A video showing bureaucrats overseeing Melbourne’s hotel quarantine program applauding their own efforts was filmed after they were told about the misconduct of security guards enforcing isolation.
The footage starred Global Victoria officials in charge of the quarantine scheme congratulating themselves for ‘slowing the spread of coronavirus’ and was filmed and shown to government staff on April 24.
It came a month after travellers were first ordered to quarantine in hotels and, according to the Herald Sun, just days after questions were raised regarding ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by hotel security guards.
The operation is now the subject of an independent inquiry after a series of failings sparked a new wave of infections.
A source slammed the video and told the publication some of the officials who ran the program were ‘officious’.
‘If you think you are doing a good job, put yourself up for a public service medal in six months’ time, don’t do a video about it in the middle of a pandemic,’ the source said.
Opposition government waste spokesman James Newbury claimed the video ‘proves the premier has been lying and knew for months who left the quarantine door open’.
‘Victorians have tragically died and thousands are sick because of the government’s failure. The premier needs to stop lying and covering up,’ he told the Herald Sun.
Premier Daniel Andrews told a press conference he knew of the footage but didn’t watch it because he had ‘far more important things’ to focus on.
The video, which Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten said likened to a scene from TV comedy series The Office, starts with Global Victoria chief Gonul Serbest describing the program as a challenging but exciting initiative to be involved in.
‘It’s been a really interesting and complex project but something that I think we will look back and really think about as something that’s been really rewarding,’ Ms Serbest boasts in the video.
‘And the fact that we have been able to help slow the spread of coronavirus makes us feel really proud of the work we have been doing.’
Around 6,000 returned travellers had been quarantined in 16 Melbourne hotels at the time of the video filmed two months before Victoria’s daily rate started to spike.
Global Victoria is a Victorian government agency, hailed as the state’s gateway to ‘global economies and communities’.
‘What make Global Victoria staff so suited to this is that when you talk about trade, it’s about relationships,’ Ms Serbest explains.
‘We’ve been able to really lean in and use the passionate empathy that the Global Victoria team has to be able to provide a really great service to all of those people who are going through quarantine.’
The video then throws to staff involved in in the program ‘to provide colour and movement of people on the ground’.
‘The biggest challenge for this project was setting up the project initially,’ Global Victoria trade director Paul Stagg recalled.
‘On Saturday (March 28) Global Victoria and many other people throughout JPR (Department of Jobs, Precincts and Resources) received a call and by the early hours of Sunday we were accepting people into hotels.’
Global Victoria director Kate Cini showed off a warehouse packed with boxes of toys to keep young quarantined guests occupied during their two weeks confined in a hotel room.
Bureaucrats from other governments departments were also involved, including Agriculture Victoria critical infrastructure principal advisor Simon Debenham.
He was responsible for liaising with supermarkets to ensure quarantine guests had personal and sanitary products.
‘The biggest challenge has been making sure that there’s an adequate supply of essential items across a growing number of hotels being used,’ Mr Debenham explained in the video.
No one has been been held accountable the bungled hotel quarantine program that sparked Victoria’s coronavirus disaster.
Premier Daniel Andrews has promised to ‘own’ the errors of the quarantine fiasco – but couldn’t answer crucial questions about it when grilled by reporters last week.
He fronted a parliamentary committee on Tuesday over his government’s handling of the pandemic, but said he didn’t have answers.
A public hearing will take place on August 17.