Victorians deserve answers about “serious failures with deadly consequences” in the state’s hotel quarantine system, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has argued.
Mr Frydenberg, who is the federal government’s most senior Victorian MP, said his home state was entitled to more information about what went wrong.
“Victorians know the ‘what’, but they don’t know the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ when it comes to the quarantine failures,” he said.
“And what we’re dealing with here is hundreds of new cases in Victoria every day, 97 to 98 per cent of new cases in Australia are coming from Victoria alone.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today announced the state had recorded 466 new coronavirus cases, with 12 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Breaches in hotel quarantine have been blamed for contributing to the state’s coronavirus outbreak, which has seen Melbourne placed under curfew and hundreds of thousands of people told not to go to work.
An inquiry into what went wrong has been delayed due to the state’s stage-four coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Frydenberg insisted he did not want to enter into a “slanging match” with the Victorian Premier but said people in his home state were facing “difficult days.”
“There needs to be accountability, there needs to be an explanation,” he said.
“Victorians deserve that, Victorians want that, Victorians need that at this difficult time. They’re being asked to make major sacrifices right now.”
“I’m not going to sit in judgement of myself. That needs to be [at] arm’s length and independent, so it has a budget, broad terms of reference and a chairperson who has a lifetime’s worth of experience and the skills needed to get us the answers we are fundamentally entitled to,” he said.
States urged to increase economic support
The Treasurer also called on all of the states and territories, including Victoria, to spend more on economic support.
“We as a federal government will continue to provide the support that is necessary to Victorians and to all Australians,” he said.
“But this is a joint effort … and the states do need to do more, including here in Victoria.”
Earlier, Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen criticised the government for suggesting the states should be doing more.
“If [Prime Minister] Scott Morrison’s got a particular request of a Premier, he should make it in detail and he should make it through the National Cabinet, not engage in a public slanging match with premiers, Labor, Liberal or any other variety,” he said.
Mr Frydenberg made the comments in Melbourne as he prepared to spend two weeks self-isolating in Canberra ahead of Federal Parliament’s return on August 24.
ACT Health said 12 Victorian politicians had been granted approval to enter the territory, where they will have to quarantine on advice from the Acting Chief Medical Officer.
A number of other Parliamentarians are expected to self-isolate at home in Victoria before travelling to the capital.