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Premier Daniel Andrews could be kicked out of office over pandemic response

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews faces a motion of no confidence in parliament over his handling of COVID-19.

The motion is expected to be tabled in the state’s lower house on Thursday.

‘I will be moving a motion of no confidence in this premier. Victorians have had enough,’ Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said.

The premier brusquely dismissed the move when asked in his daily media conference.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured on Thursday) faces a motion of no confidence in parliament over his handling of COVID-19

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured on Thursday) faces a motion of no confidence in parliament over his handling of COVID-19

‘Cheap politics is no vaccine against this virus, and that is all I will say about him and that,’ Mr Andrews said.

Victoria has been hard hit by coronavirus, leading the nation’s case numbers and deaths.

Victoria recorded another eight deaths on Thursday, taking the state’s death toll to 745 and the national figure to 832. 

Most of the deaths can be linked to Victoria’s bungled hotel quarantine system, which is under investigation.

Strict lockdown measures designed to stem the spread of the virus have resulted in business closures and job losses.

‘This is a government that has proven itself to be incompetent, dishonest and with no vision or hope for Victorians,’ Liberal-Nationals leader Mr O’Brien said.

‘By moving a motion of no confidence, every member of the legislative assembly will have to make a decision – are they going to vote to protect Daniel Andrews’ job? Or are they going to vote to protect Victorians’ jobs?’

Liberal MP James Newbury called Mr Andrews ‘Premier Pinocchio’ and claimed the Victorian leader had been caught in a lie.  

Pictured: A general view of Lygon Street in Carlton, Melbourne, during Stage Four lockdown on September 16

Pictured: A general view of Lygon Street in Carlton, Melbourne, during Stage Four lockdown on September 16

‘For weeks, Daniel Andrews has claimed the federal government didn’t offer Australian Defence Force support to run Victoria’s hotel quarantine,’ he said.

‘Despite irrefutable proof, the premier is still denying the offer was made. Premier Pinocchio is a massive fibber with a very long nose’. 

Labor has a clear majority in the lower house and Mr O’Brien’s motion is not expected to pass.

It will be tabled on Thursday and debated next month.

Emails shown to an inquiry on Tuesday revealed the prime minister’s office repeatedly offered troops to man Victoria’s hotel quarantine program.

The evidence appeared to contradict Mr Andrews’ claim in August that: ‘It is fundamentally incorrect to assert that there were hundreds of ADF staff on offer and somehow, someone said no.’

But on Wednesday, Mr Andrews stood by that statement and said he would explain why when he appears at the inquiry into the quarantine program next week.

‘I stand by those statements and I’ll be providing evidence,’ he told reporters.

How Victoria rejected ADF support 

* March 27 – National Cabinet decides returned overseas travellers will be required to complete 14 days of hotel quarantine. The Australia Defence Force prepares 100 personnel in each large state (and 50 in smaller states and territories) to ‘support expected quarantine compliance monitoring requests’. NSW and Queensland accept the support, Victoria decides to hire private security guards instead.

* March 28 – Emergency Management Victoria Commissioner Andrew Crisp reiterates there is no need for ADF ‘boots on the ground’. Victoria’s hotel quarantine program, named Operation Soteria, begins taking travellers from 11:59pm.

* March 31 – ADF situational report states ‘we are seeing minimal requests for ADF support’ in Victoria. Troops remain on standby.

* April 2 – ADF provides five personnel to conduct quarantine compliance monitoring. Instead, they are deployed to administrative roles.

* April 8 – Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens emails Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles to again offer ADF assistance.

*April 17 – ADF situational report states Victoria’s hotel quarantine program is ‘nearing planned capacity of 4000 people. Despite this there are presently no indicators that ADF assistance will be requested in the near term. I will keep a close watch on this space’.

* May 14 – ADF Major General Kenny visits Victoria, meets with deputy commissioner of Victoria Police and Mr Crisp. Mr Crisp tells Major General Kelly words to the effect of: ‘The situation in Victoria has improved to such an extent that it is unlikely that Victoria would need any further ADF support except planners inside of EMV’.

* May 25 – A staff member at Rydges on Swanston tests positive to COVID-19.

* May 27 – Outbreak at Rydges on Swanston first identified by the Department of Health and Human Services.

* June 17 – Stamford Plaza outbreak identified.

* June 24 – Mr Crisp requests 850 ADF personnel to replace private security at quarantine hotels.

* June 25 – Request rescinded as the Department of Justice and Community Safety takes over the program.

* June 30 – Premier Daniel Andrews announces an inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine program after genomic sequencing revealed a number of coronavirus cases can be linked to ‘staff members in hotel quarantine breaching well-known and well-understood infection control protocols’. Flights diverted to other cities.

* July 4, July 6, July 11 – As COVID-19 cases numbers escalate in Victoria, Prime Minister Scott Morrison writes to Mr Andrews on three occasions to offer ADF support.

* July 13 – Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton concedes all current cases in Victoria can be traced back to outbreaks at the hotels.

* August 11 – Mr Andrews tells a parliamentary inquiry ADF support was not offered for hotel quarantine, sparking a war of words with federal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.

Source: Materials provided by the federal government to Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry. 

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