Via News, Victoria Police may be good at handing out fines and arresting libertarian bogans but actually doing their job is beyond them:
The decision to use private security can be traced back to three crucial meetings on March 27 as officials rushed to “operationalise” the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that all returning travellers would go into hotel quarantine.
At lunchtime on March 27, the national cabinet decided to enforce mandatory quarantine.
Before the Prime Minister has even announced it, then Victorian Police Commissioner Graham Ashton had sent a text message to the Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw insisting the AFP sort it out.
“Mate. Question. Why wouldn’t AFP guard people At The Hotel?” Ashton wrote to Kershaw at 1:12pm on March 27.
At 1:16pm, just four minutes after the first text with Kershaw, the Victorian Police Commissioner was also busily texting the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles wanting to know whether police will be involved.
By 1:22pm there was an answer. He told Kershaw that private security will be used.
“Mate. My advise [sic] is ADF will do passenger transfer and private security will be used,’’ Ashton wrote.
“OK that’s new,” Kershaw replied.
“I think that’s the deal set up by our Department of Premier and Cabinet,” Ashton said.
“I understand NSW will be a different arrangement. I spoke to Mick F [NSW Police Commissioner, Mick Fuller].”
By 2pm, there was a meeting involving then Victorian Police Commissioner Graham Ashton, Police Minister Lisa Neville and Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp.
In scribbled notes, Graham Ashton wrote “Private security, “Police back up”, “ADF”. Crisp noted: “Private security” and “ADF”.
Just moments later, at 2:17pm on Friday afternoon, the Prime Minister walked out into his courtyard at Parliament House to announce the hotel quarantine plan that will operate from midnight on Saturday night.
The clock was ticking as the states rushed to get the hotel quarantine scheme up and running in less than 36 hours.
At 4.30pm, the first teleconference on “Operation Soteria”, Victoria’s hotel quarantine scheme was held. On the phone was Crisp, Assistant Commissioner Mick Grainger and Australian Defence Force Colonel John Molnar.
This meeting was recorded.
“I understand the preference of Victoria Police, or the Chief Commissioner, is that private security be the first line of security, and the police to respond as required. Is that your understanding, Mick?” Mr Crisp said, according to a transcript.
“Absolutely that’s our preference,” Mr Grainger replied.
It’s all on the tape. During the meeting, text messages continued to fly between the Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp and Victoria Police.
Crisp even stepped out of the meeting to take calls from the Chief Commissioner of Police Graham Ashton and he then texted Grainger, who was in the meeting he stepped out of, about what Ashton wanted.
“I stepped out to speak to Graham and I let him know you’re in this meeting as he’s only just come out of VSB. He made it clear in VSB that private security is the first security option at hotels/hotels and not police,’’ he wrote.
In the face of such mounting evidence, it’s bizarre that Ashton tried to tell the inquiry that he didn’t have a preference over who was in charge of hotel quarantine.
“Absolutely untrue,” Ashton replied, under questioning from – get this – Richard Attiwill QC, acting for the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
That’s right, the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s QC was pointing out to the police commissioner that he had that preference and that preference was that police not do the job.
So, make no mistake, when Premier Dan Andrews told the inquiry on Friday that there was “collective responsibility” he was also talking about the cops.
As is often the case with these things, it is human failing and ineptitude rather than a conspiracy that is responsible.
Dan Andrews and the Graham Ashton should both resign. Nearly 800 Victorians are dead because of them.
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