60 Minutes does Melbourne’s hotel quarantine catastrophe

60 Minutes has done a terrific job exposing the Andrews Government’s hotel quarantine failure, which has caused the disastrous COVID-19 outbreak across Victoria and the East Coast.

The report highlights the shambolic scheme in all of its entirety, including:

  • Use of untrained (low wage) guards.
  • Lack of PPE use (instructed by the Victorian Government).
  • Zero testing of guests for COVID-19.
  • Security guards sleeping on the job.
  • Security guards socialising with each other and letting guests out.
  • Guards sleeping with guests.

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 not to wearing PPE at all.
  • 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.

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…

And recall ABC 7.30 Report’s damning investigation last week:

With the virus almost eliminated among the community (see next chart), quarantine was Australia’s single best defence for stopping COVID-19 from being imported from abroad. It was the one area that our governments needed get right and should have been the number one priority.

Instead, the Victorian Government took the cheap and nasty option and contracted-out vital biosecurity to dodgy private security firms, rather than the Victorian Police or the Department of Corrections, without even issuing proper guidelines or PPE. 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 months with no end in sight, with infections running rampant and spreading into other states.

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

The Victorian Government must be held accountable.

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

Comments

  1. I love the ticket clipping on the contracts most of all. Head contractor paid $70 per guard sub contractor $50 per guard Sub sub contract $20 per guard. Cash to splash folks. Your taxes at work. No wonder the contracts were keenly sought. Who needs the ADF spoiling all the fun?

    • When it isn’t your money you’ll not be in the least bit surprised at how easy it is to throw around. Same as it every was.

    • GunnamattaMEMBER

      Just imagine if thats the going rate for a security guard, just think about the IT servicing, the copiers, the buildings maintenance, the logistics and the auditing, then think of all that outsourced HR, the marketing and PR contracts, the ‘communications’ ‘support’.

      Government contracts are the gravy train

      • kannigetMEMBER

        Ticket clipping in all government contracts is horrendous. I get at least $60 clipped off the top of my usual rate and I cant work directly because too much effort would be spent negotiating contracts……

        I would be happy to do the work at the same rate I currently do, and contract negotiations would be 10 minutes, most of it spent talking about the weather…. I know many people in the same boat.

        • GunnamattaMEMBER

          But when all is said and done this is not about the failings or legality or the taxpaying, or the Australian national interest of those companies which have cornered the market for these types of security services.  They all ‘contract’ individuals in circumstances which make employees ‘contractors’ – generally ill informed and educated people get ‘offered’ contracts stipulating they are contractors and not employees, have no leave entitlements, and can be expunged on a whim and can be engaged for as little as an hour or two.

          This is a public policy failure, and it is the thin end of the issue.  It is the chickens of a generations worth of lazy and uninformed outsourcing carried out at State and Federal level across all public services by governments on both sides.  Once upon a time (lets say 1995) governments looking to ‘market test’ a function would measure and consider what they were getting with public servants undertaking the function and what they were getting with ‘the private sector’ undertaking the function.  Almost invariably the public servants would be more expensive, but equally invariably the public servants could demonstrate greater accountability for the outcome, were subjected to far more auditing (a considerable expense in itself).

          Over time that resulted in (in the 1990s we are talking) almost everything from catering to cleaning to grounds and building maintenance being outsourced.  ‘Security’ was always one too.  The issue with security however was that at a time when there were Commonwealth security types (who started out as a branch of the Federal police for just such circumstances as have been experienced in the quarantine lockdowns) there was always consideration of ‘how secure do we need that site or that function to actually be?’ In a world prior to 9/11 there may have been a case for ‘not that secure’ but today we have a situation where a number of public service sites around the country are essentially ‘protected’ by fairly low level security types who may well cost less than their public servant predecessors – but nobody ever knows.

