How virtue signaling botched Melbourne’s hotel quarantine

Recall that United Security – a tiny security firm with only 89 permanent employees that wasn’t on the Victorian Government’s preferred supplier list – was granted the biggest ($44 million) contract to mismanage Melbourne’s hotel quarantine program:

The security company paid $44 million to guard Victoria’s quarantine hotels says it does not know why it scored the lion’s share of the work as part of the botched scheme.

Unified Security had just 89 permanent staff in March but ended up employing 1759 people, almost all through subcontractors.

It won the majority of the security work, despite not being on the state government’s preferred supplier list.

The bureaucrat who first approached Unified, Katrina Currie, revealed in emails one consideration was that Unified was indigenous-owned, making it suitable under the ­Andrews government’s ­inclusion policies.

Unified’s Victorian manager Nigel Coppick told the hotel quarantine inquiry on Thursday that he did not know why the company was awarded substantially more than other key contractors Wilson and MSS.

“I was contacted and I was asked if we could support,’’ he told counsel assisting the inquiry, Rachel Ellyard.

Six of United’s subcontracted security guards contracted COVID-19 while working at the Rydges hotel. In turn, they seeded 90% of Victoria’s deadly second wave that has locked Melbourne down for months.

A series of insider emails and texts published by the Herald-Sun reveals the utter incompetence of bureaucrats within the Victorian Government, which prioritised marketing, jobs and social inclusion opportunities over basic virus infection control:

Katrina Currie, a mid-ranking official from the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, had been seconded to the “Working for Victoria’’ program supporting those who had lost their jobs in the first COVID-19 lockdown… She told the inquiry she did not think the firms she hired would outsource their work to subcontractors…

But in a sworn statement to the inquiry, the Victorian general manager of security firm MSS, Jamie Adams said: “Katrina had no issue with us using subcontracted staff…

[United] had applied – but been rejected – for admission to the Victorian Government’s preferred supplier list.

The company is controlled by David Millward, who owns 51 per cent of it through a holding company whose sole director is Unified’s executive assistant, Sandy Millward Pratt.

Mr Millward previously owned and ran two security businesses which had collapsed into liquidation…

Senior bureaucrats realised almost immediately there was a problem in hiring Unified. While they later discovered they were legally able to do so under emergency provisions, their first reaction was to call in the lawyers when they realised they’d hired a company, without a tender, that was not on the already approved list of suppliers.

A strategic procurement specialist named Trevor Esch from the DJPR wrote to another senior bureaucrat, Paul Xerri, on March 31, two days after the first guests were detained, and when Unified was already providing security services…

Mr Xerri sent it on to Ms Currie and asked her to respond.

She detailed the quick turnaround, then added a line to the bottom of her email, sent at 4.32pm on March 31.

“Unified is an Aboriginal owned and controlled organisation and has worked with DJPR on related social procurement initiatives … while they are not a panel provider for security services, utilising their services is absolutely in keeping with the concept … ‘’ The email then ends, apparently prematurely.

At 6.52pm it was sent again, this time in bold type, to Mr Esch, noting hiring Unified: “is absolutely in keeping with the State Government’s social procurement objective of utilising Aboriginal businesses.’’

Ms Currie said a legal exemption should be sought but “Unified are delivering and have been delivering services since Sunday. A rationale for the exemption is both immediate need and their responsiveness but also their status as an Aboriginal owned and controlled business under the Government’s social procurement objectives’’…

Counsel assisting the inquiry Ben Ihle told the hotel inquiry last week that the “primary objective of any quarantine program is a health objective: preventing the further spread of a disease’’ and that the program had “failed to control the spread of COVID-19.’’

He said the second objective of quarantines was to meet the needs of those it detained, for food, medical attention and mental healthcare.

The irony is that the Victorian Government’s decision to outsource hotel quarantine to United Security never actually boosted indigenous employment because United used subcontractors for 95% of jobs.

The end result is that while other states used police to manage hotel quarantine, the Victorian Government chose untrained guards to manage the most serious public health emergency Victoria had faced in 100 years at an eye watering cost to taxpayers.

