A Melbourne radio host has hit out at the decision to charge the Victorian Health Department for the bungled hotel quarantine system.
Tom Elliott said politicians or individual bureaucrats should be charged instead, and expressed fury that taxpayers will be forced to pay any resultant fines.
The 3AW presenter was angry that no-one in Dan Andrews’ government is facing ramifications as charges were laid over the bungled quarantine scheme.
Quarantine breaches saw the virus carried into the community by ill-trained workers, leading to the city’s 112-day lockdown in 2020.
Melbourne radio host Tom Elliot has exploded, saying taxpayers will have to foot the $95 million bill if the Victorian Department of Health is found guilty of 58 charges (pictured, Mr Elliot with wife Elise Mooney)
WorkSafe Victoria announced yesterday that it was charging the health department with 58 breaches of occupational health and safety.
If a tribunal found the agency guilty by all counts, the government agency will face fines of $95 million.
Elliott fumed the charges are merely a ‘box-ticking exercise’ so the government can pretend someone has been held accountable for ‘one of the most scandalous examples of malfeasance in Victoria’s history’.
‘To me it looks like a whitewash – no individual is being charged, no-one is threatened with the loss of their job or a personal fine or possibly even jail time.’ Elliott said.
He claimed the fines relating to Victoria’s bungled hotel quarantine system were merely a ‘box-ticking exercise’ and that no-one will be held responsible (pictured, a Melbourne quarantine hotel)
‘The Department of Health is responsible for billions of dollars of expenditure, on hospitals and so forth – $50 million is a rounding error for them.
‘If no-one individually takes the fall… it is a Clayton’s punishment – it is no punishment whatsoever’.
WorkSafe alleged the department breached health and safety laws while running the state’s hotel quarantine system from March to July 2020.
The virus was carried outside the hotel system by under-trained and under-resourced staff – many of whom had second jobs – and led to the longest lockdown the country has seen so far.
If found guilty on all counts by a tribunal, the agency would be forced to cough up payments of up to $95.12 million, but the consequent hole in the department’s budget will be filled up by taxpayers.
Dan Andrews’ Department of Health has been charged with 58 offences over the bungled hotel quarantine system that led to the state’s 112-day lockdown last year
Failures of Melbourne’s hotel quarantine system last year saw the state plunged into a 112-day lockdown that saw thousands of cases and dozens of deaths
The department has been charged with 17 offences of failing to provide a safe working environment.
It has also been hit with 41 charges of failing to ensure employees weren’t exposed to risks to their health and safety.
WorkSafe alleges the hotel quarantine system put authorised employees and security guards at risk of serious illness or death by contracting Covid.
The agency’s investigation has taken 15 months to complete and has reviewed tens of thousands of documents and recorded multiple witness interviews with staff.
WorkSafe alleges security guards weren’t provided with proper infection control training and were only provided written instructions for the use of PPE rather than demonstration.
‘A review of the material from last year’s Covid-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry provided relevant context and information that informed parts of the investigation,’ the Health Department’s statement said.
‘The decision to prosecute has been made in accordance with WorkSafe’s General Prosecution Guidelines, which require WorkSafe to consider whether there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction and whether bringing a prosecution is in the public interest.’
WorkSafe alleges that authorised employees and security guards were put at risk of serious illness or death through contracting coronavirus from returning Australians through either working in the hotels or contiminated surfaces
The report found there to be ‘considerable and significant problems with the way in which the program operated’
The investigations included examinations of the hotels and security companies that were used by Dan Andrews’ government as part of the system.
They also spoke to other government departments and agencies as part of the investigation.
The matter will have a hearing at the Magistrate’s Court on October 22, with WorkSafe saying they will make no further comment.
Victoria’s Covid-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry led by former judge Jennifer Coate released its final report in December last year after 90 per cent of the cases from the state’s second wave were linked to the bungled hotel quarantine system.
The report found there to be ‘considerable and significant problems with the way in which the program operated’ with the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and Health Department disagreeing over who was at fault.
Ms Coate said this ‘occupied an inordinate amount of time during the inquiry’.
The DJPR were adamant the Health Department were in charge, while they believed they were only responsible for part of the system and that both were in charge of the programs delivery.
The dispute over the decision to use private security instead of police and defence force personnel was a huge topic of contention within the public, with Ms Coate describing it as ‘an orphan, with no person or department claiming responsibility’
The state’s health minister at the time Jenny Mikakos and her secretary Kym Peake resigned before the final report was released, with Premier Andrews saying he would have expected them to resign after the report was released anyway.
The dispute over the decision to use private security instead of police and defence force personnel was a huge topic of contention, with Ms Coate describing that policy as ‘an orphan, with no person or department claiming responsibility’.
The premier instead said at the time it was ‘less about who was engaged’ and more about the ‘lack of oversight’ in the hotel quarantine system.
‘If I could then get the daily report that I get now then I would, I would prefer I had that detailed information in an ongoing sense.
‘That would allow us to take action so things did not escalate with the virus running wild, with the only remedy of which is to lock the place down.’