CHO Brett Sutton throws barbs at VIC’s COVID-19 response

Cracks are appearing within the Victorian Government over the state’s bungled COVID-19 response.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton claims he was not involved in the decision to impose the controversial 8pm-5am curfew in Melbourne during the stage-four lockdown restrictions. Whereas Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton says he believes that the decision was made by Sutton, adding that the police were told of the curfew just hours before it was announced:

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said on Thursday that as far as he knew, the curfew was “the Chief Health Officer’s” decision, and police had learnt of the measure only hours before it was announced.

His comments contradicted those of Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, who on Tuesday said while he was consulted, the curfew was implemented via “a separate decision-making pathway” that did not involve him…

On Tuesday, the CHO more explicitly stated that the decision had not been made at his instigation. “I was consulted on it, but it was a separate decision-making pathway,” he told radio 3AW.

On Thursday, Mr Patton suggested otherwise when asked whose idea the curfew had been. “As far as I know, (it was) the Chief Health Officer’s (idea),” he told ABC radio.

“Our policy area received a copy of these guidelines a couple of hours before they were to be brought in for our information, as I understand, for us to be able to operationalise them (sic). We haven’t had any input into them.”

Meanwhile, the inquiry into Victoria’s botched hotel quarantine program has heard Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton wanted to be in charge of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic but was blocked.

Department of Health and Human Services deputy secretary Melissa Skilbeck told the inquiry yesterday that Sutton was against her decision to appoint someone other than him to the task, while she said she was also not aware that federal Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy had offered Sutton Australian Defence Force troops to be used in the program instead of security guards:

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy offered Australian Defence Force troops to his Victorian counterpart, Brett Sutton, to be used in the state’s bungled hotel quarantine program instead of security guards, an ­inquiry has heard.

The probe into the ­fiasco heard Professor Sutton, as Victoria’s top public health official, wanted to lead the state’s response to the pandemic but was denied by the Department of Health and Human Services…

On Thursday, Ms Skilbeck said she decided not to appoint Professor Sutton as state health controller overseeing the response to the pandemic against his wishes.

“My view then, and quite frankly my view now, is that the overwhelming role that we needed for an effective response from the emergency management framework was one of co-ordination of logistics and other assistance,” she said.

When Mr Ihle asked Ms Skilbeck if Professor Sutton was against the decision to appoint someone other than him, she said: “Yes, he was.”

Unbelievable stuff. Instead of letting a public health expert oversee a public health emergency, the task was left to bureaucrats who then employed untrained supermarket security and Uber drivers.

The whole system was set up to fail from the very beginning.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. The CHO shut out while critical decisions being made by people lacking the skills and experience to make them.

    The Skilbeck woman and health minister should both burn.

    • Skilbeck: another female “generalist” promoted way above her station. Same with her boss, Pym, and in turn her boss, the Minister!
      Meanwhile the technical experts (the real operational expertise), such as Sutton, sidelined.
      All predictable results.

    • Correct. And after 7 weeks the “only reasons to leave the house” is absurd. Keep the 5k limit for 2 weeks to monitor and let people leave the house for whatever reason whenever they want

  2. They are all bureaucrats with gigantic power tripping ego’s. It went to shit and now the finger pointing begins in public. Notice how absent Dan is from all this allowing other senior leaders to take the heat and fall for what should have been his call.

  3. happy valleyMEMBER

    Meanwhile, NSW has gold standard ruby princess Gladys, a ~$2bn light rail project ~$1bn over budget, apparently the world’s most expensive per km tollroad build and a harmonious government … At least she wiped the floor this morning with the Nats.

      • Haha!
        And with that envious collection of blackguards, knaves and thieves at the helm of HMS ‘Economic Recovery’ (post Covid) we’ll be certain to retun to our rightful place as the miracle economy full of miracle people and miracle policies.
        It IS our destiny!

  4. The most unbelievable thing is that no one is claiming responsibility. They are just trying to say it wasn’t their fault and pointing to someone else. This makes the entire Vic government look like they have no idea what they are doing, and no-one is actually in charge.
    Is Dan Andrews just pretending to be in charge?
    Worringly, I doubt whether anything has changed since the second wave.
    Sutton says the curfew wasnt his idea…. some other decision making path.
    What a joke!

    • Dan Andrews appears to have no curiosity about mistakes made by his subordinates. He just throws up a massive Gallic shrug and says “what can you do?”.

    • happy valleyMEMBER

      And look at gold standard NSW. We have a serious inquiry in to the Ruby Princess debacle conducted by a tough guy Bret Walker SC, who severely criticises the management of the process (or not as the case was). The report is seemingly “dead, buried and cremated” on delivery and even more so a couple of weeks later and no one’s head rolls.

      • You only need have worked in NSW Health to know that nothing was to come of the Ruby Princess inquiry.
        NSW Health head office types are very big on accountability for clinical types making clinical decisions. Very big. Because clinical decisions aren’t the remit of the head office types.
        But this time the accountability crept up unexpectedly and bit them on the backside and they didn’t like it at all. The cries of we were doing our best so leave us alone were loud and heard by the Minister. Would that such excuses were accepted for clinical misadventures.

    • Charles MartinMEMBER

      Annastacia Palaszczuk just admitted she is fvcking useless as she doesn’t make the decisions, so assume that Andrews is the same or far far worse.
      The public need the names of the bureaucrats making the decisions, so the anger can be directed properly.

  5. Arthur Schopenhauer

    Sutton is about 3 levels below the Health Department Secretary. Like just about all staff with technical know how.

    It’s all about ‘managing perceptions’ at the top. Useless FKn deadshvts Department secretaries.

    • Jevons ghostMEMBER

      Skilbeck is just one of TEN deputy secretaries in the Victorian Health Department. Any number of senior executive directors, executive directors, directors, etc etc. Saw enough of this nonsense in a past life. Plenty of “influencers”,”actors”, assorted self-important clowns and miscellaneous “gophers” keen to stick their oar in and screw those workers at the coalface who actually crew the Titanic. Org Chart – 24 August 2020 External.pdf

  6. Rubbish. Andrews explained all of this in today’s press conference. You need to look at all sources Leith if you want to want to not be seen as contributing to the hyperbole.

  7. The classic British satire ‘Yes Minister’ may have been written 40 years ago, but it’s still relevant in countries like Australia. The old UK Civil Service rule that no ‘technical expert’ gets to make the big decisions still applies.

  8. How can an unelected bureaucrat even be in a possition to make any public policy decision of that significance.
    None should be put in arbitrary detention without a due trial ever … even Stalin had fake trials to show the democratic nature of his regime… our politicians don’t even bother

    What kind of fake democracy we have?

  9. The capability of the Department is “the overwhelming role that we needed for an effective response from the emergency management framework was one of co-ordination of logistics and other assistance”. The missing question was – co-ordinate and assist for whom. The missing answer, to a single role that sets direction. For a health emergency task force that would normally be the CHO.
    To stick with root causes a bit further, central Departments have been slowly stripped of services roles – these are outsourced – and have become almost exclusively policy organisations. Policy development is a different animal from the physical delivery of outcomes in an emergency where conditions change from week to week.
    Policy organisations do not need to fund a reserve of people with contact tracing, and can let that capability wither. They have to when there’s not enough budget. It’s really quite interesting to see this all play out, and easy to miss true remediation. Yes, a head might roll – not the Secretary’s of course, and it might be satisfying, however it is not addressing the underlying causes or preparing a better response.