The results have obviously been devastating, with more than 700 lives lost, Melbourne shut down for months, and mass unemployment and business failures beckoning.

This one decision alone should cost the Andrews Government office. It is a failure of judgment so complete that it should never be trusted with a decision of gravity again.

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


  1. The irony is Katrina Currie thought she was doing a good thing. Probably still does.

    This is the mental sickness that pervades the public sector – ticking off lesser priorities rather than thinking about the absolute main goal. All sorts of agencies do this.

    • Shades of MessinaMEMBER

      This is not just reflective of the PS, all major corporates now have “woke implants” that drive this type of behaviour internally.

      Very hard to push back on it I would imagine.

      • I’ve had a look at some Job requirements recently on Seek and all the PS jobs along with the large corporates openly state that if if you are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islands background or a woman or anyone that would help meet diversity targets you go straight to the head of the line. If it’s a specialist role that no one in one of the sacred groups is qualified for then a white fella may get a look in.

    • RobotSenseiMEMBER

      Are the objectives of inclusively in contract bidding and competence mutually exclusive? I get they’re trying to spread the wealth so to speak but surely there are some jobs that are so acute and so critical you go with the sure thing over the “ok your turn to make some money” bidder.

    • Stewie,

      Having worked in senior and executive positions in both private and public sector over last 10 years, it has become even more grotesque in the private sector. Gender diversity, cultural diversity, support of social agendas that have exactly zero to do with the core business, focus on “great place to work” over accountability and personal responsibility have significantly eroded professional standards and quality of work, while driving cost of services higher to support various “champions”, whose only significant contributions are “progressive” posts on LinkedIn. Engineering and Infrastructure.

      Truth be told, public sector is today more focused on outcomes rather than visibility and perceptions, partially because it is still staffed and managed by the introvert dinosaurs. Yes, politics play a huge role in both private and public sectors. To me, private sector has a much larger percentage of insouciant executives that will sacrifice all for a tick up of the share price and a couple of percentage points of the relevant KPI to guarantee a bonus.

      /rant off

      • I had so many Linked-in notifications piling up I decided to read through them last night just for sh*ts and giggles. So many ‘Likes’ for virtue-signaling posts I very nearly had to get out of bed to be sick — and some from people I actually know quite well.

        I did a course recently which highlighted in the course material (clearly produced a year or two ago) how important ESG is in this day and age and how AMP was this country’s leading light in the area — talk about unfortunate timing. But yes, I can’t imagine going to work in one of these large institutions again, especially given their focus.

      • darklydrawlMEMBER

        “social agendas that have exactly zero to do with the core business, focus on “great place to work” over accountability and personal responsibility have significantly eroded professional standards and quality of work”.

        This seems to be very prevelant in the big 4 banks.

      • Gender diversity, cultural diversity, support of social agendas that have exactly zero to do with the core business […]

        Imagine thinking there should be some sort of “social contract” between business and “society” where maximum profits were not the only priority.

        • It’s a tough one, for sure. Would a diversity pick for a particular role create resentment among fellow colleagues (because this person was largely out of their professional depth but being paid the same as others at the same level) or would they all brush it off as ‘necessary under the social contract’. And, would it create a tighter social bond or would it serve to strain the social fabric?

      • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

        Yup – Woke Capital is the worst. It is being spread by Uni graduates steeped in intersectional theory and totally unemployable in anywhere other than the Human resources department. The social contract is easier to deliver when there is just one social contract and not 20 or 30 different cultural interpretations of it.

        • Let me tell you a story about my ex investigations manager who I’d better not name. He progressed in a topical federal department because his sister was a First Assistant Secretary despite him being regarded widely in Canberra as a barely adequate APS4. She then got him an overseas posting and on his return she got him a job leading my section in Victoria. He then tried to get me out because I showed up his incompetence. He then once having realised his incompetence, got a package for a bad back and stress, probably from the sister sister pulling a few strings. He now leads an office within the Premiers Department in Victoria. If he was regarded as suitable for his current job, then the Victorian Public Service is truly one great clusterfuck basket case.

