Never waste an opportunity I suppose
Victorian jobs department secretary Simon Phemisterhas confirmed it was his department that was responsible for procuring private security contractors for the Victorian government’s $80m hotel quarantine program, but said it was not his department that made the decision to use private security.
Speaking before the Victorian parliament’s committee overseeing the government’s response to Covid-19, Phemister said that at a 4.30pm meeting on 27 March of officials from several departments, the decision was made, based on advice “from experts” to use private security, and from that point, it was up to the jobs department to procure private security.
Contrary to media reports, jobs minister Martin Pakula said the firms were not chosen based on some need to meet a social inclusion goal. Phemister said security and health were the only concerns in choosing the firms.
Pakula also revealed at the hearing that over 21,000 international students, who aren’t eligible for any federal government payment, had received $1,100 support payments from the Victorian government, while 1,593 people had received $1,500 payments after testing positive for coronavirus while not having access to sick leave.
That is up from 1,099 last week.
So a little bit on there, this morning.
For those who need a recap:
- Victoria recorded 410 new cases of Covid-19 and 21 deaths, making it Australia’s deadliest day in the pandemic.
- A breakdown of workplace infections is coming.
- A breakdown of health worker infections – was it picked up at work or in the community? – is coming.
- The dispute between the Victorian government and the defence minister over whether or not ADF personnel was offered for the hotel quarantine program continues. Emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp has released a statement saying ADF was involved in planning, but no personnel were offered or asked for.
- Daniel Andrews all but confirms it was Victoria which first suggested the hotel quarantine program to the national cabinet
- NSW has recorded 18 new cases of Covid.
- Many are linked back to the Tangara School for Girls in Sydney’s north-west – a non-government Catholic school. A prayer and study retreat is under investigation as the potential source of the original infections.
- Masks are strongly encouraged for NSW residents in situations where they can’t properly social distance.
- Returning travellers from Victoria will not have to pay for their own quarantine in NSW after a grace period was established.
- Stranded ACT residents at the Victorian/NSW border have been given four days to get home.
- The aged care royal commission has been absolutely damning again, today, for the federal government. See Elias Visontay’s posts for more.
On returning Victorian travellers, Gladys Berejiklian says:
There were some months when overseas travellers came back to New South Wales when they didn’t require to pay for their hotel quarantine and now they do.
Under the circumstances, we want to give a grace period for New South Wales residents returning from Victoria.
We feel that there are a number of applications on hardship grounds where New South Wales residents who may have lost a job or been down there for very tragic family circumstances want to come back home.
And in order for them to be able to do that in a timely and safe way, for the next month, of course, you still need to do your hotel quarantine, but you won’t need to pay for it. We do want to give a month’s grace.
Not only is that better for people who are facing hardship, but it also means health resources don’t have to go into distinguishing those legitimate cases of hardship versus those that don’t.
We really want to make sure that all of our health resources at the moment go into that vital contact tracing.
So for returning visitors who come, New South Wales residents coming back from Victoria, who must come back through Sydney – yes, you do have to do hotel quarantine.
That doesn’t change. But you won’t be required to pay for it.
We move from the Victorian press conference to the NSW press conference. It is still not mandated, but masks are strongly, strongly encouraged in NSW says the premier:
In terms of our own individual behaviour – please know that if you’re in an environment where you can’t guarantee social distancing, you should be wearing a mask. I have done that when I’ve done my grocery shopping.
I have done that when I’ve walked in a shopping mall, and my expectation is that other people were to do that as well.
And if I were to catch public transport, which I used to and I love doing – I would also be wearing a mask.
We can be stronger than that in the evidence we’re giving. Whilst compliance is increasing and we’re pleased with the take-up that has been there, we need it to go further.
Because our concern is the accumulation of unknown sources.
I also want to stress – can we please ask communities in western Sydney and south-western Sydney where there has been the higher level of community transmission to please come forward and get tested.
We know for some communities, that is not something that they’re used to doing. But we really need to know that anyone who has the mildest of symptoms and anyone who feels that they may have been exposed because they’re a direct contact or a venue they may have visited, or a place of worship may have been compromised with exposure, we really need people to come forward and get tested.
In terms of mask wearing, can we also again reiterate how important it is for people in plays of worship to be wearing a mask.
Because in places of worship, we know that when people know each other and the health advice and the updates tell us that you have a greater chance, statistically, of getting the virus from somebody that you know well – a friend, a contact or someone you see often – rather than a random occurrence. And it is this setting, this familiarity, which sometimes causes complacency that all of us need to be on top of as well.
Whether it’s a friend, a family member or somebody that we engage with in our day-to-day lives.
Victoria Police have also issued their update for the past day:
Police have issued a total of 184 fines to individuals for breaching the chief health officer directions, including:
• 24 for failing to wear a face covering when leaving home for one of the four approved reasons
• 16 at vehicle checkpoints
• 58 for curfew breaches
• 19,051 vehicles checked at the vehicle checkpoints
• Conducted 5,127 spot checks on people at homes, businesses and public places across the state (total of 260,275 spot checks conducted since 21 March).
