The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, said evidence being forced out of the Andrews Labor government by freedom of information requests is setting off alarm bells about its Hotel Quarantine Take Three strategy.
Mr Walsh said new documents reveal the Andrews Labor government failed to properly fund chief health officer Professor Sutton’s public health response team just months before Victoria’s first COVID case.
He said the Victorian Liberal Nationals are also calling for an investigation into the recent licence renewal of a private security hired by the Andrews Labor government to work in its catastrophic hotel quarantine program – a company stripped of its licence in NSW, yet has a licence extension waved through in Victoria.
“Daniel Andrews must immediately suspend the licence of Unified Security pending a full independent investigation into these matters,” Mr Walsh said.
“It’s important we get this right, we want the government to get this right, because if it goes wrong again all Victoria pays the price.”
“I’m not panicking just yet; but already the cracks are showing in Hotel Quarantine III; with staff last week being stood aside because they have refused the COVID vaccine.
“Surely after the past two disasters, leading to an unparalleled death toll in our state, even Blind Freddy could have got a third attempt better organised,” he said.
“If you are going to staff a quarantine hotel, you would assume vaccination was mandatory. But no, not here. Seems no-one even considered checking the status of the next team being thrown into the frontline.
“Why on earth would the Andrews Labor government fail to get the contracts right at the start to say, actually, you’ve got to be safe inside that zone – you can’t have the bug and be spreading it.
“If the immunisation is available, well, we want to make sure that our quarantine hotels are safe. This government has always botched hotel quarantine, it’s always got this wrong, and this is just more evidence it is clueless.
“Now all Victorians must sit on the edge of their seats and watch the Andrews Labor government unroll its latest bid to introduce something it should have got right a year ago; because like me, I suspect many of them see this latest ‘oversight’ as a sign disaster is just around the corner.
Mr Walsh added the internal health funding review, obtained by the Liberal Nationals under Freedom of Information, concluded “current numbers of PHOs (Public Health Officers) in Victoria appear to be much lower than other jurisdictions across Australia which may have a negative effect on reputation and public health risk”.
He said the review, titled Victoria’s Communicable Disease Prevention & Control (CDPC) Staffing and Workload illustrates the failure of the Andrews Labor government to take seriously the threat of diseases and pandemics – a failure that has cost Victoria dearly.
Calling on the Andrews Labor government to make quick and appropriate changes, the review said “there have been a number of attempts since 2014 to highlight to senior management the ever-increasing workload within the CDPC unit”.
But the Andrews Labor government only funded 28 per cent of the staffing request, and then savagely cut it months later.
“Although getting these facts has been like pulling teeth; clearly, the Premier and his ministers do not want Victorians to know how underprepared Victoria was for the COVID-19 pandemic and the failure of a fit-for-purpose public health system,” Mr Walsh said.
“Daniel Andrews has an army in his own office to promote his image, but he refused to hire workers where it was really necessary, to keep the public safe,” he said.
“The fact Daniel Andrews had a choice to use taxpayer funds to support Professor Sutton’s health team and instead used that same amount to buy Facebook friends shows where his priorities lie.”