Flat White

Daniel Andrews and hotel quarantine: the case for the prosecution

11 May 2021

1:46 PM

11 May 2021

1:46 PM

We’re at the stage where another day is almost guaranteed to reveal another disaster for Victoria’s hotel quarantine scheme; another tale of incompetence, mismanagement, arrogance, laziness or confusion.

So when is WorkSafe Victoria going to step in and do its job?

If you’ve been following the Victorian Hotel quarantine you may be aware that Self Employed Australia has been running an ad campaign on top rating Victorian radio 3AW that calls on WorkSafe Victoria to do its job and prosecute the government for hotel quarantine breaches. (Here’s the ad, if you’re interested). 

What we couldn’t predict when we started the ads is the explosion of more scandals about the continuing failures of the Victorian program. Media across the board has been reporting hard to believe stories. Here’s just a taste of what’s been revealed in the last two weeks. 

Needle sharing has been imposed on unsuspecting quarantine residents who have been required to undertake blood tests. Unknown to them the administrative procedures have been so bad that needles have been shared between residents. The serious infection risk is scary.  The report comes from Safe Care Victoria, a Victorian government body. These serious health breaches on their own arguably constitute prosecutable offences under health and work safety laws. 

But there’s more 

The Victorian head of quarantine infection control is reported to have breached his own procedures.  The Australian exposed ‘hidden’ documents where infection control breaches have and are occurring in the current Victorian program. Quite startling is that the head of Infection control allegedly refused to comply with his own orders when visiting hotels.  

The reports say that the top executive refused to take a mandatory Covid19 test. Further he refused to sign out of a hotel he’d been visiting as is required. He’s reported to have said “I’m the head of IPC and I override that protocol.” He’s been stood down with the government saying the breaches were ‘only minor.’ Go figure. 

But the list of other breaches is long. Both the Australian and The Age reveal leaked documents that reported ‘months of bungles and mismanagement’ in the quarantine system detailing ‘sloppy practices, untrained staff and poor hygiene.”  

In one hotel air ventilation systems were switched off at night to ‘save energy.’ But this lead to a build-up of contaminants creating transmission risk.  

Infection control training has been limited and conducted by government officers without practical infection control experience. 

Bags of rubbish were left in corridors, carpets unclean and corridors had the smell of dirty nappies and food waste.   

There was/is a lack of clarity in the use of PPE for staff particularly processes when moving between ‘red’ and ‘green’ zones.  

The list goes on. And these media reports confirm our own research from ‘on the ground’ in Victoria’s hotel quarantine. The stories we have is of near-zero coordination of required practices across the system. Each hotel does its ‘own thing.’ There’s confusion and lack of clarity, not the fault of quarantine staff ‘on the ground’ but from lack of clear direction.  

The Victorian Health Department and quarantine HQ comes across as an Alice in Wonderland environment with Mad Hatters amuck. It’s truly quite gobsmacking to hear the stories from very sensible but disillusioned people who’ve directly experienced the nonsense.   

The Victorian government is now into its fourth attempt to run hotel quarantine. The first and second attempts led to 801 deaths. The third attempt led to an outbreak and lockdown. This fourth attempt is (again) proving to be riddled with incompetence at every level. 

It’s almost as if the virus itself is not the problem in a strange way! What we are dealing with is very basic management processes and control systems. It’s these basic management issues where failure appears endemic. This creates a huge opportunity for the virus to ‘do its thing’ and break out. It’s the management failures that constitute breaches of the health and safety laws.   

The point that we make and the reason for our campaign is that WorkSafe Victoria is the only authority with the power to do something immediately. They have almost unrestrained investigative power and ability to quickly prosecute.  

Prosecution is essential because it’s the only thing that will force change to the management of the quarantine health system. This is a government and health system in crisis and WorkSafe can do something about it. 

While WorkSafe sit back watching the unfolding management mess, all Victorians and Australians remain at high risk due to Victorian government failure. 

Ken Phillips is Executive Director of Self Employed Australia. 

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