          The Commonwealth Audit office has been stymied more than once on trying to get an effective audit of like for like costs of changing from public servants to ‘the private sector’, and the state public audit functions have fared no better – including a generations worth of managements who have blown millions on redunding public servants.  What invariably happens is the public servants are redunded after ‘the private sector’ bids low at a ‘market test’ – which invariably means that after the first contract is up the next round of tendering has no internal competitor to pitch a ‘standard of service’ line, and which sees the contract go to the cheapest option, which is then reliant on those inside the relevant authority or department ‘scoping’ the activity in a contract sense – ie making sure they cover for every contingency – against the backdrop of the relevant authority or department having less and less awareness of what the function actually does, and the ciircumstances it may face. Needless to say governments and public services around the country get reamed on the next generation contracts for any services ‘outside the scope’ of any contract or any ‘additional services’ required under them.

          At the same time those bidding for the contract tend to pitch for a pretty basic contract, onto which they can plug all sorts of ‘add ons’ for things outside the contract.  They have a vested interest in the contract being basic, facing little internal competition for the function, and little day too day focus on what they are actually doing by the organisation doing the tendering.   

          Over time and into the 2000s what would unfold was that the contracting process itself came to be seen as expensive so ‘corporate support’ or ‘service delivery’ type functions found it cheaper simply to establish a ‘panel’ of providers for which they would occasionally tender and get all of the likely providers, from whom the organisation would simply choose at whim as needed. The effective result of this is that the ‘competing’ companies would tend too divvy up the contract amongst themselves, and while at it make sure that no contract was scope in such a way as to minimise their take from the public teat.

          These security companies for this particular project were all taken from a ‘panel’ without any particular oversight apart from the ‘competition’ to become part of the panel.

          And it’s the same for many/most IT, photocopier and printer servicing, ‘consumables’ (paper pens folders, etc) right through to building maintenance, catering and then right into such functions as audit (and your big four auditors play essentially the same game), any form of ‘’consulting’, human resources in many organisations and even lawyers in many functions.

          The senior managers (read Ministers, advisors, and executives) have all been given a free pass for a generation insofar as they can ‘get functions off the books’ (which reduces the ‘footprint’ of the organisation and helps them to look as though they are ‘streamlining’ and possibly becomiing more efficient) without having the redundancy costs of the previous public servants considered (and these can be humungously expensive), while forever letting go of any sort of ‘value for money’ proposition the contract actually encompasses for the taxpayer.

          In addition to that there is the added possibility each and every such contract implies a considerable amount of ‘risk management’ or ‘probability management’ with the contracting.  In this type of situation we can be 100% sure that all of the ‘private’ security functions are billing that little bit extra for the circumstances, which for absolute certainty will never have been envisaged in any contract which sees those companies on a panel.

          It is time to review thoroughly, in the public domain, with accountability sheeted home to executives, a generations worth of public service outsourcing.

          That security guard who rogered a quarantinee in a hotel, has not got his end away anything like the companies biding for public service contracts, and the public sector executives who have taken the cheap and easy option for a generation while leaving the public carrying the risks.

          • Amen. This is 0 on the money. It’s time for the public to know about the secret business of government managerialism and be allowed to join the dots.

            Thirty-five years ago the public sector needed reform, but instead got ideologically rogered to death by the technocrats and foot soldiers of financialisation in a bi-partisan neoliberal orgy of austerity and risk phobia. Now we are left to clean up the stains on the national psyche. Collectively our politicians used the public sector like Glenn Quagmire at a swingers club.

            The public sector is where new ideas and policies come from that determine the quality of government delivery as it is an important democratic institution that should provide independent advice. Today’s emasculated and gagged gimp of an institutions came about by design. Our neoliberal true believers have purged talent and bravery from the public service over 35 years so now what you see is a mirror reflecting the quality of the parliamentary party system and the wants of their funders – and what a sad reflection it is.

          • kannigetMEMBER

            All of this is part of the reason I have such a big problem with heaping all the blame on Dan Andrews…

            Sure he should of used the ADF, but even NSW didnt use ADF for basic guard duty…

            But the guard is responsible, the management at all levels in the security company are responsible.

            The public servants who setup or at least allowed this game of ticket clipped outsourcing are responsible.

            To heap it all on the premier lets all of these rest off the hook and plays into the hands of the NLP who are as dodgy as anyone.

            All this only serves to undermine any credibility of any idea of democracy that we have left in this country.

            Everyone involved from the top to the bottom should pay their dues on all of this and accountability should be brought back into government purchasing.

