‘You’ve not been honest’: Daniel Andrews is accused of misleading Victorians about when lockdown can lift – as Peta Credlin tears into him once again amid claims just 10% of fed-up Victorians are wearing masks
Daniel Andrews has been accused of not being honest with Victorians about when lockdown can lift and faced another grilling from Sky News host Peta Credlin.
The premier has revealed that some social restrictions will be relaxed on Sunday even though Melbourne has been recording about 10 to 15 cases per day.
Previously Mr Andrews said the city needs to record five cases or fewer on a three-day average before lockdown can be lifted safely.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews arrives to a press conference in Melbourne on Monday
In his daily press conference on Monday, Mr Andrews was asked if he believes Melbourne can come out of lockdown while recording 10 cases per day.
‘Some people might feel that you haven’t been as honest as you could be about saying we can put up with 10 [cases per day],’ ABC journalist Raffael Epstein said.
‘It looks like you will let us have a whole lot of personal freedoms but not business freedoms next weekend, and there is a fair bit of commentary around today about why doesn’t he say we can work with 10 and live with 10,’ Epstein added.
Mr Andrews replied: ‘I would be disappointed to think that people felt that way. I have tried to be nothing but frank and clear as I can be.’
The premier insisted he has always said a common sense approach would be applied to lifting restrictions.
‘It may get to a point where all of our advice is [that the case numbers are] as good as it is going to get.
‘And therefore we have to brace ourselves for a fight, and opening up,’ he said.
‘I have tried to be clear about that, maybe I have not expressed it as clearly as before but I have always said we will… have common sense when we look at these numbers and try to understand the story.’
Mr Andrews said he was open to changing the five-case target when a new roadmap to opening up is released on Sunday.
Earlier on Monday the premier’s right-hand man Chris Eccles resigned from his post as Victoria’s top public servant after phone records showed he spoke to police boss Graham Ashton on the day the state’s bungled quarantine program was set up.
Mr Eccles had previously told an inquiry into the progamme that he could not remember speaking to Mr Ashton.
The inquiry has been struggling to find out who decided to use private security guards instead of police or the ADF to man quarantine hotels.
Mr Eccles denied making the decision to use private security.
During the press conference, Mr Andrews was grilled by Sky News host Peta Credlin, who was praised for taking the premier to task at the conference last week, about Mr Eccles’ role.
During the press conference, Mr Andrews was grilled by Sky News host Peta Credlin (pictured on Monday)
At about midday on 27 March, the premier left a national cabinet meeting where the decision to quarantine Aussies arriving from overseas was made.
Ms Credlin asked Mr Andrews if he spoke to Mr Eccles about using private security guards and the premier said they had not.
‘Did you have a conversation with Mr Eccles at any point after which you left the room at 12 noon in relation to security regarding hotels,’ she said.
‘No,’ the premier replied.
Credlin pressed again saying: ‘No conversation at all? and the premier said: ‘No. No.’
Mr Andrews was also grilled about mask compliance. One journalist estimated that only 10 per cent of Victorians were wearing masks even though they are mandatory.
Mr Andrews said: ‘There’s pretty significant enforcement but [the police] are not everywhere for every single offence.’
He added: ‘I’m not for a moment denying that people are getting increasingly tired of these rules.’
Mr Eccles’ phone records show he spoke to Mr Ashton for two minutes in response to a text at 1.16pm on 27 March.
Daniel Andrews’ right-hand man Chris Eccles (pictured at the hotel inquiry) has resigned from his position
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews is pictured at a press conference on Saturday
The critical six-minute window on 27 March
1.12pm: Victoria Police boss Graham Ashton texted Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw to say: ‘Mate. Question. Why wouldn’t AFP Guard people At The hotel??’
1.16pm: Mr Ashton also messaged Mr Eccles: ‘Chris I am getting word from Canberra for a plan whereby arrivals from overseas are to be subjected to enforced isolation from tomorrow. The suggestion is Victorian arrivals are conveyed to a hotel Somewhere where they are guarded by police for 14 days. Are you aware of anything in this regard?? Graham’.
1.17pm: Mr Eccles called Mr Ashton for two minutes
1.22pm: Mr Ashton sent another message to Mr Kershaw: ‘Mate. My advice is the ADF do passenger transfer and private security will be used.’
Text messages submitted to the inquiry show that someone told Mr Ashton between 1.16pm and 1.22pm on March 27 that private security would be used.
Mr Eccles and Mr Ashton’s two-minute phone call occurred in this critical six-minute window.
Mr Ashton texted the Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw at 1.12pm on March 27.
‘Mate. Question. Why wouldn’t AFP Guard people At The hotel??’ he wrote.
At 1.16pm, Mr Ashton also messaged Mr Eccles: ‘Chris I am getting word from Canberra for a plan whereby arrivals from overseas are to be subjected to enforced isolation from tomorrow. The suggestion is Victorian arrivals are conveyed to a hotel Somewhere where they are guarded by police for 14 days. Are you aware of anything in this regard?? Graham’.
The phone records reveal Mr Eccles called Mr Ashton a minute after receiving this message.
Six minutes later, at 1.22pm, Mr Ashton sent another message to Mr Kershaw: ‘Mate. My advice is the ADF do passenger transfer and private security will be used.’
‘Ok that’s new,’ Mr Kershaw replied.
‘I think that’s the deal set up by our DPC. I understand NSW will be a different arrangement,’ Mr Ashton said.
Mr Andrews said Mr Eccles’ resignation was ‘appropriate’ and thanked him for his service.
In his resignation statement, Mr Eccles insisted he did not make the decision to use private security.
But he said remaining in his role would be a ‘significant distraction’ to the government.
