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Victorian Premier Dan Andrews press conferences embraced at Perth music festival


A music festival in Perth is not only rubbing their lockdown-free life in Victoria’s face, they’re using Premier Dan Andrews to do it.

In a video circulating on social media platform Tik Tok, DJ Hot Dub Time Machine can be seen remixing the Victorian Premier’s press conferences into a song about “getting on the beers”.

“That’s what’s most important — the beers,” a mash-up of different parts of Mr Andrews’ remarks is heard over the top of a dance track.

“As best we can tell, the dinner party started with one case of beers … as far as we can tell, everyone at the dinner party had case of the beers.

“Get on the beers … that’s your civic duty … that’s what’s most important and that’s what must be done.”

The music builds before the DJ uses the Victorian Premier saying “beers” to drop the beat.

“This one’s for you Melbourne from Perth,” reveller Hannah, who filmed the video, wrote.

The video was taken at the Wine Machine Festival, which was held in Swan Valley on Saturday night.

As Melburnians slammed her for uploading the video, Hannah reminded everyone it was all lighthearted and in good fun.

“Thank you for taking it as a joke, didn’t realise it would trigger some people so badly,” she replied to one Melburnian.

“Jeez we have some salty Melbourne people over here. Perth really isn’t bad,” she added.

In another comment, one Victorian thanked Perth for embracing Mr Andrews.

“As a Melburnian, why are there so many pressed Melburnians? This is sick that they’re vibing to our fearless leader, just wish we could with them,” the Melburnian said.

Western Australia, with its hard border, has managed to ease coronavirus restrictions more than most states.

Entertainment and sporting venues have been allowed to reopen at 50 per cent capacity.

HBF Park, where the Wine Machine Festival was held, is permitted to host 16,500 people.

Photos taken at the event with Hot Dub Time Machine showed thousands of Perth revellers congregating for the festival.





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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews responds to backlash


It was a big day for locked-down Victorians, who discovered restrictions in the state will finally ease from as early as 11.59pm overnight.

But not everyone is happy – lashing out at Premier Daniel Andrews over some of the decisions surrounding business closures and home visits announced on Sunday.

Anticipating to the backlash, Andrews made it clear he’s aware not everyone would be impressed — issuing a warning to naysayers in the process.

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“For those who are pleased, I’m pleased for you,” Andrews told media on Sunday.

“For those who aren’t, please understand this: these are not easy decisions to make, there is a lot at stake,” he added.

“If we do too much too fast, then we’ll be where none of us ever want to be again. Doing this again, back where we were.”

RELATED: Daniel Andrews reveals changes to Victoria’s strict lockdown

His warning came as criticism erupted from the retail industry – with Mr Andrews accused of “ignoring” businesses that hoped for reprieve before the end of October.

“You cannot fix the economy and repair the damage that this virus has done to the economy until you deal with the virus,” the Premier told reporters.

“To go further than we have announced today is not safe and every person in business who is not pleased – well, no-one is enjoying this. It is not like we have made a decision and we had all of these perfectly equal options and we chose one rather than the other. No, that is not what we have done.

“We will get you open when it is safe to be open. For you, for your staff, for your customers and for every single Victorian.”

While the Australian Retailers Association said the plan to reopen stores on November 2 was an “enormous relief”, Chapel Street Precinct general manager Chrissie Maus labelled it “an unjust joke”.

RELATED: Andrews reacts to travel bubble bombshell

“This is no longer acceptable or sustainable for our businesses,” she said.

“I would rather have kept the 5km limit and the shops opened.”

Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott said there was no point to easing any rules if nothing was allowed to open.

“This is an inexplicable and unacceptable delay for Victorians and small businesses who are hanging on by a day, not a week,” she said.

“Simply being allowed to go for a haircut or outside a bit more when you have no job, no money and your business has failed is just not good enough.”

“I would rather have kept the 5km limit and the shops opened.”

Similarly aggrieved on Sunday were AFL fans banned from visiting friends to watch the game on the weekend.

“Grand Final, fantastic day, important day, don’t go to your mate’s place,” Mr Andrews said.

“Now, the Grand Final is very different this year, very different for obvious reasons, and while I know that many people would normally spend time with family and friends to celebrate that day, whether their team is in the Grand Final or not, it is a big part of who we are.

“But your household and only the members of your household, that is how Grand Final Day has to be. You cannot have friends over. Into your home. You cannot pretend that it is over because we all desperately want it to be.

“As important as it is, in a cultural sense, in a very passionate way, for every single football fan across our state, it is not worth risking all that we have done, all that we have built, all that we can do in just a few days’ time by having gatherings that are unsafe.”

Footy-mad Victorians hoping to cheer on Geelong or Richmond with their mates did not take the news well, with Blues star Brendan Fevola among them.

Questions have also been raised over the point of Daniel Andrews expanding the distance Melburnians are allowed to travel from 5km to 25km.

