Premier Daniel Andrews' text messages on first night of quarantine bungle revealed

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read

Text messages between Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and his chief of staff have been revealed in the Hotel Quarantine Inquiry’s extraordinary final hearing.

The messages between Mr Andrews and Lissie Ratcliff on the evening of March 27 show him telling her to expect updates on some logistics of hotel quarantine, such as number of rooms available, transportation and guidelines for travellers leaving rooms.

“How are we going on hotels and midnight tomorrow? Do we have many flights tomorrow? Call if you need to,” Mr Andrews wrote in the texts published by The Australian.

A screenshot shows Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during the Covid-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry in Melbourne in September.
Premier Daniel Andrews' text messages on the first night of the failed hotel quarantine program have been revealed. Source: AAP/Handout

Ms Ratcliffe responded: “I’ll have updates tonight on: number of rooms (we’re aiming for more than 5000); transportation; guidelines for leaving rooms; protections for workers; number of expected arrivals/flights for Sunday.

“It’ll only apply for flights landing after midnight so anyone coming in during the day tomorrow won’t be caught up. Will get you an update as soon as it comes through.”

Premier again denies involvement in security bungle

Mr Andrews has again said he played no role in deciding to use private security guards for Victoria's hotel quarantine program, which led to the state's deadly second coronavirus wave.

Former secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet Chris Eccles and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton both said the same.

Fresh sworn statements by the trio and other key figures to the Hotel Quarantine Inquiry were tendered on Friday.

A traveller returned from overseas (L) is escorted from an airport bus into an inner-city hotel in Melbourne.
A returned traveller prepares to quarantine at an inner-city hotel in Melbourne in March. Source: Getty

"I expressed no view at all about the use of private security as part of the hotel quarantine program," Mr Andrews wrote in a fresh affidavit.

"Decisions of that kind are of an operational nature in which I do not play a role."

He said none of the staff in his office could shed any light on who made the decision to use private security.

‘No knowledge’ about about decision

Mr Andrews said he gave no advice or direction to Mr Eccles about private security.

Likewise, Mr Eccles maintains he had "no knowledge" of any decision to use police, the ADF, the AFP or private security.

"I also did not have the expertise to make such decisions," he wrote.

Mr Eccles rejected any claim that he misled the inquiry board by denying he had contacted Mr Ashton.

Mr Eccles has been under intense scrutiny since it emerged he had a phone call with then police commissioner Graham Ashton between 1.16pm and 1.22pm on March 27 - the six-minutes during which the police chief learned private security would be used.

Phone records have established Mr Eccles spoke to Mr Ashton at 1.17pm.

Mr Eccles resigned after the revelation, although he emphatically denied that he spoke to Mr Ashton about security.

A police car sits outside the Rydges on Swanston hotel in Melbourne.
The Rydges on Swanston hotel in Melbourne is linked to being one of the sources of the city's coronavirus outbreaks. Source: Getty

Victoria's hotel quarantine program was established within 36 hours of a national cabinet meeting on March 27.

Outbreaks among security and hotel staff at Rydges and Stamford Plaza have been blamed for 99 per cent of Victoria's COVID-19 second wave.

The second wave resulted in more than 18,000 new infections and 750 deaths.

The hotel quarantine inquiry board is expected to hand down its full report by December 21.

By then, the state's "reset" hotel quarantine program will be in full swing as international arrivals into Melbourne are set to resume with 160 travellers a day from December 7.

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