Melbourne’s hotel quarantine failures exposed

More shocking details have emerged over the Victorian Government’s hotel quarantine failures, with ABC’s 7.30 Report revealing that private security guards were employed without training over WhatsApp and told to bring their own personal protective equipment (PPE):

Shayla Shakshi was one of the guards who received a WhatsApp message offering her work as a quarantine security guard in a Melbourne hotel.

“They actually contacted me and they’re like, ‘Would you like to work at this place?” she told 7.30.

“And I’m like, I don’t know what you guys are, what company, nothing.

“I just got told that you need to be here at a certain time and you’re going to dress in a certain way and this is your pay rate. That’s it”…

Ms Shakshi also claimed there were no infection-control protocols at the Stamford Plaza when she worked there in May.

“We didn’t get any training when I got there,” she said.

“They just didn’t tell us what training we had to do, we just had to put a mask on, put gloves on, and that’s it.

“They had no training of how to use PPE (personal protective equipment), how to sanitise hands, nothing. No training at all”.

“Then some levels didn’t have sanitisers, so it was really tricky…

Within weeks of Ms Shakshi cancelling the rest of her shifts, an outbreak linked to security guards at the hotel was confirmed.

“I just knew something would happen,” Ms Shakshi said.

“Guards were hitting each other. They’re hugging each other. They were touching each other.

“They weren’t actually serious about how serious this COVID is.

“They were taking it as a joke, like, oh, it’s just some virus that anyone can get. You know, we’re not going to get it.”

Ms Shakshi watched, horrified, as that initial COVID-19 outbreak spread.

And she is just glad she didn’t stay.

“It was just really scary working there because they didn’t care,” she said.

“It was really horrible.”

Bryan Goudsblom is the CEO of a Melbourne-based security company [said]… “I’m not surprised that the hotel quarantine situation’s occurred given that a number of these situations and practices have occurred for many, many years”…

Recall the long list of failures already reported by the media:

  • Security companies were being paid for workers that didn’t exist.
  • Lack of guards to properly secure the hotels due to these “phantom” people.
  • Guards were given minimal training (six hours of ­infection control training, some had only 5 mins).
  • Guards not following proper procedure – shaking hands, sharing lifts, sharing lighters, not wearing masks.
  • Guards wore personal protective equipment for up to eight hours without changing it.
  • Some guards let families go between rooms to play cards and games with others.
  • Some guards were sleeping on the job.
  • Some guards slept with guests.
  • Subcontracting guards at cheaper rate instead of standard guards.
  • Subcontracting guards switching shifts between hotels.

Also recall the leaked emails revealing that the Victorian Government knew of problems surrounding hotel quarantine in March, but failed to take corrective action:

Top bureaucrats warned senior health officials at the beginning of the Andrews government’s botched hotel quarantine scheme that security guards were ill-equipped for the work and demanded police be called in to take control…

The first email raising concerns was sent by a senior bureaucrat at the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions within 24 hours of the March 28 launch of the program.

It was addressed to several senior officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which was the leading agency for the day-to-day management of hotel quarantine…

“We request that Victoria Police is present 24/7 at each hotel starting from this evening. We ask that DHHS urgently make that request as the control agency,” the email read…

Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions official sent a second email on March 30 demanding that DHHS request police support, suggesting private security companies were “not adequate” to guard the hotels.

The email recommended DHHS ban quarantined travellers from leaving their rooms for any reason, including exercise.

A top official from Emergency Management Victoria responded to the request by saying police were not required because guards could call triple zero if a situation warranted police involvement…

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald revealed on July 3 that the Chief Health Officer was told of similar problems with the hotel quarantine system in mid-April…

Police Minister Lisa Neville said police were not the default agency for the management of the pandemic response in Victoria, as they were in other states…

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald reported earlier this month that at least five agencies were involved in the decision to deploy private security guards, instead of soldiers or police, at quarantine hotels: Health; Jobs; Premier and Cabinet; Emergency Management Victoria; and Victoria Police…

To summarise, the Victorian Government contracted-out biosecurity to dodgy private security firms, rather than the Victorian Police or the Department of Corrections. These firms then used cheap untrained labour hire, resulting in widespread breaches, virus infections and community transmission.

