Leigh Sales tears Dan Andrews apart over lockdown

Veteran ABC journalist, Leigh Sales, appeared at Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ coronavirus press briefing yesterday where she accused him of lacking confidence in Victoria’s hotel quarantine system and the government’s ability to manage outbreaks.

The fiery exchange began after another reporter asked the following question, which the Premier as usual answered condescendingly:

Reporter: “Victorians are in lockdown again because of failures in hotel quarantine. Only this time we are not getting an apology or we are not seeing you take any responsibility”.

Dan Andrews: “I think it’s very important to be accurate. You’re not seriously putting it to me that I have said “I am responsible for everything that goes on in the Victorian Government… So that’s just not an accurate statement… With the greatest of respect… Please don’t put things to me that are just not accurate”…

Leigh Sales: “People put a level of trust in you… Given that you are asking them to again put their trust in you and again go through something that’s pretty hard, don’t you think it would be useful if you did answer that question that was put to you?”..

“What do you say to Victorians today that after 111 days of lockdown last year might be asking how is it the case that their government still lacks such confidence in your hotel quarantine systems and your contact tracing that you apparently can’t manage two to three cases of COVID a day in a population of 6.3 million people?”

Dan Andrews: “Well, you’ve made a number of assertions there”.

Leigh Sales: “Well, they’re facts”.

Dan Andrews: “No they’re not.  “You’ve just put it to me that there is a lack of confidence. I’m more than confident in the team we have and in the Victorian community.. With the greatest of respect, you have put a number of things to me that are not accurate”.

Leigh Sales: “If you have confidence in the system, which your own bureaucrat said was working quite well, why do you need a lockdown?”

Dan Andrews: “Because, the public health advice to me is that, given the speed at which this moves…  close contacts have been infected by the time that we are aware of the primary case”…

Leigh Sales: “The hospitals aren’t in any danger of being overwhelmed. There’s a small number of cases. That actually suggests that your system is actually working pretty well to contain it. So why the need for lockdown?”…

Meanwhile, the so-called patient zero that supposedly started the third wave by using a nebuliser in a quarantine hotel has slammed the Victorian Government via Neil Mitchell on Radio 3AW:

[The man] says has been “brutalised by the government and the system”.

“He’s told me the hotel quarantine system is a mess,” [host Neil Mitchell] said.

“He said you go in and there are no warning signs, no information as you go in, no serious ventilation, no signs saying don’t use a nebuliser. He says the air-conditioning made them all feel ill at the Holiday Inn”…

“Remember, he used the nebuliser after being told it was okay, then the Premier dog whistled and blamed him, then the Commissioner, Emma Cassar, effectively accused him of lying…

“He wants a full inquiry into what happened in this case to give him answers … and to ensure something like this never happens again…

“I think what really surprises me is that nobody, really, from the Andrews government has tried to reach us and get my side of this story and understand,” he said.

“I’d expect with the gold standard that you’d be trying to get facts from every single source. Not just your own sources.”

What’s the point of holding another “full inquiry” when last year’s Hotel Quarantine Inquiry achieved precisely naught?

We don’t need another expensive inquiry to determine that the Victorian Government is incompetent. All we have to do is compare the pair:

  • New South Wales has taken around 60% of Australia’s international arrivals (~130,000) and has managed virus outbreaks without city or statewide lockdowns.
  • VIC has taken only a small fraction of Australia’s international arrivals (and zero between July and December last year), has experienced several major quarantine breaches, and has locked down Victoria and/or Melbourne for months on end.

The Government should be judged on its outcomes: regular quarantine breaches, 115 days of lockdown (and counting), and more than 800 dead.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. Test and trace is a dead loss… and as much as I dislike Dan the Chinese Communist stooge – apportioning blame a complete waste of time too… vaccinate everyone, and just get it done, ASAP.

        • Health care provision should not be linked to peoples behaviour. Unless you want to ban the obese, alcoholics, drug users and smokers as well as they drain vastly more resources from the system.