Please find below examples from the last 24 hours of breaches:
– A man who travelled from Mooroolbark to Mansfield to pick up a friend.
– A man from Pakenham who came to Dandenong to hang out with some mates and wander the streets.
– Four men who were found in a parked car in Flemington during the curfew hours. The group told police they were “just chilling”.
– Multiple people attending convenience stores in the Metro Melbourne area to purchase food, cigarettes or drinks during the curfew hours of 8pm–5am.
Queensland police are looking for a man who has breached hotel quarantine in Toowoomba (the man has tested negative to a Covid test).
Police are currently searching for a man who breached mandatory hotel quarantine in Toowoomba.
The 25-year-old man returned from a New South Wales hotspot and was directed to hotel quarantine for 14 days.
Police will allege the man has left on the ninth day.
The man received a negative Covid-19 test and is not considered a high risk to the community.
Meanwhile, the federal parliament sitting on 24 August and the prospect of some MPs appearing by teleconference has raised some interesting questions, as Katharine Murphy reports:
Christian Porter has signalled to Labor advice will need to be sought to ensure that all statements are covered by parliamentary privilege if MPs are allowed to contribute via video conferencing during the pandemic.
In correspondence to the manager of opposition business, Tony Burke, seen by Guardian Australia, Porter expressed a number of concerns about the reliability of technology, and said it would be important to establish clear criteria to ensure MPs didn’t use remote conferencing “as a convenience rather than a necessity”.
Porter said the Speaker of the House, Tony Smith, had told him video conferencing could work “based on recent experiences of virtual contributions in parliamentary committees”. But Porter, the attorney general and manager of government business, expressed scepticism.
“Perhaps this would be a rare occasion where the first use of an IT communications solution on a scale and in a context previously untested occurs seamlessly and without incident,” Porter said. He cited a recent hearing of a parliamentary committee where the proceedings were plagued by drop outs and poor connections.
Has Daniel Andrews spoken to Scott Morrison about the Linda Reynolds statement?
No, and frankly, I think that the chances of me wasting his time or mine on that media release or statement or whatever you want to call it, are very low.
When we next speak or text or WhatsApp or whatever the communication method is, it will be about matters that are all together to do with our partnership and the fact that we’ll work incredibly hard, together, to get to the other side of this. That’s what we’ll anticipate spend our time on. That’s what we always spend our time on.
Q: There’s been some public reporting but no confirmation that the hotel quarantine idea was first raised by you at national cabinet. Is that true?
Daniel Andrews: I’m limited in what I can say about national cabinet. But we had a program already stood up in its early stages around vulnerable Victorians.
We didn’t think it was appropriate to have 20,000-plus people flying into Melbourne just on an honesty basis going home.
We thought that there would be a percentage not doing the right thing and that we would finish up with more cases.
We put that case and it was agreed by our first minister colleagues and we set about actually delivering on the specified timeline what national cabinet had agreed to.
Q: So that’s a yes, you were the first to raise it?
Again, I am not going to be running a blow-by-blow of national cabinet, even if I wanted to.
That’s not necessarily something that I’m allowed to do.
It is essentially, it has the same status as the federal cabinet or our cabinet and it is really important that I don’t in any way undermine the way that that process works. It is a very free-flowing discussion, it’s a very frank place. It needs to be given the subject matter that it is dealing W and there are rules and I’m not about breaking those.
So that is a yes though. Confirmation it was Andrews who raised hotel quarantine as an idea in national cabinet.
Q: Troops have only been involved in numbers in – high numbers – for a couple of months in Victoria. It does really seem to have been a theme throughout the pandemic that Victoria has been on the face of it reluctant to involve the troops?
Daniel Andrews: Well, that is not just right. That’s just not right. That’s just not right.
Q: But that is how it appears.
Andrews: How it appears and the facts are not always the same thing.
Q: Why you didn’t ask for ADF involvement much earlier?
Andrews: That’s just not right. We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of ADF personnel in Victoria for more than two months. They’ve been here for a lengthy period of time.
Some of them have been here from when I first requested help with the bushfires between Christmas and New Year.
So I’d simply say to you – how this looks, I’m much less worried about that. In fact, I’m not concerned about that. What I’m concerned about is doing my job and driving these numbers down.
If others have time to issue statements which are then contradicted in clear terms by the emergency management commissioner who is on the ground doing this work, that’s great I’m glad that they have enough time to do that. I’m glad that there’s other people who think that the best contribution they could make is to be playing politics. As Raf asked me before – I haven’t got time for that and I’m not interested in it.
Q: Maybe we wouldn’t have the second wave if the ADF were called in.
People are entitled to their views. What I’m putting to you are the facts of these matters. We’ve got to keep working hard, in partnership with the ADF.
That’s the great in some … In some respects that’s the disappointing thing in some circumstances.
I wouldn’t want any Victorian to think that ADF were doing anything other than a sterling job alongside a big, big team of Victorian public serve ens, other commonwealth public servants.
