News Coronavirus Health Minister appears to have misled hotel quarantine inquiry

Health Minister appears to have misled hotel quarantine inquiry

Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos told the inquiry she became one of the scandal's first casualties. Photo: AAP/ James Ross
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Victoria’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos appears to have misled the inquiry into the botched hotel quarantine program after claiming the first she learnt of the involvement of private security guards was in May.

But more than a month earlier, on March 29, Ms Mikakos stood alongside Jobs Minister Martin Pakula at a press conference when he confirmed that private security would be patrolling hotels housing returned travellers.

“All of those passengers returning will now undergo mandatory two-week quarantine at those Melbourne hotels with security guards in place,” Mr Pakula said at the press conference.

Ms Mikakos was asked by the inquiry on Thursday: “When were you first aware of a decision to engage private security contractors as part of the HQP [hotel quarantine program]?”

“I believe I first became aware of the use of private security guards contracted by DJPR [Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions] in the HQP after the Rydges [hotel] outbreak occurred in late May 2020,” her written response said.

Her evidence has left some Labor MPs furious. They say they were briefed in April about the use of private security guards.

A briefing note to caucus from the Premier’s Office on April 8 states: “People returning to Australia will be fed and transported at no cost to them, while police, private security and health authorities will be able to more efficiently monitor their compliance with quarantine requirements.”

When asked about Ms Mikakos’s inconsistencies, Premier Daniel Andrews said it was a matter for the inquiry’s board.

“What people knew, when they knew it, what people did and the degree to which that was right, wrong or indifferent, that is a matter that the board is actively examining today and every day until they produce a report,” he said.

“I cannot and I will not pretend to be the chair of the inquiry. That is not why it was set up.”

Ms Mikakos’s office has been contacted for comment.

Premier Daniel Andrews is due to give evidence to the inquiry at 2.15pm on Friday.