            I make a living getting paid to provide services dealing with intermittent shortages in experience and capability, but dont for a minute think I support broad level outsourcing like we have seen.

            Outsourcing at my level is the only level I support, and I am happy to admit that despite it sounds like a conflict. But I only get work when a short term need arises, I come in, I get the job done and leave. Once you get a consulting company in or a managed services business in good luck getting any reliable delivery or getting them to leave….

          • That is the point. He should resign if it happens on his watch as minister. If he doesn’t stuff up personally it doesn’t matter.

            “Individually, ministers are also personally responsible to the parliament. This responsibility includes the minister’s own conduct, but it also extends to the agencies and departments under his or her purview and all actions taken by their civil servants..”

            https://www.britannica.com/topic/ministerial-responsibility

        • GunnamattaMEMBER

          @Kanniget

          I know where you are coming from

          When you say ‘I cant work directly because too much effort would be spent negotiating contracts……’

          You mean you cant work too much because what you would earn would mean an expenditure approval limit might be reached and someone would need to ask questions about why a contractor was required that much – meaning ‘should the contract be rewritten?’ Or (worse) should we employ someone?

          Somewhere between whoever ‘engages’ you (I assume you are some species of specialist contractor) and the ‘contract manager’ in whatever government department you work in (who will be a secure public servant, who just happens to pick up free tickets to the races/footy/cricket and a free car services every now and then (or maybe a model upgrade if their wheels are novated lease/salary sacrifice) there is some slops in the system

          • kannigetMEMBER

            You mean you cant work too much because what you would earn would mean an expenditure approval limit might be reached and someone would need to ask questions about why a contractor was required that much – meaning ‘should the contract be rewritten?’ Or (worse) should we employ someone?

            Almost on the money, Even the jobs that come in under the approval limit are too hard for them to do. I would sign a standard contract in a heartbeat but they wont even offer it. Most of these smaller jobs go to the tiny specialist outsourcer like PYC and KPMG.

            In my case they cant hire me for these because too many of these would trigger the ‘related contracts clause’ in the FMA act and someone would get audited… but somehow they dont trigger the same clause for the poor little consulting companies.

            Whats even more perverse, I am rarely engaged to deliver anything that could not be done on a fixed price, but they insist on an hourly rates and chase timesheets etc. I am subject to all the same regulations the permanent staff are but on a limited timeframe. I would be happy for them to set a series of tasks and milestones, and pay based on that but I would need to have a penalty in the contract if there were any unreasonable delays that prevented my delivery.

            Somewhere between whoever ‘engages’ you (I assume you are some species of specialist contractor) and the ‘contract manager’ in whatever government department you work in (who will be a secure public servant, who just happens to pick up free tickets to the races/footy/cricket and a free car services every now and then (or maybe a model upgrade if their wheels are novated lease/salary sacrifice) there is some slops in the system

            I have not met any of these public servants you imply are on the take, but I do know the FMA act and the panel systems are designed to create a formalised old boys network that pretends to be chasing the best interest of the public purse but actually institutionalise the corrupt approach without the need for bribes.

            Ironically the only department to have anyone getting caught in my entire time in federal government was the department of finance who setup and administer the FMA act.

            But yeah a sub species of specialist contractor…

      • There’s a way to bypass the ticket clipping. Make a donation.

        Unified Security “Australia’s Largest Indigenous-Owned Private Security Provider” gave Dan Andrews fun party $76,000 in 2018.

      • Yes. You do $70 billed work and 3 parasites take at least $50 of that and you get the misery of actually doing the job.

        • The cleaning industry is exactly the same. Often large multi national firms pick up the government contract, who then subs it out to another firm, who subs it out again and again….rinse and repeat. Never much left for the people actually cleaning, often below award wages. Is it not the governments responsibility to ensure the people doing the work are paid correctly?

          • My poor late brother experienced this first hand. Was a cleaning supervisor for a relatively decent outer suburban contractor who did council offices and kindergartens. Time came for contract renewals and one after the other he lost the contracts purely on price to operators who were then only employing Indian ‘students’ for $10 or $12 per hour unlike the min wages (and not a penny more) the previous workers had been on. I wont mention councils but the one concerned has been in serious strife for corruption recently. (I heard through the local grapevine that some of these contractors had been sacked and replaced with similar contractors, once again based on price, especially as the price barrier had been broken by the first lot of dodgy contractors)
            Outsourcing from government has been a total disaster wherever it has been done, more expensive and a poor service to boot and its so long now since this started that people have forgotten or were not even working in these places before this happened.

