'Doesn't make sense': Premier snaps during tense grilling by Leigh Sales

Olivia Lambert
·News Editor
·4-min read

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has copped a severe grilling by prominent ABC journalist Leigh Sales over the state's response to the latest coronavirus outbreak.

During the premier's daily briefing on Monday, Sales ditched her usual 7.30 studio to confront Mr Andrews at the press conference after he rejected her request for an interview.

In the tense exchange which lasted almost 10 minutes, Sales probed him on Victoria's snap five-day lockdown after 17 cases were linked to a cluster at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.

She asked the premier how the government could have such a lack of confidence in the hotel quarantine system and contact tracing, suggesting they can't manage two or three cases a day.

"If you have confidence in the system, which your own bureaucrat said was working quite well, why do you need a lockdown?" she said.

ABC journalist Leigh Sales grilling Victorian premier Daniel Andrews. Source: Sky News
ABC journalist Leigh Sales grilled the premier about Victoria's snap lockdown. Source: Sky News

However, Mr Andrews was quick to bite back at her first question, saying she had made a number of false assertions.

"You just put it to me that there is a lack of confidence," he said.

"I am more than confident in the team we have, and in the Victorian community that they can get through this. So with the greatest of respect, you have put a number of things to me that are not accurate."

'If you are wrong there is no going back', Andrews says

Sales questioned the snap lockdown and said the system seemed to be working well with Victoria only reporting two new cases on Monday, one locally acquired and one in hotel quarantine..

Mr Andrews then shot back saying it was a different question to the first one she asked where she "pretended there were all sorts of confidence issues".

He then added he did not understand her line of questioning and claimed she was suggesting it would be better if there were a heap more cases than what was reported.

"It doesn't make sense to me," he said.

"This is a clear point, and I made it literally thousands of times. You have to assume, just like epidemiologists, public health experts and political leaders across the globe, you have to assume there are more cases out there than you know about because if you assume otherwise, and you are proven wrong, then there is no going back.

"There is no do over, you don't get to go, well, I just get to rewind these few weeks and make the decision officials told me to make, that I refused to make."

Sales then asked if he was going to impose a lockdown every time the state records two or three cases a day.

Mr Andrews said they would avoid implementing any statewide measures or any extra rules, but the circumstances surrounding each individual case would be taken into account.

Premier Daniel Andrews refuted questions asked by Leigh Sales. Source: Sky News
Premier Daniel Andrews refuted questions asked by Leigh Sales. Source: Sky News

Lockdown to take a heavy toll on Victorians: Sales

Sales continued to press him, saying the lockdown would be hard for Victorians to take.Referring to the infectious UK strain of Covid, Mr Andrews said it was a different virus to what they were dealing with in 2020.

"Would you really want me shopping around for the best advice? The most politically popular advice? Would you really want me to say, 'Gee, that will be incredibly hard to stop?' .... I'm not prepared to do that," he said.

Sales said however the lockdown imposed a real cost to Victorians who had already suffered through an arduous lockdown last year.

She asked again why the lockdown was necessary as cases were well-traced.

"Again, the types of cases, this UK strain, the fact that despite the amazing efforts of all of our contact traces and testers and lab workers, and the work of so many genuine hard-working Victorians, we had a situation where at the same time as we are becoming aware of the primary case, they have already infected close contacts, that is not something we've seen before," Mr Andrews said.

"If at the end of this the view of you or others was that this was too much, well, you're free to form those views.

"What I am not free to do is to ever ignore advice and have a situation where I shop around for whatever will be most popular, only then to be proven wrong and to have not one or two cases, but something much worse than that ... particularly on the cusp of the vaccine being rolled out."

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