16 Sep Email evidence exposes Dan
Tom Minear and Shannon Deery – The Herald Sun – Wednesday 16 September 2020
DANIEL Andrews has been accused of lying after damning documents directly contradicted his repeated claim that Australian Defence Force support was not offered for Victoria’s hotel quarantine system.
Emails released on Tuesday show the Premier’s top public servant was offered soldiers for hotel security, prompting Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien to accuse Mr Andrews of deceiving Victorians and the parliament.
“The ADF was offered to Victoria – Andrews chose not to accept it, giving us our second wave and Andrews is now lying about it and covering it up,” he said.
The explosive revelation, contained in federal government documents delivered to the hotel quarantine inquiry, has also reignited the Premier’s war of words with the Commonwealth over how the ADF could have helped Victoria.
On April 8, shortly after the quarantine program was established, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens exchanged emails about “the question of assistance with security” with Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet boss Chris Eccles.
Mr Gaetjens referenced how Defence members were provided to assist with security in NSW hotels, and told Mr Eccles: “I am sure the Commonwealth would be willing to assist Victoria in a similar way if you wanted to reconsider your operating model.” Mr Eccles replied that afternoon and said: “Thanks Phil.”
Mr Andrews had told a parThe new documents reveal that, on June 24, Mr Eccles emailed Mr Gaetjens after Mr Andrews and Scott Morrison discussed options for ADF support in Victoria.
He said Victoria wanted 50-100 troops for “security support for passengers entering and exiting hotel quarantine”.
That night, Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp formally requested 850 soldiers to help in hotels, before he ripped up the request the next morning.
The Commonwealth’s submission to the inquiry said the liamentary inquiry last month that he did not “believe ADF support was on offer”, and that troops had not provided quarantine security in other states.
Victorian authorities decided to use private security guards in hotels for overseas arrivals, with health protocol breaches responsible for the state’s deadly second wave of COVID-19.
COVID-19 senate committee deputy chair James Paterson said the emails were “the smoking gun”.
Questioned about the Commonwealth’s submission on Tuesday, Mr Andrews said he was “not interested in having a debate with the Prime Minister”.
“My comments are consistent, my comments are accurate, my comments are supported by statements that have been issued by Andrew Crisp,” he said.
The Herald Sun asked the Premier’s office and DPC whether Mr Andrews and Mr Eccles discussed the offer of support detailed in the email.
In a statement, a DPC spokeswoman said: “It is inappropriate to comment on matters that are currently being considered by the inquiry as part of its vitally important work.”
A government spokesman said the Premier “stands by his previous comments”.
Mr Andrew’s claims last month prompted a stern response from the federal government and the ADF, which sent up to 640 soldiers to quarantine hotels across three states and had 100 personnel on standby in Victoria.
Prime Minister also offered ADF support to Mr Andrews in three separate letters in July.