    • There’s surely corruption in here somewhere near the higher levels that nobody seems to want to discuss. I note the Enquiry is banned from investigating this

        • Classic example! It’s hard to find a politician of any political colour that ‘gets it’ – that actually gives a RA about what’s happening.

    • Have seen how KPMG works for the last 20 years. Takes on any govt contract, quoting their experience in the feild of operation then at massive expense works it out as they go along. There is no such thing as cheap and effective outsourcing of government work.100% the contrary.

    • When Bailleu came in he got rid of all the consultants. As soon as Andrews came to power KPMG came right back in. ALP and KPMG are thick as thieves.

      It’s a game of mates.

  2. SchillersMEMBER

    My understanding is that Vicpol were asked by the Andrews government to take over hotel quarantine quite early on in the pandemic. They were told, in no uncertain terms… “We don’t want to do it. Force this job onto us and you will regret it. We will kneecap you and your government”.

  3. Crikey, after listening to Dan’s press conferences every day on the ABC even I’m beginning to feel sorry for the old coot. I’d have sh0t myself by now if I were in his shoes. Talk about mentally draining.

    And now he’s [email protected] on about $5,000 on the spot fines for not heeding the rules (is that for the super rich?) and $20,000 on the spot fines for ‘repeat offenders’ (what planet is this fool living on?).

      • Perhaps he should resign then and let someone else have a go on the bike. They couldn’t do any worse.

          • Or someone else from that side of politics, otherwise there is no accountability as is happening at the moment.

    • I think it completely fair that you be fined if you are supposed to be in quarantine/iso due to waiting test results or having tested positive and are caught out and about.

      • I don’t disagree with the fine – but how many people can afford a $5,000 fine much less a $1,300 fine. And then he raises the stakes to $20,000. People will just laugh at that.

  4. So Andrews should be held accountable because huge numbers of the Victorian population are variously stupid, illiterate, desperately poor or deliberately rebellious such that once the virus escaped quarantine it spread like wildfire? This is as much Federal Government migration policy, neo-liberal employment policies and aggressive libertarian self-righteousness as it is Andrew’s quarantine failure.

    • So… “it’s YOUR fault we had to take YOUR liberty because of the mistakes WE made earlier”?
      ..noting the latter “we” doesn’t include those now being forced, and hell of a lot of people that broke no rules.

    • He is a minister of the crown who stuffed up his portfolio and people are dead. That’s why he should resign. If not him then the health minister.

    • The Penske FileMEMBER

      Andrews is accountable and should go for the OK to the protest and also the quarantine stuff up. No point blaming “us” if it was OK for some to do what they wanted. Also, I’ve seen some other comments from the Liberal side which frustrates me as we wouldn’t have Dan if we had a half decent and non corrupt opposition.

      • Dan has been there too long and thats when things start to go wrong. What is needed is a new Labor govt in Vic not another LNP collection of trough feeders. Im still smarting over Jeff Kennet and what he did to my family (life changing and bad with it)

  5. Would be some karma to know if the guards got batvirus from their professional sexytime. Although more likely they were a source vector.

  6. TheLambKingMEMBER

    The Victorian Government must be held accountable.

    I don’t know why you insist on repeating this?

    Dan has said he takes full responsibility. He said he is accountable. What more do you need? He has been let down by some bad advice (an outsourcing firm recommending outsourcing bio-security) and people not following the rules. He has said he has made mistakes. But don’t forget he was also the one who kept things shut down when the Murdoch press and the LNP were screaming for things to open – and we would be in a much bigger mess now. The other States also made mistakes, but mostly by luck (and environment), they have not had the same outbreaks.

    I think it says more about the problems with privatization and outsourcing more than a government being held accountable.

