‘Years of cutting’ may have led to bungled COVID response

Serious questions need to be answered about Victoria’s bungled coronavirus response, which could have been caused by years of cuts to the public service, Greens leader Adam Bandt says.

Mr Bandt added that the rise of insecure work could also have been to blame for the way the program played out.

However, the federal MP for Melbourne said he “felt better” that Premier Daniel Andrews was in charge of the response, instead of the state’s Liberal opposition.

“I think there’s been a health-first approach and I think it’s also part of the reason that Scott Morrison was dragged to a health-first approach early on in the crisis, because of the stance the premiers had taken,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday morning.

“I do think there are serious questions to be answered now, not only coming out of the (hotel quarantine) inquiry, but also about the state of our contact tracing in Victoria and whether years of cutting away at the public service played a role in this, and the rise of insecure work.”

But he said those many of those issues could be resolved down the track.

“A lot of those questions can be answered when we’re out on the other side,” he said.

“We don’t want to see some early lifting of restrictions if it means we have to go back to this for a third time.

“I think everyone is focused on the light at the end of the tunnel at the moment.”

Mr Bandt’s comments come the day after Health Minister Jenny Mikakos announced she would resign from parliament over the botched hotel quarantine program.

Mr Andrews last week told an inquiry into the program that Ms Mikakos did not view her accountability in the same way he did.

The premier went on to issue an “unreserved apology” to all Victorians for mistakes made in the program, which contracted private security to guard returned travellers.

During Sunday’s interview, Mr Bandt also said the Greens would look to stop cuts to the $1500 JobKeeper wage subsidy.

He said it was too early to slash the rates because many businesses are still not viable.

“We’re just not in a position in Australia at the moment, to be pushed off that financial cliff,” he said.

“Around the country, we’ve got 12 people looking for every one job that’s available at the moment.

“We’re going to be moving in the Senate to stop the cuts, and to go back to where it was before, and it’s eminently affordable.”

The reduced JobKeeper rates are due to take effect from tomorrow for both full-time and part-time workers.

VIC | news.com.au — Australia’s leading news site