People from emergency services who were all working very, very closely together. And we’re very grateful for the support that we have, and that support has been longstanding.
It has built up over time and different roles.
For instance, we had many hundreds of people who were involved in the testing blitz that we did running big test sites. We’ve had people who are experts in tasking, logistics planning of the they’ve been at the state control centre for the entire journey. We have people from Emergency Management Australia in there as well. It’s a big team. The need changes and so, too, does the profile of staff. And that’s why we’ve seen numbers grow.
And they’ve not grown in the last couple of months. They’ve grown – albeit in different increments – across the whole journey. We’re very grateful that they’re here and if we need more in the future, we’ll be certain to ask. So regardless of statements issued from Canberra, the most important thing is the dialogue that I have, the ultimate dialogue with Canberra and that’s me talking to the PM.
And every time I’ve asked for something, the answer has been yes and I’m grateful for that.
Daniel Andrews on the ADF offer:
Let’s be very clear about this. It has been consistently put to me that me or others have consistently said no to help.
That’s simply wrong. That is simply wrong.
And the notion that that has occurred – that’s just not right. And that is what I was going to yesterday.
I was asked a question: why did you do one thing and not the other? What I was saying was I’m not entirely certain that the other was on offer. And Commissioner Crisp goes to that.
That shouldn’t be read as a criticism. Neither my comments yesterday nor any time during the pandemic or at any time could be construed as a criticism. Absolutely not. They are doing a sterling job. While they were out doing that work, others decided to issue a statement yesterday.
I can’t speak for that. That’s … wasn’t … Not under my hand, not under my signature. You would need to speak to the federal minister. I think commissioner Andrew Crisp had been clear today. My only regret is he’s had to take himself away from other important work to be issuing statements.
Daniel Andrews on Linda Reynolds:
The defence minister yesterday decided that she would issue a statement. She’s perfectly entitled to do that.
It made a number of claims. Andrew Crisp issued a statement that I think is at odds with that.
For my purposes, that clears the matter up. I don’t know the federal defence minister. I don’t deal with her. I deal with the prime minister.
I do know Andrew Crisp. I think Victorians know Andrew Crisp as well. I direct you to the really clear statement that he’s issued.
Q: Your press release from March 27 says it’s been agreed that the Australian Defence Force will be engaged to help the implementation of the hotel quarantine arrangements.
Daniel Andrews: Yep.
Q: Why weren’t they, given you said they were going to…
Andrews: I don’t think you have… I don’t agree with the way you have constructed it. The release that was issued directly after the national cabinet decision to establish hotel quarantine is one thing. I think, if you look at Andrew Crisp’s statement, he talked about ADF being involved in the establishment of the program. I don’t see consistency there.
Q: Although he is the emergency management commissioner, he hadn’t fronted a single press conference over the coronavirus pandemic?
Andrews: He is very busy. He is very busy doing important work.
Q: He was busy during the bushfires. Maybe can you walk us through what kind of – what the Defence Force …
No, I’m not going to be here interpreting these matters. The defence minister has issued a statement. That claims various things. The emergency management commissioner has issued a statement. That provides the facts of the matter. I really can’t offer any more than that. Other than to stress, yet again – you know, I can’t speak for the federal defence minister. I can’t speak for statements she’s made. That’s entirely a matter for her.
What I can do, though, is be really clear with you, that Andrew Crisp as issued a statement. I don’t think it could be clearer or plainer. People can make their own judgments.
Q: The [emergency management Victoria commissioner Andrew Crisp] statement doesn’t address the June 24 events, but addresses events in March and April. You said yesterday that it would be a matter for him to address the fact that he did make a request on June 24.
Daniel Andrews: That’s right.
Q: Why [didn’t] he addressed that?
You need to speak to him. June 24 is a month after the outbreak at Rydges. This will be borne out by others. But I think that the notion that that would have been in any way material to the challenges in hotel quarantine, I think, is not right. That’s a month after Rydges. So, we can deal with that. There are other processes that will deal with that. But, again – emergency management Commissioner Crisp, who I know and who I think Victorians know very well for the leadership that he’s provided whenever he’s been called upon to do that, he’s issued a statement. I would direct you to that. Again, I will make the point, so there is no doubt whatsoever. The only quarrel, the only argument, the only fight that I’m engaged in or will ever be engaged in, until this is over, is the fight against this virus. We are deeply grateful to the ADF and the commonwealth government for the contribution they’re making. I can’t speak to statements issued by the Defence Minister. That’s entirely a matter for her. But I can – but I can direct you to comments – very clear comments – made by Andrew Crisp. You will need to draw your own conclusions.
The NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, has announced ACT residents stuck at the NSW/Victorian border (where they have been since last Friday when their travel approval was revoked) have four days to get home.
NSW will help with the travel arrangements.
They will be allowed to travel from 9am and 3pm for each of the four days.
(It’s less than a four-hour trip, so it will just allow those who haven’t made it to the border because of the mix-up, to get to the border.)
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