Retired judge Jennifer Coate is overseeing the investigation, with the help of senior counsel Tony Neal.The investigation learned on Monday that there is evidence that many, if not all, of the current coronavirus cases could be linked to hotel outbreaks.
“Information already available for the investigation suggests the possibility of a link between many cases of coronavirus identified in the Victorian community in recent weeks and people who have been quarantined as part of the hotel quarantine program” , Neal said.
“Comments made by the Chief Medical Officer of Health have suggested that it may even be possible that each case of Covid-19 in Victoria in recent weeks is attributed to the hotel quarantine program. ”
The first public testimony will be heard from August 6 and the investigation has already identified a number of government departments, hotel operators and private security services that are expected to provide evidence.
The Department of Health and Social Services; the Ministry of Employment, Constituencies and Regions; the Department of Treasury and Finance; the Department of Justice and Community Safety; the Department of the Environment, Lands, Water and Planning; the Ministry of Transport; the Ministry of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet; Victoria Police, Victoria Emergency Management; and Victoria Ambulance have already been identified by the investigation as of interest.
Hotel operators including Travelodge, Stamford Plaza, Rydges, Royal Melbourne Hotel, Four Points by Sheraton are also of interest, as are security contractors Wilson Security, United Risk Management, Unified Security Group, Ultimate Protection Services, MSS security , Elite Protection Services, Australian Protection Group and Security Hub.
The investigation will examine what decisions were made to implement hotel quarantine in its original form, who made these decisions and oversaw the implementation, decision making regarding contractual agreements and the adequacy of service providers in under these contracts.
Neal said those interested parties received notifications to provide the relevant documents by July 24 or July 31 if they provided documents in installments.
Witnesses who should be called before the investigation include medical experts, government policymakers, government officials involved in the hotel quarantine and private operators, as well as those who have been subject to quarantine and have identified weaknesses in its quarantine. operation.
Coate said the investigation differed from a more adversarial court proceeding as witnesses would be brought in by interested parties to strengthen their case.
When asked on Monday if he or his ministers could be summoned before the inquiry, Victoria Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said it was Coate’s case, but that “everyone should be fully involved.” ».
“I won’t tell a former judge how to do her job. She’ll call whoever she thinks she should call. Whoever is called must come forward, ”he said.
“Each party to the contest, in court or in tribunal, will bring their witnesses and put them in court or tribunal to strengthen the case,” Coate said.
“There is no camp. ”
The investigation will report to the government on September 25.
Andrews has not responded to questions relating to the quarantine of hotels since the investigation began, citing that it would be inappropriate to comment during the course of the investigation.
Andrews said he was confident the survey would get answers.
“I have no doubts that this process will give us the answers to which we are all entitled. What happened here is completely unacceptable to me and unacceptable to all of us, but the best thing to do is to fully understand what happened, ”he said.
“These answers are what we are entitled to and what the judicial process, independent of government, will provide in an appropriate manner.