After increasing pressure on the Victorian government and its health minister, Jenny Mikakos, due to failures of the state’s hotel quarantine program, Mikakos resigned on Saturday morning.
It follows a six-week inquiry into the state’s hotel quarantine program for returned international travellers, with infection control failures in the program ultimately sparking Victoria’s second wave. Much of the state is now under strict lockdown restrictions, and borders to other Australian states remain closed or heavily restricted.
While most other states and territories opted to use police officer or Australian Defence Force [ADF] staff to implement the hotel quarantine program, Victoria used private security contractors who were poorly trained in infection control, the inquiry previously heard. The premier and health minister have been under pressure to explain why ADF and police were not used.
As Guardian Australia reporter Josh Taylor wrote on Friday;
In his long-awaited appearance at the hotel quarantine inquiry, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he regarded his health minister, Jenny Mikakos, as “accountable for the program”.
The premier’s written statement provided to the inquiry on Friday said Mikakos and jobs minister Martin Pakula were responsible for informing cabinet about the program, and the pair provided a submission on the model for the program to the crisis council of cabinet on 8 April.
“The CCC [crisis council of cabinet] was provided with regular reports by Minister Mikakos containing data relevant to Victoria’s response to the public health emergency, key insights from the data, as well as other updates, including in relation to the program,” the submission read.
The premier stopped short of saying who was behind the decision to use private security guards, but the claim potentially puts Andrews at odds with health minister Jenny Mikakos.
The health minister’s statements to the inquiry on Thursday said she was not aware security guards were used in the program until the outbreak at the Rydges Hotel in late May.
Mikakos released a statement to the inquiry after Andrews’ submission was released denying she had misled the inquiry.
The premier told the inquiry it was “very disappointing” that the decision on private security guards was supposedly made by a “collective” of officials, with no one taking responsibility.
In her resignation letter to the premier on Saturday, Mikakos wrote; “I am disappointed that my integrity has sought to be undermined”.
“I have today written to the Governor of Victoria to resign my commissions as a minister effective today.”
Mikakos also intends to resign from parliament.