Three Coalition MPs from the committee scrutinising Victoria's response to the COVID-19 pandemic have accused the Andrews government of refusing to accept responsibility for its failures, calling the state's hotel quarantine program "an absolute disaster".
In their interim minority report as part of the parliamentary inquiry, Nationals MP Danny O'Brien and Liberal MPs Richard Riordan and Bridget Vallence pinned the blame for Victoria's second surge of coronavirus cases solely on the state government and said it urgently needed to improve its performance.
The MPs also took aim at how the inquiry by Parliament's public accounts and estimates committee was conducted in May, lambasting the "partisan temptations" that they believe caused questioning to be too lenient.
"The fact no other state in Australia has suffered a second-wave outbreak speaks volumes as to the failures this government has presided over during the pandemic," they wrote in their report.
The committee – comprised of five Labor MPs, three Coalition MPs, Greens MP Sam Gibbins and Liberal Democrats MP David Limbrick – published its interim report on Tuesday afternoon. Only the Coalition MPs put their name to the minority report. While the committee report was not particularly scathing of the state government, the three Coalition MPs pointed to an outbreak at the Cedar Meats abattoir in Melbourne's west, which spread to 111 people, as evidence of failures on contact tracing and communication.
For example, the trio suggested GPs who were treating Cedar Meats workers with COVID-19 symptoms would have benefited from the Health Department warning them about the outbreak in its initial stages. They also suggested Premier Daniel Andrews should deploy Australian Defence Force personnel, rather than Corrections Victoria staff, to manage the state's hotel quarantine program when it returns to normal.
The Coalition MPs said the committee report was not a "full and frank assessment" of the Andrews government's response to the pandemic.
"Rather, the majority report glosses over many of the Andrew government’s key failures during the pandemic, some of which Victorians are still suffering from today," they wrote. "Unless the government is willing to learn from the mistakes it has made, it will be condemned to make them again." With committee hearings to resume later this month, the three MPs called on security guards and companies involved in the hotel quarantine program – along with residents from the nine public housing towers in North Melbourne and Flemington that were locked down in July – to give evidence.
"As [the committee] moves to a second round of hearings it will be incumbent on the Andrews government to cease obfuscating, answer questions about the hotel quarantine debacle and show real leadership by taking responsibility for its failures during this pandemic instead of seeking to lay the blame on everyone else," they wrote. "Victorians deserve better."
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