Earlier this month, the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) Victorian president, Julian Rait, provided a submission to the state parliamentary inquiry into the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic whereby he called for a Royal Commission into Victoria’s bungled COVID-19 response, which he says resembles a “slow car crash“, “in order to learn and apply lessons learned from this pandemic”.
Now the Liberal Victorian Opposition leader, Michael O’Brien, has echoed the call:
“We’re the only state to be suffering through a second wave, we’ve lost hundreds of lives, tens of thousands of businesses, hundreds of thousands of jobs, and millions of us are locked down,” he said.
“I think that Victorians deserve the answers, they deserve the truth, and the best way to find the truth is through a royal commission”…
An inquiry, led by former judge Jennifer Coate, is currently investigating failures in the state’s hotel quarantine system.
“We know that the problems in Victoria go well beyond that,” Mr O’Brien said…
“These are lessons that must be learnt, and the best way to get to the bottom of it, the best way to answer those vital life-and-death questions is through a royal commission,” he said…
When the AMA first proposed a Royal Commission I thought it might be overkill given there is already a state parliamentary inquiry as well as a COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry underway.
However, the failings go well beyond hotel quarantine to systemic failures with contact tracing, aged care, as well as a general lack of competence within the government and bureaucracy.
Indeed, the Hotel Quarantine Inquiry on Friday revealed that the scheme had no clear operational structure and nobody within the Victorian Government was in charge:
The Inquiry also heard that the Department of Health and Human Services did not want to use the Australian Defence Force for hotel quarantine security because it would be daunting for those arriving back in Australia:
Meanwhile, the Saturday Paper also revealed a leaked call from Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton revealing failures in contact tracing:
“It was totally challenged. No questions there. Even at lower numbers, there were intrinsic challenges with contact tracing”.
Given this is arguably the biggest public health and economic failure in the state’s history, a royal commission into the COVID-19 response is warranted.
We’ve had Royal Commissions into far lesser issues.