duty holders — up from 17 — being investigated for COVID-19 spread.
Appearing before the state’s Parliamentary Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC), Mr Radford revealed the work practices of security guard companies were also being probed in relation to eight workplaces.
This is the first time it was revealed which organisations are being probed in relation to transmissions of the deadly disease in the workplace.
When Mr Radford was asked if investigations had begun into unsafe practices, like security guards not being provided PPE, he said: “Yes, we have.
“We are investigating some of the activities as they pertain to the Health and Safety Act, and the duty holder in that case would be the security companies.
“So, absolutely we are investigating whether they have complied with their responsibilities.
Hotel Quarantine Inquiry told positive security guard did food deliveries A guard working at Rydges has told the inquiry into Melbourne’s hotel quarantine program he completed “three or four” food deliveries just hours after getting a test for coron...
“There are eight worksites that are subject of investigation and where the security companies are the duty holders they would form part of that investigation.”
When asked which duty holders within the government were also being probed, Mr Radford said: “DHHS and DJPR.”
He also confirmed the government could be held accountable for deaths.
“All duty holders carry responsibility under the OHS act,” Mr Radford said.
Attorney-General Jill Hennessy however stressed OHS investigations were common.
She said: “There are often OHS (investigations) and I think it speaks to the independence of WorkSafe there are often investigations.
“In respect of where there have been high-risk issues and more generally, if you put COVID aside, healthcare is again one of the highest ranked health and occupational safety areas of risk, so you know government is not immune … government is investigated when there are things, a suggestion or a complaint or potential assertion of a breach of a duty and that is the way it should be.”
When asked whether there was any legal advice sought on whether the government could be held accountable under manslaughter laws, Ms Hennessy said “those are matters I have not sought advice on”, but later confirmed “the Crown is not immune”.
1100 VICTORIANS CONTEST COVID-19 FINES
Hundreds of COVID-19 fines are being contested. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images
Hundreds of Victorians are contesting their COVID-19 fines, with the government admitting the challenge rate was higher than normal.
The PAEC has heard 1108 fines handed out by Victoria Police are currently under review.
Furthermore, 53 fines are being reviewed by Fines Victoria.
It comes after Ms Hennessy revealed Victorians had the right to contest any punishments handed out during the pandemic — however, no court challenges are currently are afoot.
Ms Hennessy said the rate of review was “slightly” higher than normal.
She also confirmed at least one prisoner made a legal challenge, seeking to be freed from prison due to additional risks of contracting the virus in jail.
During the hearing — where MPs questioned ministers over the state government’s pandemic response — Ms Hennessy also confirmed she was not involved in the decision to hire hotel guards as she was not part of the hotel quarantine program when it was established.
“I did not bear any ministerial role in the establishment of hotel quarantine,” she said.
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