          • The rate of Medicare should be set as a constant. A rebate should be available with a doc certificate. A condition of getting the doc certificate should be active participation in any gp designated management plan for poor lifestyle choices. It is a social safety net but some personal responsibility needs to be reinjected into the system. If you don’t care, that is fine, you just pay the full Medicare rate to cover some of your additional burden. So yes, it most definitely should be linked to behaviour.

        • Get rid of the generalised public servants in the Victorian Health Dept and substitute medical staff who are fit for purpose. The current Dept was set up by Dan. Get a Premier with a higher IQ who is honest and takes some responsibility. The ALP should step up and get rid of him. Robust systems are required. The hotel was not audited. People supervising the quarantine offered to get the poor fellow Ventolin. They didn’t have a clue. Dan’s Government set it up and put them there. There is no ministerial responsibility

    • Arnold Worchester

      I agree – all this talk of quarantine upgrades is pointless. The vaccines are available and effective. Even in Ukraine they are starting to administer them.

      The focus needs to be on the logistics of vaccinating several million people, and tearing down all this lockdown and hard border infrastructure.

  2. Tassie TomMEMBER

    Regarding NSW – I’d like to add that the recent outbreak that started in the Northern Beaches was (on good advice) NOT a quarantine failure. Patient zero was an international pilot who returned from the USA on December 10th then commenced annual leave. At the time there was not a system to manage this uncommon scenario (there are not very many international pilots employed right now), and so he/ she just went straight home to the Northern Beaches and started infecting people.

    Why the NSW government is keeping this so hushed up I’m not sure. But essentially it means that their quarantine system has been absolutely watertight throughout this whole pandemic.


      Agreed. If you have no system, then that system can’t fail!

      Eg. England just started their hotel quarantine system YESTERDAY! Before that there was no system failure, because there was NO SYSTEM!

    • Watertight except an international pilot wasn’t required to quarantine. Because, you know, pilots can’t catch thing.

      (not a shot at you, but at the risk management)

  3. How has the NSW system got it right and Vic not? It’s starting to seem like NSW have rules information and protocols and Vic don’t?
    But Leigh Sales is an ogress hypocrite having never attended a NSW presser to, say, grill the virgin queen on her links to corruption. She’s had ten years muttering through one of the most important jobs in Australia, someone else’s turn.

    • Arnold Worchester

      There are environmental factors to consider. Melbourne is at about the same latitude as Athens. Sydney about the same latitude as Beirut.

      Victorians are statistically Vitamin D deficient (50% of them) in Winter, whereas in Qld (can’t find the statistic for NSW) this is only 15% in Winter. There are more Indian migrants in Melbourne, compared to East Asian migrants in Sydney (darker skin = greater risk of deficiency).

      Vitamin D is a major factor for COVID.

      The weather is also more humid in NSW, and since its warmer there is less wood burning.

      Low humidity, low temperatures and air pollution are major factors in how long COVID is suspended in the air.

      Its quite possible that Sydney and Melbourne both experienced the same kind of hotel leaks, but COVID simply took off in Melbourne due to environmental and health factors.

          • Banana ManMEMBER

            I’m with you on this one. I watched a doctor give a talk about the mechanics of this but I can’t find the clip. Basically said that you can get the virus but it won’t replicate without a compromised vit d level, or compromised immune system. Also was talking about how green vegatables offer cell protection via some mechanism….

      • There is wholesale systemic failure in Victoria that isn’t there isn’t NSW. Dan amalgamated The Health Dept into a super Dept and if one is a career ALP generalised public servant you have to do your time in Health. Thus the specialist in Railways is a key person in Health. The health specialists in Victoria are not trusted to make the decisions. The result is ventilation systems that are unaudited and people in charge of quarantine that have no idea. Chronic Systemic failures abound. I take Vitamin D UE and have done for quite a while. Google it. My medical specialist partner doesn’t but it won’t do you any harm and many studies recommend it.

        • Having someone working in quarantine who had a second job working in Brunetti’s serving coffee in the middle of terminal 4, the busiest terminal in Melbourne so we can export the UK strain all around Australia was a marvelous example of robust systems. Lucky we had that wonderful cheap inquiry making all those recommendations only to have them not followed. But the whole reason for that Inquiry was to not find who was responsible for the last failure of quarantine, and as such it was a sparking success.