      • A HR chick I used to work with posted this nonsense:

        I hired an intern. His resume wasn’t the best. But he had a positive attitude. He was honest about what he didn’t know. I thought about the chances I’ve been given. I felt it was time for me to do the same.

        I told him we’d give him a chance.

        Over the last few months, he’s proved himself. His work gets better and better. To see his transformation has had a big impact on me.

        A resume is someone’s history. It can’t predict someone’s future. If someone ever put their faith in you when you started your career, it’s time for you to do the same.

        She had about 150 comments all full of congratulatory messages and affirmations. Each of those she reacted or responded to.

        Then I asked “What is his name?”

        You can guess the response – *Crickets*.

        People lap this sh!t up.

      • The other day I wondered to myself what you needed to do to be classified ‘Alt-Right’ and you touch on the answer right there: literally any views that don’t conform to the Book of Woke are considered Alt-Right. It’s that simple.

        Conform or be branded an extremist.

  2. It ain’t just virtue signalling. Remember, they brought in the F1 teams in February, despite the public concerns. Looks like to them COVID was merely a nuisance, until it hit home…

  3. Does Australia’s body politic – both mainstream sides including the Lberal Party, the National Party and the Australian Labor Party – Commonwealth and State – have at its core an economic policy of completely trashing the competitive basis of the Australian economy and to inflict lasting economic pain on all Australians.

    Have Australian public sector data gathering, regulatory, and policy formulation organisations and departments been so corrupted that they do not identify the above? Have they been so neutered that they cannot report the above to Australian politicians?

    And at that point

    Are Australian political and public sector elites acting in the best interests of Australians? Are they accountable for acting in the interests and explaining their actions to Australians to a sufficient degree enabling Australians to feel that their politicians and senior policy makers are accountable to them? ….and if they are not, How can they be made more so?

    It is time for open revolt.

    I think it is time for a new political party which I would call putatively Bullshit Australia – the party to identify and deal with Australian Bullshit and to promote informed and data backed decisionmaking throughout the political and administrative bodies of Australia, and to hold politicians, public officials and corporate interests to account for past decisions made, starting with a permanent standing Australian Corruption and Incompetence Commission.

    • Start with the “Industry Associations” they are multi-function, high-speed, bull-shit/red-tape machines.

      “permanent standing Australian Corruption and Incompetence Commission” We already got one, its called the Government and its very good at creating Corruption and Incompetence thank you very much, I’ll show myself out.

      • Ah, ‘Industry Associations’ … little more than a vehicle to provide well paid jobs to a handful of deadbeats who can’t be bothered to go out and produce something useful, in the meanwhile doing all they can to prevent dynamic small non-member companies from getting a foothold and improving products and services in the market.

        It’s a protection racket.

  4. Poochie the Rockin DogMEMBER

    This is what happens when people believe they should be judged by their intentions and not outcomes. If being caring is meant to be a trait of the left then why are they so bad at it

  5. Do not just sit there -donate to Ken Phillips’ Self Employed Australia goal of holding Andrews and his Fascist Left thugs in the public service to account under their own draconian O H & S legislation which was directed as an outrageous attack on (particularly) small business proprietors. Confiscation of personal assets and jail terms are the outcomes of this legislation.

  6. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    “The bureaucrat who first approached Unified, Katrina Currie, revealed in emails one consideration was that Unified was indigenous-owned, making it suitable under the ­Andrews government’s ­inclusion policies.

    Unified’s Victorian manager Nigel Coppick told the hotel quarantine inquiry on Thursday that he did not know why the company was awarded substantially more than other key contractors Wilson and MSS.”

    Lol,…what a Fking hillarious virtue signaling fail!

    Unfortunately it is also deeply depressing and has turned deadly


  7. One reason why the Vic public service is so incompetent is the preponderance of woke females.
    Apart from the Currie example above, consider Prof Suttons superiors at DHHS: Skilbeck, Pyme, Mikakos (minister) – all female.

