Victorian premier Daniel Andrews give evidence before the Hotel Quarantine Inquiry on Friday, September 25, 2020.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews give evidence before the Hotel Quarantine Inquiry on Friday, September 25, 2020.

Hotel quarantine inquiry to reopen

The inquiry into the hotel quarantine program in Victoria, that led to the state's COVID-19 second wave, will be reopened in a sensational development announced on Friday.

It comes after inquiry lawyers received new documents from the Department of Health and Human Services, and phone logs from Premier Daniel Andrews and his staff, and former chief commissioner Graham Ashton.

In a short statement, the board has advised it will hold an extraordinary sitting at 2pm on Tuesday.

It is not yet known which witnesses will be called, if any.

The Board of Inquiry, chaired by retired judge Jennifer Coate, said further details would be announced shortly.

The lawyers assisting Ms Coate are currently sifting through hundreds of pages of call records and texts, as well as documents provided by the DHHS.

Ms Coate's report was due to be handed down on November 6, but that deadline looks increasingly unlikely given the new evidence before the board.

If the report is pushed back, it would give Ms Coate time to hold further public hearings, although it is not yet known if she would re-call Mr Andrews as a witness.

The report was originally due to be handed down on September 25 but was delayed due the introduction of stage four lockdown restrictions - introduced after the coronavirus second wave started with breaches in the quarantine hotels.

Jennifer Coate AO.
Jennifer Coate AO.

The Sunday Herald Sun revealed earlier this month a mystery six-minute gap in former police chief commissioner Graham Ashton's inquiry evidence raised questions about who in the Victorian government knew, and when, that private security would be used in quarantine hotels.

Telephone records which could shed light on the issue were available, but privacy and other laws created hurdles which blocked the records being handed over.

Also the Opposition called for the reopening of the inquiry last month to probe the conflicting statements of Mr Andrews and Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, who has since resigned.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie

Ms Mikakos said she could no longer serve in Mr Andrews' Cabinet after he nominated her as the minister responsible for the fatally-botched program.

She had by comparison told the inquiry her department was not ultimately in charge, and the program was run under a model of "shared accountability.''

Shadow Attorney-General Ed O'Donohue said at the time the the pair should be questioned over the conflict, and also raised concern about the fact the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Jobs, Regions and Precincts dumped numerous documents into evidence at the inquiry on Friday evening, after the last witness had been called.

 

Originally published as Hotel quarantine inquiry to reopen



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