And so the 543-page final Report of the Coate Inquiry into Victoria’s deadly Covid-19 hotel quarantining has been tabled.
Courtesy of the detailed work of retired judge Jennifer Coate, we now know conclusively the fatal decision to use private security guards in the hotel lockdown program was wrong. What we also know is that no single figure in Andrews’ shameful administration has been prepared to own up to that decision.
The decision, apparently, made itself.
It wasn’t the Premier’s call. No way. It wasn’t anyone in his orbit — although it just could have been the guy that Dan shot on October 12. You know. The guy who was paid more than $800,000 a year to administer the administrators, former secretary of the Premier’s Department, Chris Eccles.
Could it have been the former minister for health, Jenny Mikakos? She had been shot by Dan back in September. On the evidence in the final report it wasn’t Mikakos. Kym Peake perhaps? Lord no, she was only then secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. She went west on 12 November further distancing Andrews from any hint of blame.
Those Victorian families who lost loved ones during the catastrophic mishandling of Covid-19 quarantining have long since stopped listening to the manufactured drivel of Daniel Andrews. His quivering apology to Victorians is as insincere as everything else he utters.
Whether you’re listening or not, expect more of the same from this master manipulator. Andrews’ communication operatives will have been pouring over the Coate Report long before those who paid for it got access and these ‘low rent’ spin doctors will have crafted and chiselled the lines for ‘their’ leader.
“Consideration was not given to the appropriateness or implications of using a largely casualised workforce in an environment where staff had a high likelihood of being exposed to the highly infectious Covid-19,” Coate found.
“This, of course, had flow-on impacts in terms of the spread of the virus,” the Report said. ‘It sure did,’ you can hear a chorus of taxpayers yelling.
Breaches of the loosely defined ‘processes’ at designated quarantine hotels in May and June led to the State’s second wave of coronavirus, directly resulting in deaths of 801 people, 642 of them in aged care facilities. As if this horror wasn’t sufficient to shame the government into telling the truth to taxpayers, more than 18,000 Victorians became consequently infected — resulting in the almost four month lockdown.
For all the high paid, top brass available to Daniel Andrews — all participants in the grandly titled State Control Centre — not a single politician, senior police officer, state emergency officer or state administrator has the honesty or integrity to fess up to those people directly and fatally impacted by their collective mistakes.
Whomever, and however many people in Victoria’s administration, may have been accountable for the obscenely inadequate and inappropriate decision making, the deadly outcomes remain unchanged.
Hundreds of families will be marking ‘the season’ this year without a member of their family. Thousands will be thinking how close they came to losing a loved one as a direct result of flawed decision making by government. Millions of taxpayers and their children have had their lives turned upside down by this disgracefully incompetent administrative outfit.
As Andrews parades himself as ‘utterly vindicated’ for having ‘solved the crisis’ (which he himself created) let him contemplate the following: why did he arrogantly repudiate assistance from the ADF (which was certainly offered), why, as leader, was he complicit in the demeaning and dishonest coverup as to whom may have been responsible for what happened and why it is that Andrews reckons we should all be proud of his ‘great’ leadership?
Implicit in all that Andrews says (like all dictators before him) is his absolute certainty that he is right. No contrition, no doubts, no weighing the evidence. His apology, issued today, just hours after the release of the Coate Report is pure Andrews, appearing to be spontaneous, appearing to be genuine – but manifestly falling short of both. His squirming, slithering performances this year could earn him a Gold Logie.
“We had to do things quickly,” he told reporters. “My commitment is to apologise,” he says.
What about a commitment to public accountability, Premier? What about actually taking responsibility for the grotesque failings of your massively flawed administration and what about resigning?
Victorians in 2020 deserved so much more from their elected leaders that they have got from the Andrews Government. From top to bottom of both the political and administrative arms of the Victorian government there have been manifest failures which have resulted in the loss of life and in untold suffering.
In his fixation on the horizon (well over the bodies in his path) the Premier appears to have adopted the Peter Beattie or Kevin Rudd approach to voter engagement. That is, speak a lot, say nothing and look jolly sincere while you’re saying it. That is truthfully how pathetic state leadership has descended in this country.
All of us know that the full consequences of what happened in Victoria during lockdown will take time to surface and for the full impact to be known and accounted for. What we also know, relevant to anyone in positions of authority in Spring Street, is that not a single person will tell the truth about what actually went wrong and that Andrews will never, repeat never, take accountability for failing the electors who put him in office … and the many who didn’t.
So what now for public accountability in our supposed democracy? At the state level, there is every reason to draw the conclusion that 2020 was ‘the’ year when governments shed the shackles of responsible administration and went for broke. They adopted the panicked path of ‘just do it — we’ll count the cost later.’
In the case of the Victorian government under Chairman Dan, they broke rules, broke conventions, rejected genuinely offered assistance from the Commonwealth, behaved arrogantly toward our national leaders and finally ensured Victoria will wallow in debt for decades to come. The cost in lives, well-being and in dollars has been appallingly high.
Mr Andrews said in his choreographed ‘apology’ performance, “if he could turn the clock back, he would receive daily reports of what was happening in hotel quarantining,” presumably meaning he might have intervened.
Message to Chairman Dan: If ‘we’ the voters could turn the clock back, we would never have elected you or your tragically inadequate team for public office in this once great state.
As we end 2020 reflecting on what we have lost and not achieved, you end the year as ‘leader’ of a diminished and disgraced government undeserving of the public offices you hold.
You are not vindicated, Daniel, you are shamed.
John Simpson is a Melbourne company director.
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