Infectious diseases expert Catherine Bennett, of Deakin University, said she was surprised by the government’s decision to keep the restriction in place – given the original rule was meant to be scrapped when Victoria moved its third stage of restrictions easing.

“I thought we were ready for step three,” Professor Bennett said.

“I’m not sure what 25 kilometres gives us and I don’t know how you’d police that.

“Frankly, if you’re worried about popular beaches or the Dandenongs getting flooded (with visitors) it would be a much more efficient use of police resources to manage these locations.”

Australian National University’s Professor Peter Collignon echoed the opinion that extending the rule to 25km “doesn’t do much”.

“Provided people are keeping to the rules when they go out, it doesn’t matter if they travel 25km or 50km or 100km as long as they stay within that defined boundary,” he said.

“Remember it’s people crowded in staffrooms, in workplaces, essential workers, that’s where the virus has spread.

“And the five kilometre limit hasn’t made any difference in regards to that.”

Concluding his announcement on Sunday, the Premier thanked Victorians for their hard work and urged them to keep following the rules.

“Yes, these lockdowns have come with pain and damage and hurt but the strategy is working and will continue to work,” he said.

“Not so long ago we had 725 cases and there was simply no way we could have a debate, a perfectly legitimate debate about how to open, when to open, how to do that.

“It was not an option available to any of us. But Victorians, in every community, from every background, every circumstance, have stayed the course and we just have a little longer to go, just a little longer to go in order to see off the second wave, defeat the second wave, and then to find the normal and to begin the process of rebuilding — not just repairing damage but making sure our state, individuals, families, communities, the economy, is stronger than it has ever been.”



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Victorian ‘pivot’ opens path out of lockdown


The good news is that Victoria has already suppressed the spread of the virus to a point where, in the absence of another large-scale outbreak, the government is likely to move through the remaining steps out of the state’s three-month lockdown and declare “COVID normal’’ in time for summer holidays.

While Mr Andrews has said the steps to be taken on Sunday will “not be as big as we hoped”, he insists they will be “significant” and ar still being considered. His language has shifted to acknowledge the social costs of continued lockdown and the pain of continued restrictions for business and citizens. On Sunday, it is possible that the five-kilometre rule may be scrapped and some restrictions on social gatherings loosened.

Professor James McCaw, a University of Melbourne epidemiologist who sits on the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, the national cabinet’s health advisory group, says the measures can’t come soon enough.

“Up until now I had been concerned that we may have been on an unacknowledged elimination path, which is not in my epidemiological view a sensible or justifiable one,’’ Professor McCaw said. “Moving towards a genuine, aggressive suppression strategy … is an incredibly welcome development.

“The sooner we start this process the better. We have to do it slowly, we have to do it cautiously and we have got to release the pressure in the system in a controlled manner. If we wait too long it will explode.’’

Professor Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist whose modelling informed the government’s road map out of COVID restrictions, says there has been a clear “pivot’’ inside the Department of Health and Human Services.

Police confront anti-lockdown protesters at Chadstone Shopping Centre, the site of Melbourne's largest recent outbreak.

Police confront anti-lockdown protesters at Chadstone Shopping Centre, the site of Melbourne’s largest recent outbreak.Credit:Paul Jeffers

“They are letting go of the chance of achieving elimination,’’ he said. “We are doing aggressive suppression, which is where we try to get the numbers low. Ten is the new five is basically a shift away from elimination to living with the virus.

“It must be confusing from the outside because people are not using words like elimination, but it is quite clear what is happening,’’

That shift happened this week, with Mr Andrews abandoning the stated aim of a 14-day average of five daily cases or lower required to move to the next step of lifting restrictions, suggesting it may be unrealistic to expect fewer then 10 daily cases.

Most epidemiologists define elimination as no new COVID cases recorded for a life cycle of the virus, usually measured at 14 or 21 days. Although this milestone has been achieved in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, it is not the goal of national cabinet, which is aiming for zero community transmissions across all states and territories.

University of Melbourne epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely says Victoria's public health response has pivoted away from elimination.

University of Melbourne epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely says Victoria’s public health response has pivoted away from elimination.

Mr Andrews has repeatedly denied that Victoria has an elimination strategy. In documents tabled to Parliament at the weekend to support an extension of Victoria’s state of emergency, the Andrews government confirmed its “aggressive suppression’’ actions were aligned with the national strategic objective.

Definitions aside, Victoria’s apparent rethinking of its strategy should ease tensions with the federal government, which is concerned that Australia’s second largest city is stuck in a socially and economically destructive lockdown.

It will also ease public frustration at having to endure some of the world’s tightest COVID restrictions at a time when daily case numbers have in recent days fallen below those of NSW.

Professor McCaw said Victorians had been compliant in following public health directives but this would need to continue with adherence to social distancing and the use of masks.

“One of the most important things we need is for the Victorian community to retain its faith in its leadership,’’ he said. “We have got some people arguing to stay locked up, which puts the government at risk of losing community support, and we have people advocating for a complete relaxation of measures, which would also be very risky.