    • Nice rewriting of history there. Upon announcing Stage 3 restrictions, Dan went to great lengths to blame Victorians’ supposed “complacency” and “poor behaviour” for the outbreak rather than his own government’s epic quarantine negligence and the fact that he has badly defunded Victoria’s viral and pandemic capability. And this came after subjecting Victorians to the harshest lockdowns.

      His Government’s gross incompetence let the virus in and the defunded/overwhelmed health capability then couldn’t respond.

      That’s why VIC has 96% of active COVID-19 cases.

      Open your eyes.

      If the Victorian Government isn’t accountable, then who is? This is their mess. And we are paying the price.

    • Agree. It also says a lot about how people just love to blame others when something goes wrong for them. Such a group of whiny whingers the Australian netizens have become.

        • 60 mins would not have done an expose if it had been an LNP govt. Not saying its not a major fk up but 60 mins is working as a political tool.

          • So what. If ministerial responsibility is OK for Adem, its OK for Dan. It comes with the highest salary paid to any Premier in Australia. Someone else in Labor should have that job otherwise there is no ministerial responsibility.

          • Also to note, Labor governments should have undone just about everything the previous LNP govts have done, State and Federal level. That was their missed opportunity.

    • LittleEmperorMEMBER

      It must be repeated and Andrews must stand down as soon as it is practical to do so because his decisions have lead to such a catastrophic impact on Victoria. It’s about justice. Forgive and forget doesn’t cut it when poor decision making costs hundreds of lives and tens of billions of dollars. Then there are his other crimes and endemic corruption in his govt.

    • Aussies Can't Socially Distance

      He let a 10,000 people protest for the accidental death of a criminal on the other side of the planet go ahead during the middle of a pandemic.

    • Typical Victorian comment. The country would be much better off if we lanced the boil and sent you off to the union/green/lefty utopia that you have all spent your life dreaming about.

      • Fair comment- at least we will have lots of Chinese money. We could join forces with the CCP and invade. Too easy.

    • Dan Andrews is a dead man walking.
      He talked a good game, giving the impression they were being so cautious, but infact he knew they were failing at every critical step of the process. Test results taking 1 week, slack contract tracing, dodgy security guards.
      I think Dan Andrews should do us all a favour and expose himself to the virus.
      He will go down in history as the guy who completely screwed it up.

  7. Aussies Can't Socially Distance

    The rise in cases matches perfectly with the BLM protest on the 6th June. I’m surprised that people haven’t joined the dots yet. 10k people standing next to each other showering each other with spittle as they shout slogans surely spread the virus.

  8. 60 Minutes and 9-Fairfax risks damaging its reputation by doing some good journalism.

    For their sake I hope that their boss at Domain lets them know that this is bad for business. Because whatever next? Honest analysis of the risks associated with mass immigration? Might they delve into High-rise Harry’s family history in Manchuria in the 1930s? And what happens when that poisonous breadcrumb trail leads them to other high profile lever pullers and the wizards behind the curtain that own a good slab of the 9-Fairfax shares?

    The ABC has slumbered on the job for so long that by omission it has allowed public interest stories to become the new magic pudding. I mean, you could even sell newspapers with this sort of stuff.

  9. Has anyone heard the line about Dutton’s camping trip to FNQ in July? The line goes that 15 July, same week Parliament not sitting, Dutton and party in 4WDs have a tourist ban in Cape York Indigineous protection area lifted so they can enter Bamaga for camping.

    • The ABC has had its nuts cut off. and 60mins tabloid baloney dont see the problem, Perhaps they should dod a follow up to the bush fire victims to see how they are spending the money Scumo promised them, or how about one on how Dutton left the police force and got rich?

  10. Quite fitting, given LvO’s pet subject, that the young security guard interviewed by 60 Minutes is an international student working under both the minimum wage and Victorian security award.

    The exploitation slave labour racket supported by Dodgy Dan’s ALP and their neoliberal bed fellows like Scummo in all its glory.

    This monumental stuff up sums up the governance of modern Australia. Cheap and nasty, lowest common denominator neoliberalism wherever you turn.

    I wouldn’t want to be in Western Sydney this summer with Covid on the loose. The Southern US experience should act as a big reminder to NSW and QLD that this could get a lot worse.

  11. I love how they try and blame the victim to cover up their mega negligence.

    The cover up is always worse than the crime.