New twist for Andrews in hotel inquiry

 

Premier Daniel Andrews has been ordered to make another sworn statement to the hotel quarantine inquiry after investigators gained access to his phone records.

The Herald Sun understands Mr Andrews is among the "certain parties" who a special hearing was told had been asked to provide affidavits answering further questions and handing over documents.

Former Health Minister Jenny Mikakos has previously warned the inquiry to treat "with caution" Mr Andrews' evidence that he did not know who decided to use private security.

It is understood Mr Andrews has been asked questions in response to evidence given by former chief bureaucrat, Chris Eccles.

There will be no correction to Mr Andrews' evidence.

 

Daniel Andrews has been ordered to make another sworn statement to the hotel quarantine inquiry. Picture: Getty Images
Daniel Andrews has been ordered to make another sworn statement to the hotel quarantine inquiry. Picture: Getty Images

 

The request comes after inquiry lawyers were given copies of phone records of Mr Andrews, his private staff, former Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Mr Eccles and complete records from former police chief Graham Ashton.

The records have already cost Mr Eccles his job, after he gave evidence he didn't speak to Mr Aston during a crucial six-minute period on March 27.

He resigned nine days ago after the records showed he had in fact called Mr Ashton, although he denied discussing private security.

Mr Andrews on Tuesday would only say "there may have been a letter," from the inquiry.

"I've got no knowledge of what they are doing today, they are an independent board and they'll do whatever they think is appropriate,'' he said.

He resisted commenting on whether he would support a royal commission if it was recommended in the findings.

 

Victorian Chief health Officer Brett Sutton. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty
Victorian Chief health Officer Brett Sutton. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty

 

Along with Mr Andrews, the inquiry has also demanded sworn statements from Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, and Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kym Peake.

The health pair are in the sights of the inquiry after the DHHS admitted it did not hand over emails, including one which shows Prof Sutton at the top of a "chain of command'' for people in hotel detention.

The inquiry is revisiting Prof Sutton's earlier evidence where he said: "I was not directly involved in the operational planning, approving or running of the Victorian hotel quarantine program."

In a further development, it also emerged a DHHS employee, who had given evidence to the inquiry, raised concerns about several missing emails as early as September 28 - but the first the inquiry knew about it was when it emerged in the media a week ago.

The inquiry wrote to the DHHS lawyers Minters demanding answers on why six email chains which appeared to be relevant to their inquiries were not produced.

 

‘There may have been a letter.’ Premier Daniel Andrews. Picture: Getty Images
‘There may have been a letter.’ Premier Daniel Andrews. Picture: Getty Images

 

 

Brett Sutton leaves a press conference in Melbourne. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty
Brett Sutton leaves a press conference in Melbourne. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty

 

In an extraordinary sitting of the inquiry which lasted just 19 minutes, board chair Jennifer Coate left open the possibility of recalling witnesses to public hearings, saying she could not announce next steps until she received information back.

This includes answers from Mr Andrews, Prof Sutton, Ms Peake, and the other "certain parties'' who were not identified.

Counsel assisting the inquiry Tony Neal QC said the information and documents requested following the delivery of the phone records related to "novel material not the subject of previous evidence.'' "There is no basis for inferring or speculating that any view has yet been formed about the veracity or otherwise of evidence previously given by any parties on the topic of engagement of private security,'' he said.

He said there were two separate issue which had arisen since the public hearings closed - the phone records, and the missing DHHS emails.

Ms Coate also indicated her report would be unlikely to be completed by the November 6 deadline, saying: "most unfortunately of course these new developments … may unsettle the due date for the report but I am unable to be clear about that at this stage absent of the material called for being delivered.''

 

The state’s chief health officer Brett Sutton has been under scruity during the hotel quarantine inquiry. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
The state’s chief health officer Brett Sutton has been under scruity during the hotel quarantine inquiry. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie

 

The inquiry published the previously-unavailable DHHS emails, including one showing Prof Sutton replying on March 27 "thanks very much'' to DHHS colleague Braeden Hogan who had advised a Commonwealth COVID official that "private security has been contracted to provide security at the hotels.''

Prof Sutton has previously said he didn't register that the email included a comment about private security.

Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo said in Canberra yesterday that "any reader" of the response which confirmed the use of private security guards would "have had their attention no doubt drawn" to that section.

Another email written on April 1 by Dr Finn Romanes, a colleague of Prof Sutton's and the DHHS' then-Deputy Public Health Commander, reminded colleagues about the "chain of command - people in detention'' - and lists the "Chief Health Officer'' at the top of the chain.

"All policy and oversight of people in detention is being handled in a strict chain of command,'' he wrote.

"It is important that all direction, policy, reporting and arrangements do not break this chain.''

Originally published as New twist for Andrews in hotel inquiry



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