The result is that Melbourne has been shutdown for six weeks, with infections also spreading into regional Victoria and New South Wales.

History may look back on this debacle as one of Australia’s biggest and most costly public health disasters.

Leith van Onselen
Latest posts by Leith van Onselen (see all)


    • yeah, it’s affirmative action in action Australia’s largest “Indigenous owned security company” employing third world “skilled” migrants.

      Didn’t even bother to supply their own guards with PPE, but had enough money to donate $76,000 to Labour last year, which is probably why they were given the contract without any tender.

      • Sorta says it all really, unfortunately I’ve seen more than my fair share of these organisations or businesses fall over.
        Secondly, surely there was more professional private outfit available that had some better systems and processes in place, when things were shutdown? Need to know who made the call to use this lot.

        • Ajaydee73MEMBER

          The more professional outfits probably cost a few thousand more. So we chose to save a few thousand at the cost of billions of dollars in economic activity.

      • I would have said this is less about the people being hired and the systems and controls in place.

        But, if people want to make this an issue of affirmative action, they will, I guess.

  1. Forrest GumpMEMBER

    to summarise, the Victorian Government contracted-out biosecurity to dodgy private security firms, rather than the Victorian Police or the Department of Corrections. These firms then used cheap untrained labour hire, resulting in widespread breaches, virus infections and community transmission.

    Whats the difference between the state gov doing this and the Fed got doing EXACTLY the same when it comes to security of Manus, Nuaru and Christmas island?

    They are all contractors, employing people as casuals or as subbies. The only criteria is to have a security license that is readily available to anyone with or without a pulse.
    No overtime, no union involvement for QA checks, no PPE no HSE checks, no training …zip, Nil Nada FA

    You get what you pay for.


    • actually, you get more than you pay for. You can always blame the subbies, so you have outsourced any liability for negligence, too.

    • Big difference. Manus, Nuaru and Christmas Island don’t pose a massive biosecurity and pandemic risk to Australians.

      Don’t get me wrong, I hate this type of lazy outsourcing. But the two examples are not comparable.

    • Absolutely. The issue appears to be with the poor policies and practices of security companies given the contract – it’s clearly not a well run organisation.

      The Australian Security Industry Association says it is important to not make sweeping judgements of the entire industry, pointing to 750 private guards being used in the NSW program without any breaches. But the organisation has long raised the issues of sham contracting, “zombie” enterprise agreements and the use and abuse of ABN holders.

    • …and all endorsed by Sally McM at the ACTU who’s hot for the 457 gig economy as the best strategy the union movement has to offer to reform the thought crimes of the working class union holdouts who might maintain an off-world appetite for collective unionism, dignity, safe working environments and the responsibility of the employer to provide training etc. These are the same frightening concepts that I saw Anus Bollox (Innes Willox) fulminating about on the ABC yesterday when he prophesied the death of everything that we should cherish (i.e. rent seeking profits for carpetbaggers, based on debt and cheap labour) if we had a sensible Covid-19 biosecurity policy that would impede the rivers of profits flowing to the 1% he does the bidding and licking for.

      It’s all pretty simple really – the ALP and ACTU sold out. Most public-private partnerships are the toll-road building and card skimming operations that don’t visibly make people sick or kill them. But when you use the same model in place of critical skills and competencies the bodies pile up in the blink of an eye.

      A “security” firm is the very model of exploiting community fears of genuine threats not catered for by the cash-strapped and downsized public sector (i.e. police, better social programs and crime prevention etc) now being catered for by a pretend solution that proposes that a bloke speeding from checkpoint to checkpoint to report on a crime that has already occurred, that they have no authority to intervene in anyway, is somehow a remedy to the problem caused by real social problems (as opposed to invented social problems) created by downsizing the public sector and upsizing the wank economy.

