Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has defended Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen after she likened Captain Cook’s arrival in Australia to COVID-19 on Twitter.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the comments were “very disappointing”.
“I applaud the work she is doing as a medical officer in Victoria, that’s her expertise, I would strongly suggest she keep to that because those sort of comments don’t inspire confidence,” he told 2GB radio on Friday.
Sudden arrival of an invader from another land, decimating populations, creating terror. Forces the population to make enormous sacrifices & completely change how they live in order to survive. COVID19 or Cook 1770?
— Dr Annaliese van Diemen (@annaliesevd) April 29, 2020
However Mr Andrews said Dr van Diemen was doing an “amazing job” and his attention was firmly elsewhere.
“There was a tweet posted on a day off and if that’s the biggest issue of this global pandemic, well I don’t agree with that,” he said.
“I would simply say we have a lot of things to be concerning ourselves with at the moment and I am far more focused on the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, people have died. This is a once-in-a-century event and we’re by no means at the end of it”.
“My focus is not on the tweets of public servants.”
Mr Andrews’ comment echoed those of Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.
“The Deputy Chief Health Officer is doing an outstanding job protecting Victorians from this deadly pandemic,” she tweeted overnight.
The Deputy Chief Health Officer is doing an outstanding job protecting Victorians from this deadly pandemic. Criticism from angry MPs is irrelevant to the fight against this virus. #springst
— Jenny Mikakos MP #StayHomeSaveLives (@JennyMikakos) April 30, 2020
Victorian Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien accused the Premier of failing to take the issue seriously, saying Dr van Diemen should resign for breaching the public sector code of conduct.
“She’s shown a lack of judgment which has impacted her ability to do the job,” he said.
Mr Andrews made his comments while promoting a new state-based entertainment website.
The government has launched the website – together.vic.gov.au – showcasing live music and comedy performances by local talent, including through an online series set to premiere on Sunday evening.
The state government has also rolled out a new TV advertisement thanking people for following the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.