‘Following a request by the board of inquiry on Saturday 10 October 2020, I requested detailed telephone records from my telecommunications carrier,’ his statement read.
‘These records show I called Mr Ashton at 1:17pm and that I spoke with him for just over two minutes. At no time prior to 10 October 2020 had the Board requested access to these telephone records, and they had not previously been in my possession.
‘The telephone records do not in any way demonstrate that I, or indeed anyone else in DPC made a decision that private security be used in the hotel quarantine program.’
Almost all of Victoria’s second-wave cases and deaths have been linked to outbreaks at two hotels in May and June.
A total of 810 Victorians have lost their lives due to coronavirus and Melbourne is on track to suffer a 15-week lockdown.
Former Health Minister Jenny Mikakos has already resigned after Mr Andrews said he held her ‘accountable’ for the hotel quarantine program.
Chris Eccles’ resignation statement
Today I have resigned from the position of Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, effective immediately.
I have been a public servant for over 30 years. It has been a great honour to have led the public services of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, having been appointed by both Labor and Liberal-led governments to the head of the Premier’s Departments in those states.
I would like to thank the Premier for the most immediate privilege of serving his government and the people of Victoria.
I have taken this decision with a sense of clarity that to remain in this position would be a significant distraction to the ongoing work of the Victorian public sector and the citizens of our state as we enter a critical phase of easing COVID-19 restrictions.
It is also with clarity that I reaffirm the evidence I provided to the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Board of Inquiry and the department’s closing submission to the Board.
My evidence is emphatic that neither myself nor the Department of Premier and Cabinet made a decision to use private security as part of the Hotel Quarantine Program.
I gave evidence that while I did not recall whether I telephoned former chief commissioner Graham Ashton in response to a text message he sent me at 1:16pm on 27 March 2020, I may have. Further, I gave evidence that although I did not recall telephoning Mr Ashton at that particular time, it was my normal practice to get back to the then chief commissioner when he contacted me.
Under cross-examination I provided an answer to a related question that was inconsistent with the totality of my evidence and the meaning I was intending to convey. This was not my intention, as I believe was made very clear by my written statement and further oral evidence. At the time I gave evidence I did not have in my possession my full telephone records.
Following a request by the board of inquiry on Saturday 10 October 2020, I requested detailed telephone records from my telecommunications carrier. These records show I called Mr Ashton at 1:17pm and that I spoke with him for just over two minutes. At no time prior to 10 October 2020 had the Board requested access to these telephone records, and they had not previously been in my possession.
The telephone records do not in any way demonstrate that I, or indeed anyone else in DPC made a decision that private security be used in the hotel quarantine program.
I am absolutely certain I did not convey to Mr Ashton any decision regarding the use of private security as I was unaware any such decision had been made, and I most certainly had not made such a decision myself.
Melbourne’s crucial coronavirus case average has risen to 9.9, further dampening hopes of lockdown provisions being eased next week.
Monday is the fifth straight day of double-digit infections for Victoria.
This is a slight increase on the 9.3 average recorded on Sunday after there were 12 new cases and one death.
There were 11 mystery cases in Melbourne from September 26 to October 9 and none in regional Victoria.
Victoria’s state of emergency and state of disaster were extended by four weeks to 11.59pm on November 8.
Mr Andrews again flagged on Sunday that Melbourne won’t be ready to take a ‘full step’ to eased restrictions on October 19, but hinted restrictions on outdoor activities were likely to be relaxed.
Locals are seen shopping for fresh food in the Queen Victoria Market over the weekend in Melbourne
The critical 14-day moving average has now increased to 9.9 in metropolitan Melbourne and 0.4 in regional Victoria. Pictured: Melbourne residents enjoy the sun at St Kilda beach
‘It will be the stuff that people are really missing,’ he said.
He also indicated businesses in regional Victoria were more likely to see relief than those in Melbourne.
‘I think there’ll be more economic things that can happen in regional Victoria because the numbers are low,’ he said.
‘Does that mean we’re doubling, tripling, quadrupling the number of people that can go to a pub? No.
‘But if we can take some further small and safe steps we will.’
His government also announced new quarantine and business safety measures.
Close contacts who refuse a COVID-19 test on day 11 of quarantine will be forced to spend another 10 days in isolation, while regional Victorian businesses will have to take all reasonable steps to ensure patrons are not from Melbourne or face a $9,913 fine.
It follows a Melbourne man illegally dining at a Kilmore cafe, sparking a fresh outbreak in Mitchell Shire.
Both rule changes came into effect at 11.59pm on Sunday.
What are the rules in Melbourne?
From 5am on Monday 28 September, there is no longer a curfew in place for metropolitan Melbourne. You can leave home at any time for one of the four reasons.
You cannot travel more than 5km from your home for shopping or exercise. You can travel further than 5km from your home for permitted work, medical care, primary and secondary education, childcare and care or compassionate reasons. If you are a permitted worker you can exercise within 5km of your home or workplace (carrying your permitted worker permit) to exercise outdoors.
From 11:59pm on Sunday 27 September, you can exercise or socialise outdoors for up to two hours a day, which can be split across two sessions.
You can socialise with your household members or up to five people outdoors (including you) from a maximum of two households. You must be able to keep at least 1.5 metres distance between yourself and others when doing so.
You can leave home for four reasons, with limits:
shopping for food or other essential items
socialising or exercise (applies to outdoor exercise, and with your household or up to four other people outdoors, from a maximum of two households). This needs to be in a public outdoor place (for example a local park)
permitted work, primary and secondary education (when your school and year level are permitted)
caregiving, for compassionate reasons, or to seek medical treatment, also remain permitted reasons to leave home.