      In fact, a security service it is a private tax paid for by the potential victims of crimes that has come about as a ‘commercial opportunity’ due to the over stressing of community amenity and unity by design (all night booze, too many people, too few well paid jobs, gambling, debt etc) and the running down of a public duty of care so that profits can be transferred to parasites such as these that move in a feed from the sickening body. Even scant review shows that our government rakes in the cash in taxes from this deregulated dystopia. Hence, at its core is the ‘privatisation’ model that the Andrew’s ALP loves – more of everything (cars, tolls, people, dog boxes etc) that create the problems that have only a ‘private’ solution. Hence, the problem is not the incompetence of the security industry – that’s an open secret – but the meta-plan where the ALP/ACTU went and joined the enemy of the people and decided that neoliberalism is terrific.

    • Privatisation for profit away from the much maligned public sector which has accountability. I don’t want to pay for accommodating so called residents who don’t give a stuff about my country.

  2. At the root of this is a lack of belief in science. And the fish is rotting from the head, because the federal government also scorns science, setting the tone nationally. Yes, they’ve got religion on covid because people are dying in the here and now, but where they can avoid implementing scientific recommendations, they do.

    We humans ignore science at our peril.

    • migtronixMEMBER

      Dan kept telling us he was following expert advise. You don’t believe in evidence…

    • Who needs science when you have a market to tell you what to do? Who needs to govern using science when neoliberalism makes it all easy – it’s a one trick pony last seen heading towards the precipice…

  3. This is the Neo-Liberal way to operate an economy. Its a feature not a fault. Learn to love the bomb !

  4. I’m surprised Sydney hasn’t had quarantine breaches.

    I’ve heard of people passing coffees, games, and books between rooms, and having long chats with the security guards coz they’re all bored.

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      It definitely happened in Sydney as well, and a few security guard did get infected. The difference is they got tested when they showed symptom so it never spread too far. The guards in Melbourne did not get tested even when they have symptom. By the time it is discovered, it is one month already.

  5. SchillersMEMBER

    My understanding is that initially they hired a reputable, experienced security firm to quarantine the hotels. They were replaced with a dodgy cheaper one after only a week in. No explanation given.

  6. Heard on the local radio today that a Sydney man has visited the Hunter Valley and Port Stephens (both NSW), subsequently come down infected, and probably spread the virus up here.


  7. History may look back on this debacle as one of Australia’s biggest and most costly public health disasters.
    By those whose: lungs have been glassed, kidneys and liver not quite working as they did, stroke impaired, nerves that tingle and go numb, smell and taste gone, and some.

    LvO, the book should be hurled at the Vic Gov, as well as a noose (that one is just my opinion). But, also from a common sense perspective, no matter how untrained you are, you’re guarding, least monitoring, the possible Covid-19 infected, when you’re offered, “give you $50 bucks for a r00t”, whatever the offer was.

    Blame should go top, to as far down below, incompetence was acted, not everyone was to blame.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      If those guards were servicing those desperate inmates for only 50 bucks they were doing it cheap. I’d be charging those chicks 200 at least, more if they’re ugly or look a bit ill.

    • Yep, brain, heart, liver, kidney and lung damage (glassed lungs). Also chronic fatigue and exertion intolerance, clots and strokes, neuropathy, smell and taste impairment. Getting it is just not an option.

      “Just like the common cold” (DrX) 🤡

  8. scootytootyMEMBER

    Had a covid outbreak at my work, I haven’t got it but was told to quarantine for 14 days despite having 2 negative test results. Was told if I leave my house I could face criminal charges, so yay! I’m going to finish my project car.

  9. The fake left Andrews govt protected by their collaborators at the ABC should be threatened with asset confiscation like private proprietors are under OH and S legislation. The protection racket should be closed and fault sheeted home with onerous penalties for negligence. Instead Andrews is attempting to shift blame to TMW s who were not trained.

  10. Scab Quarantine Security

    The 10k people standing shoulder to shoulder at the BLM protest couldn’t have helped matters either.

  11. bolstroodMEMBER

    I really hope Gladys is taking notice of Victorias outbrake .
    But I doubt it.