          • TheLambKingMEMBER

            Having someone working in quarantine who had a second job working in Brunetti’s serving coffee in the middle of terminal 4

            No they didn’t. They were housemates. Vic is one of the few states where you cannot have a second job if you work in hotel quarantine.

          • I stand corrected. I believe one of those who tested positive was a psych nurse who was working in 3 hospitals. It shows how important it is to have robust systems. Chances of this lockdown finishing on Wednesday are remote.

    • That’s complete rubbish. Sales asked Andrews to come on the 7.30 Report multiple times but was rejected. So she went to his presser instead. That’s called good journalism.

      As she said yesterday in a radio interview, Gladys’ pressers are always well attended by ABC journos.

  4. “Given that you asked people to do something that is pretty hard”……… oh yes, pretty hard, Leigh, five day lockdown, siege of Leningrad stuff. The blitz in London only lasted two days, this lockdown is as long as five days. Maybe longer.
    Not only that but Churchill didn’t have the high calibre of brilliant minds like Sayles and other great journalists who obviously have every answer in this easy to. solve pandemic. Their efforrless brilliance would have all this sorted out before morning tea and a round of golf, mask free in the afternoon.
    Sending Leigh to “grill’ Andrews was obviously ABC’s Peta Credlin moment. The top brass there needs to signal to the Liberal Government in Canberra their stomach for a fight. Why didn’t they send one of their growing legion of ex Sky News Murdoch propagandists. They are experts at attacking all things Labor. ABC News 24 is doing its best for the war effort with regular interviews with aggrieved small business people. They know almost as much about dealing with the emergency as journalists, I notice. Plenty of advice for Andrews and a key Liberal constituency, the small business people. Interviews with other people caught up in this pandemic, medical staff, hotel quarantine workers etc. never talked to.
    Meanwhile Neil Mitchell who attacks Labor every day can’t understand why the Lsbor government does not bother to explain their version to him. Of course, quarantine is a Federal responsibility, a Liberal Government responsibility so we wont be hearing any of that from Neil. Andrews needs to act on the advice of Neils advertisers, relying on expert scientific advice is clearly not the wisest course of action.

  5. When routine bites hard and ambitions are low
    And resentment rides high but emotions won’t grow
    And we’re changing our ways, taking different roads
    Leigh, Leigh will tear us apart again
    Leigh, Leigh will tear us apart again

  6. Arthur Schopenhauer

    Australia has a handful of cases, the US has millions. That makes our country, along with Taiwan, Singapore and NZ very competent at managing the virus.

    NZ, WA, SA & Queensland, even NSW, have all had snap lockdowns, yet not as much gloating from the MB boys.

    You could more usefully ask why has the vaccine not been rolled out? What are the manufacturing bottlenecks? Where are the logistics bottlenecks? What are the supply chain bottlenecks? What are the financing bottlenecks? What are the organizational bottlenecks?

    No, none of that. Just another man child rant.

      • Arthur Schopenhauer

        We are not France or the UK or even small well organized countries like Austria, Switzerland and Hungary. All of whom have suffered far more than Australia.

        You consistently conflate Federal and State responsibility’s. Aged care was effectively abandoned by the Federal Gov during the crisis. The entire sector is casually staffed, and poorly administered. God help either of us if we were ever to end up in an aged ‘home’.

        The weakness of quarantine is in part the particular way Victorian Hotels are ventilated, and the structure of the Victorian workforce.

        It’s easy to focus frustration on a single person (Dan), but the cause is a product of the structure of the economy: how people have to work multiple casual jobs, often across multiple sectors.

        Have a look at all the movements of the people infected. Its how they have to work that accelerates the spread of the virus. For example, one person worked in 3 separate hospitals across multiple wards.

        Edit: The same is true if the US and UK, and I wonder whether the casualisation of the workforce is exacerbating their problems.

        Be an unconventional economist. Look at the causes rather than the symptoms.

