4th October 2021

The Community Advocacy Alliance Inc. (CAA) has consistently criticised the present Victorian Government for its inability to prevent its bureaucrats from acting corruptly.  The ICook Foods fiasco is a classic and ongoing example.

Now we have Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) facing 58 charges brought by WorkSafe, alleging the DHHS endangered the lives of its workers, security guards and hotel quarantine guests (not the bureaucrats) when it failed to provide a safe workplace for its employees and failed to ensure people were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

Departments are not the decision makers – it is bureaucrats within those departments who make the decisions.  At the heart of these issues is that no one is held accountable.  The Coate Inquiry was unable to determine just who made the critical but flawed decisions.  A plethora of, “I can’t remember” responses from Ministers and officials was a plague of a different kind.

What is certain is that DHHS mistakes in hotel quarantine drove the state’s deadly second wave of COVID-19.

The effort to stop Covid 19 spreading was doomed from the moment already established protocols for dealing with disasters, including pandemics, were ignored by the Government and they set off on a frolic of their own proclaiming they knew best.  They did not.

The Coate ‘snowflake inquiry’ into the failed system linked 768 deaths during the second wave back to the hotels.

WorkSafe alleges the DHH failed to appoint people with infection prevention and control expertise at the hotels, failed to provide security guards with appropriate infection control training and did not provide, at least initially, written instructions on how to use protective gear.

In all charges, the health and safety regulator said the DHHS employees, the government’s authorised officers and security guards were put at risk of contracting COVID-19 and serious illness or death.

The Coate Inquiry linked ninety-nine per cent’ of Victoria’s second wave cases to the hotel quarantine fiasco.

The maximum penalty for each of the charges is irrelevant as any fines imposed are returned to the State’s coffers.

The charges are listed to go before a Magistrates Court for a filing hearing on October 22.  Of course, ultimately a plea of guilty would assure only a summary of the evidence would be given to the court again ensuring the guilty politicians and officials are protected.

Coate’s inquiry found poor infection prevention and control measures were the genesis of outbreaks that seeded in the community from the Rydges on Swanston and the Stamford Plaza.

The then Health Minister, Ms Mikakos, resigned a day after Premier Daniel Andrews’ evidence to the Inquiry, in which he accepted he was ultimately responsible for Government decisions.

The CAA now asks, if Premier Andrews was ultimately responsible, why has he not been charged by Work Safe?  Why have other Ministers and Department Officials involved in these shambles not been charged?  Those responsible for the decisions that led to this tragedy of hundreds of deaths and thousands of serious illnesses must be charged and held to account.

The failure of Work Safe to bring charges against the individuals involved cannot remain unchallenged.