    • Dunno how to say this but if you look at the Executive levels of the Commonwealth public sector – which have gone every bit as wokorrupt as the Vics – the 60% are female (with an aged demographic)

      …..and yes, they are entitled
      ……no they dont need to be able to write or work with numbers (nor do any males in their midst)
      ….they just need to be loyal, and the loyalist of all are ‘believers’
      ……which often leads to management sessions which have a ‘rah rah’ or messianic cult feel worthy of some sales teams in years gone by

    • I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the fundamental laws of the Universe and reality as we know it is Irony.
      Hence; being “Woke” is anything but.
      Much of it comes back to the ongoing march and pervasiveness of Cultural Marxism, which is slowly but surely becoming weaponized in the hands of “useful idiots”.

  8. TheLambKingMEMBER

    This one decision alone should cost the Andrews Government office. It is a failure of judgment so complete that it should never be trusted with a decision of gravity again.

    Dan: “ScoMo, you are in charge of the ‘borders’ and quarantine for the country, what do we do about all these people coming in?”

    ScoMo: “Me? Mate, I don’t want the borders closed! This is a little flu. I don’t want anything shutting down!”

    Dan: “What? We need to shut down now! We need to close the borders. The Scientists say we need to quarantine the overseas arrivals”

    ScoMo: “Don’t look at me mate, the Economy needs freedom of movement. I don’t believe the Scientists.”

    Dan: “OK. Hey other Premiers, how about we quarantining people in hotels if we can’t use any of the existing Commonwealth facilities. That could work?”

    Other Premiers: “Good idea! That can work”

    So you and Murdoch are trying to crucify Dan for execution errors, when the person RESPONSIBLE for border control and quarantine get off Scott Free because he refused to do anything.

    • I’m not defending the Andrews government on this, but it is worth noting that sourcing any material from The Herald Sun is fraught with danger. They have one mission alone, and that’s to destroy the Andrews brand to prop up the pathetic mess that is the Victorian Liberal Party. The HS has flip-flopped it’s position on COVID to suit their attack narrative. For example they were pushing back in March/April that the Vic Gov didn’t have the right to restrict freedom of movement. Then the BLM rally occurred and the narrative became that the Vic Gov wasn’t enforcing the law enough. Very little holding to account of the Feds for either quarantine responsibility, aged care, branch stacking in the Liberals, allegations against Shady Sukkar, Sports Rorts, etc.

  9. And this!!!!
    ‘ “Security guards informed (nursing staff) they were concerned about using hand sanitiser because it is against their religion,” the document read.’
    What a conundrum for the DHHS idiots: can’t fire for religious reasons yet hired for religious (amongst other) reasons yet cannot perform duties hired for due to religious reasons.

  10. “I can see that using a highly casualised workforce, generally from a lower socio-economic background, where that means that poor leave provisions limit how one can care for and financially support one’s family if unwell,” he said.

    “In addition, where many of these staff might combine multiple, piecemeal jobs across different industries to maintain an adequate income, creating transmission risk. In addition, the security guard workforce is often represented by people with relatively larger families and larger networks of friends, which creates additional transmission risks should they become unwell.

    In other words, the result of migration policies for the last two decades.

    Anyone who thinks that all was rosy in this country before this virus came along is a fraud or a moron or both.

      • Workers’ rights would have been defended by a united working class, led by a faithful union movement. Just like they were by the White Australia Policy (the WAP of yesteryear), before Labor’s progressive elite entered into a devil’s bargain with the forces of globalism/neo-liberalism.
        The workers, diversified, will forever be defeated. You support this by your interminable dissembling.

        • Workers’ rights would have been defended by a united working class, led by a faithful union movement.

          Which was already on the way to being destroyed a decade before immigration ballooned under Howard, just like it would have been if immigration hadn’t ramped up.

    • The definition of success:
      low/unskilled employees in large families doing multiple jobs on crap wages = mass immigration vibrancy (neoliberal x woke ideology) cash for vested interests

  11. Wonder whether the writers/producers of Utopia will be gutsy enough to do an episode along these lines. Micallef often skirts the edges on the ABC so there’s hope yet.

  12. I’m sure you mean “sanctimonious” virtue signalling. For these people it’s not enough to do the right thing, they have to be SEEN to do the right thing and to belittle others as they do so…

    That Manchurian Dan is a real POS.

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