The political blame game over Victoria’s bungled hotel quarantine has intensified with Dan Andrews accusing the Defence Minister of “playing politics”.
The political blame game over Victoria’s bungled hotel quarantine has intensified with Dan Andrews accusing the Defence Minister of “playing politics”.

‘I don't know her’: Hotel quarantine blame game intensifies

The political blame game over Victoria's bungled hotel quarantine has intensified with the Victorian Premier Dan Andrews accusing Defence Minister Linda Reynolds of "playing politics" and wasting the time of public officials fighting the deadly pandemic.

Mr Andrews has consistently argued that the idea that hundreds of defence force personnel were on offer to assist the bungled hotel quarantine scheme but that offer was rejected is completely wrong.

But as the Morrison Government increasingly moves to hold Mr Andrews to account over the program, Senator Reynolds has directly challenged Mr Andrews' account with a statement insisting ADF assistance was offered.

That prompted a furious response today from the Victorian Premier who said he was happy to take the word of a respected senior public official, emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp on the matter over the politician.

"I don't know the federal Defence Minister. I don't deal with her. I deal with the Prime Minister,'' Mr Andrews said.

"I do know Andrew Crisp. I think Victorians know Andrew Crisp as well. I direct you to the really clear statement that he's issued."

Mr Andrews continued suggesting that Senator Reynolds was playing politics and wasting the time of officials.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw


"What I'm concerned about is doing my job and driving these numbers down. If others have time to issue statements which are then contradicted in clear terms by the Emergency Management Commissioner who is on the ground doing this work, that's great I'm glad that they have enough time to do that,'' he said.

"I'm glad that there's other people who think that the best contribution they could make is to be playing politics. I haven't got time for that and I'm not interested in it."

While other states used the ADF to help guard returning travellers, Victoria used private security guards who are now at the centre of claims they allowed guests to move between rooms, practised poor infection control and possibly even had sex with travellers before spreading the virus around Melbourne.

There's evidence that the majority of the original cases that sparked the second wave can be traced back to the bungled program

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in his March press conference that the ADF would be on hand and be available.

"It has been consistently put to me that me or others have consistently said no to help. That's simply wrong. That is simply wrong. And the notion that that has occurred - that's just not right,'' Mr Andrews said.

"I was asked a question - why did you do one thing and not the other? What I was saying was I'm not entirely certain that the other was on offer. And Commissioner Crisp goes to that. That shouldn't be read as a criticism."

Mr Andrews said it was a waste of Mr Crisp's time to deal with the matter.

"I think Commissioner Andrew Crisp was clear today. My only regret is he's had to take himself away from other important work to be issuing statements,'' he said.

Earlier today, Mr Crisp issued a statement saying he did not seek ADF assistance for the hotel quarantine scheme.

Mr Crisp said the ADF was involved in discussions but did not offer to assist nor was that assistance requested.

"I can confirm that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) were involved in the initial planning of the hotel quarantine program," Mr Crisp said in a statement on Wednesday morning.

"Representatives of the ADF participated in the Operation Soteria planning and co-ordination meetings on 27 and 28 March 2020.

"During these discussions I did not seek nor did representatives of the ADF offer assistance as part of the hotel quarantine program.

"As the Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner I am enormously grateful for all of the assistance our colleagues in the Australian Defence Force have provided as we have responded together to the coronavirus pandemic."

However, Mr Crisp's statement did not canvass a request he signed on June 24 seeking "personnel augmentation and assistance for Victorian Department of Health and Human Services in the mandatory quarantine of individuals who have returned from overseas."

Asked today why Mr Crisp's statement did not address the June 24 request, Mr Andrews brushed the question away.

"You need to speak to him. June 24 is a month after the outbreak at Rydges,'' Mr Andrews said.

"This will be borne out by others. But I think that the notion that that would have been in any way material to the challenges in hotel quarantine, I think, is not right. That's a month after Rydges. So, we can deal with that. There are other processes that will deal with that. But, again - emergency management Commissioner Crisp, who I know and who I think Victorians know very well for the leadership that he's provided whenever he's been called upon to do that, he's issued a statement. I would direct you to that.

"We are deeply grateful to the ADF and the Commonwealth government for the contribution they're making. I can't speak to statements issued by the Defence Minister. That's entirely a matter for her. But I can - but I can direct you to comments - very clear comments - made by Andrew Crisp. You will need to draw your own conclusions."

Originally published as 'I don't know her': Blame game intensifies

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