        • happy valleyMEMBER

          +1 Next thing, UE will be telling us Scotty from Marketing and that lightweight Richard Colbeck did/are doing a superb job with aged care. Based on UE’s scepticism for inquiries, the belated inquiry the feds held to in aged care last year (?) will likely end up being as useless and as effectively ignored as the Victorian one he dumped on. And does any one know if the NSW gubmint ever published the outcome of and recommendations from Bret Walker SC’s inquiry (remember that one last year) in to the Ruby Princess debacle?

          If UE hasn’t, he should read Alan Kohler’s article in The New Daily yesterday on the vaccine rollout etc.

        • The weakness of quarantine is in part the particular way Victorian Hotels are ventilated

          The weakness is hotels aren’t set up to be quarantine stations, and maybe it’s time we started looking for folks getting kickbacks from the government (or vice versa) doing this as opposed to setting up appropriate quarantine stations.

        • Agree, with every opportunity MB conflates LNP and/or governance issues with Labor and/or governance issues, then claiming they are both rubbish so continue with LNP……

          MB supposedly radical centrist editorial line is starting to fray and looking more like the radical right libertarians’ tactics in the US for the GOP…..

        • Population of Japan (126 m 6678 deaths 0.000053) Indonesia (275m 32000 deaths 0.000116) South Korea (51 m 1496 deaths 0.0000293) compared with Victoria (6.6 m 820 deaths 0.000124). We do a little bit worse than Indonesia and a lot worse than Japan and very very much worse than Korea. I hope my arithmetic is OK

          Thanks Dan

    • Arnold Worchester

      Please take the excess deaths in Sweden (2018 vs 2020, less the ‘dry tinder’ from 2019), multiply it up to Australia’s population, and then divide that against hundreds of billions we have spent on this thing. How much per life?

      I’m seeing about 7,500 excess deaths that could have occurred in Australia based on Sweden’s data. Government debt is forecast to increase by about $500b, so $66million per life saved – which is going to be people who will die of some other cause or just plain old age in a few years anyway.

      How many lives would we have improved if we had spent that cash on getting rid of coal, oil and wood burning in and around cities and thus clearing up air pollution?

      What about properly tackling sugar, and reducing diabetes and obesity?

      National rail network to reduce road truck collisions?

      Plain old climate change to reduce death and destruction from bushfires?

      Anyway – those comparisons are meaningless, COVID has political and media support for unlimited spending, for some reason, so it gets it.

      Sure, COVID has some long-term effects, it knocked me around for a few months with sore lungs, but I recovered, and this was in Europe with poor air quality and cold temperatures and low humidity when I got it (conditions are much better in Aus). What are the long term effects of Lockdown?

    • ‘Australia has a handful of cases, the US has millions’
      And of those handful of cases Victoria has had the majority of cases and deaths in Australia. Several more handfuls of cases and many more deaths.

  7. In answer to Leigh Sales’s question on ‘why are we in shutdown;, the answer is simple : contact tracing in Victoria remains an abject failure even now.

  8. Spent two weeks in the quarantine in Dec (at “Novotel”, South Wharf, having been deemed a high risk due to my chronic back pain).
    Sadly, I can attest to the claim that the VIC quarantine is a mess. So many things seemed wrong, I dunno where to start.
    The one problem I could identify as the source of most issues was miscommunication: to the majority of the staff English was the 2nd language.

  9. Sales interview was a bizarre hatchet job with some editing. I wonder what they left out.

    Sales hardly tore Andrews apart. It was a predefined agenda, and nothing he could have said would have satisfactory for her.

    I’m more interested in why she said she was “caught” in lockdown


    Being a NSW resident she could have returned home. Maybe she didn’t want to do the 14 days isolation. However her tweets and her interviews clearly show her bias.

    Laura Tingle should take over 7.30

  10. NSW and SA must build a wall along their VIC borders to contain the plague. Australia cannot afford to have Victorians spreading out across the country to escape the consequences of their actions and continuing to act the same just as Californians are doing here in the USA.
    I’d be happy to remit some money to help with the effort to protect my family and friends.

  11. Sales putting in the miles for a Sky News possie in a few years.

    A distinct questioning aimed at the people who are actually supposed to be responsible for quarantine.

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