Daniel Andrews has been branded a ‘failure’ after his government blamed Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp for the decision to use security guards to man hotel quarantine.
Victoria’s deadly second wave of coronavirus was sparked after guards enforcing the quarantine program caught the illness in late May.
It later emerged guards had breached social distancing rules and some were accused of allowing separate families to play cards and even having sex with returned travellers.
The Andrews government is facing heavy criticism for not enforcing quarantine with police or the army like New South Wales and Queensland.
In a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday it emerged the decision to use private guards was made in an Emergency Management Victoria meeting at 4.30pm on 27 March.
The state government agency, established in 2014, is led by top cop Andrew Crisp.
Victorian jobs department secretary Simon Phemister said his team was told to hire security firms to run the quarantine operation after that meeting.
Jobs minister Martin Paukula said his department was not responsible for the decision and questions about it need to be directed to Commissioner Crisp.
‘I know that Mr Crisp will be appearing before this committee later in the month and I think you’ll need to put that question to him,’ he said.
Liberal backbencher James Newbury said the Andrews government was failing to take responsibility and using the commissioner as a ‘fall guy’.
‘Daniel Andrews has pushed Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp out as the fall guy for his failure in keeping Victoria’s quarantine door open,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Whilst the Labor Government plays their petty blame games, Victorians are tragically dying and thousands are sick.
‘Daniel Andrews has lost control, failed as Premier, and Victorians have lost faith in him.’
In a press conference after Victoria suffered 21 deaths and 410 new cases, Premier Andrews was asked if Commissioner Crisp’s decision to use private security was a mistake.
He replied: ‘No, but I have nothing but respect for Commissioner Crisp.
‘Can’t find a better professional, can’t find somebody who works harder. He is an outstanding member of the broader team.’
In a statement on Tuesday night, Commissioner Crisp said ADF representatives were did not offer help for the quarantine program at the meeting on 27 March.
That statement was at odds with Defence Minister Linda Reynolds who said support was offered and turned down on ‘multiple occasions’.
In an inquiry on Tuesday morning, Premier Daniel Andrews was asked why he chose not to use the police or the ADF to enforce the quarantine program.
He said: ‘I don’t believe ADF support was on offer. It’s been provided in limited circumstances in New South Wales, not to provide security as such but to provide transportation from the airport to hotels.
‘I think it is fundamentally incorrect to assert that there was hundreds of ADF staff on offer and somehow someone said no. That’s not, in my judgement, accurate.’
But Senator Reynolds said her department offered support ‘multiple times’ and was repeatedly turned down.
She said in a statement: ‘ADF officials asked whether Victorian authorities required assistance with its mandatory quarantine system on multiple occasions.
‘No request for quarantine support was subsequently received from Victoria at that time.’
The statement also made clear that ADF troops were deployed in both Queensland and New South Wales to guard returned travellers as well as transport them.
The only request for ADF support for quarantine from the Victorian government came on 24 June, Senator Reynolds said.
On that day Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp requested 850 troops to help with hotel quarantine compliance – but the request was withdrawn the next day.
Asked why it was withdrawn, Mr Andrews said: ‘The question you’re referring to, you’d need to speak to the person who made that request because it was not made by anybody in a position of authority.’