26 Sep 2020

Victoria's Health Minister resigns after falling out with Premier

4:10 pm on 26 September 2020

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos has resigned in the wake of Premier Daniel Andrews' testimony to the hotel quarantine inquiry in which he said she was responsible for the programme.

Victoria's Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos speaks during a press conference in Melbourne on July 22, 2020. 
Resigns in September after disagreeing with Premier Daniel Andrews

Jenny Mikakos says she does not believe it is her fault Covid-19 has hit Victoria so badly. Photo: AFP

In a statement posted to social media Mikakos said she had written to Victoria's Governor to resign as minister, and will also be resigning from the Parliament.

But she defended her handling of the pandemic, and said she disagreed with parts of Andrews' statement to the inquiry.

"I have never wanted to leave a job unfinished," she said.

"But in light of the Premier's statement to the board of inquiry and the fact that there are elements in it that I strongly disagree with, I believe that I cannot continue to serve in this Cabinet."

Victoria's hotel quarantine inquiry was launched after it emerged that the state's second wave was fuelled by Covid-19 jumping from guests in the programme to workers, then spreading through the community.

Genomic sequencing data in July showed more than 99 percent of Victoria's coronavirus cases could be traced back to returned travellers.

Yesterday the Premier told the inquiry that he viewed Mikakos as accountable for the programme, but said he did not know who decided to use private security contractors to guard guests' rooms.

Victoria's state premier, Daniel Andrews

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has upset his Health Minister by saying she should be held accountable for the state's quarantine programme. Photo: AFP

Not one person who gave evidence to the inquiry was able to say who made that decision.

Mikakos said she took responsibility for the department, but said the hotel quarantine programme was not her responsibility alone.

"I am deeply sorry for the situation that Victorians find themselves in," she said. "In good conscience, I do not believe that my actions led to them."

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 18: A deserted view from Melbourne city on September 18, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Streets, shopping malls, squares, parks and train stations in the city remain empty due to the Stage 4 restrictions and curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Melbourne streets remain virtually empty as a result of a lengthy lockdown due to the resurgence of Covid-19. Photo: AFP

Minister not fully briefed

Earlier this week the Coate inquiry heard Mikakos was kept in the dark on major issues surrounding the hotel quarantine programme throughout the year.

The top bureaucrat in Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services, Kym Peake, said she did not pass all reports about concerns with the programme on to the Minister.

In her resignation statement, Mikakos said "with the benefit of hindsight" there were issues her department should have briefed her on.

"Whether they would have changed the course of events, only the [hotel quarantine inquiry] board and history can determine," she said.

Mikakos also told the inquiry she was not consulted on the establishment of the programme, and said she only became aware private security guards were being used in late May.

Mikakos stood beside Jobs Minister Martin Pakula at a press conference on 29 March when he confirmed security guards would be used to guard hotel quarantine, and those details were also included in a briefing note to caucus on 8 April.

However, the former Health Minister stood by her testimony, saying she did "not recall" becoming aware of security guards' involvement until late May.

'Andrews must go': O'Brien

Victoria's Opposition had called for Mikakos's resignation, blaming her for contact tracing issues and giving "dodgy evidence" to the inquiry.

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien has also called for Andrews to step down, saying the Premier was ultimately responsible for the debacle.

"Mikakos did not say 'no' to ADF. She did not bring in private security for hotel quarantine," he said on Twitter.

"These decisions caused our second wave. Andrews is responsible. He must go."


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