“In between is a safe, navigable path which I get the sense the government is moving towards.’’

On Wednesday, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Victoria’s average rate of new infections was now below the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s definition of a COVID hotspot, clearing the way for the state to follow NSW’s path out of lockdown. Between July 18 and August 13, NSW managed an average of 15 new cases a day without triggering a further epidemic. Melbourne’s 14-day average now stands at 9.6.

The consensus across senior government figures and public health experts is that Victoria’s contact tracing, although overwhelmed at the height of the second wave epidemic, has significantly improved over the past two months and could be trusted to respond to and control future outbreaks.

Easing tensions: Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Health Greg Hunt.

Easing tensions: Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Health Greg Hunt.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“We should have more confidence in our systems now they have been rebuilt and those systems detach us from the need for strict lockdown,’’ Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett said.

Victoria’s road map released by the Andrews government on September 6 required the 14-day, statewide case average to fall to five and an average of zero cases to trigger the final step towards a “COVID normal’’. At the time, several senior epidemiologists said the targets were unrealistic.

In the weeks since, the signposts along the road map have frequently changed.

Professor McCaw said that when the road map was first released the case thresholds were unachievable and unnecessary. Since then, he has reported regularly to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on Victoria’s progress towards meeting them.

There was a “brief period of time’’ about three weeks ago when it looked as though Victoria had a 50-50 chance of achieving its targets. Those odds have drifted since the Chadstone shopping centre outbreak, so far linked to 43 cases including eight in regional Victoria.

Dr Stephen Duckett, a health economist with the Grattan Institute, said there was a growing public weariness towards the COVID restrictions. “They have been going on for a very long time and people are getting tired of them,’’ he said. “One of the things you have got to take into account is the social licence to do these things.’’

He has previously argued that neither the curfew or the five-kilometre rule were evidence-based but believes the focus on case thresholds for the purpose of the road map, rather than dates, is the right approach.

Professor Bennett said the public discussion about lifting restrictions had become unnecessarily polarised. In part, this reflected the government’s choice to frame the debate against the risk of a third wave of infections.

She cited Burnet Institute modelling commissioned by the government last month that simulated the risk of a further epidemic if Victorian went straight from stage four lockdown to the lowest level of COVID restrictions.

Professor Catherine Bennett, chair of epidemiology at Deakin University.

Professor Catherine Bennett, chair of epidemiology at Deakin University. Credit:Jason South

The government requested modelling on this scenario even though no one in government was contemplating such a leap in policy. The result was an epidemiological straw man – a 41 per cent risk of Victoria plunging into a destructive third wave.

“Why would you do that?’’ Professor Burnett said.

“What I am most concerned about is the polarising. You are either completely undermining the restrictions or completely into lockdown and you can’t find a middle ground, which is trying to get messages to the government and population about where we are at and the confidence we could and should have in our systems.

“The only thing that brings people back in the middle to have a sensible conversation that will help everyone navigate their way out is if people start to trust the information again.’’

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Victorian government to deploy thousands of tutors in schools


The Victorian government will deploy more than 4100 tutors across schools in 2021 to ensure no student is left behind after the coronavirus pandemic.

At a cost of $250 million, it will be the single biggest boost to individual learning support in the state’s history, the government says.

The government is urging pre-service teachers, teachers on leave, casuals and retired teachers to sign up as tutors for the year, to work in small groups with students who need help.

“We want you, and our kids need you,” Education Minister James Merlino said.



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Adem Somyurek goes ‘dark’ as membership of his Victorian Labor branches crashes


But the IBAC investigation is just part of the fallout for Labor from the branch-stacking scandal. It’s also reshaping the party’s membership.

Figures updated by the party this week and obtained by The Age show crashing membership numbers in branches controlled by Mr Somyurek. In the south-eastern and northern suburbs, where the majority of members were part of his “Moderates” faction, the Springvale branch lost 90 of its 95 members, the Casey Central branch was cut from 111 to 41 and the Endeavour Hills branch dropped from 112 members to 56.

Premier Daniel Andrews walks to a media conference on the morning he sacked minister Adem Somyurek in June.

Premier Daniel Andrews walks to a media conference on the morning he sacked minister Adem Somyurek in June.Credit:Eddie Jim

The Turkish-dominated Coolaroo branch lost 110 members, the Parkmore branch shed 74 members and the Thomastown West and Heidelberg branches both dropped more than 55 members. The branches span the federal seats of Hotham, Bruce and Jagajaga.

Steep declines were also recorded in Socialist Left branches with older ethnic demographics. The Italian-dominated Lalor South branch lost 115 members, the Batman North branch in the electorate of Cooper, dominated by Greek members aligned to former minister Jenny Mikakos, dropped from 84 members to 12 and the Deer Park branch dropped from 150 to about 60.

The percentage of party members who have paid for their memberships online by traceable means has increased from 67 per cent to 87 per cent. Prior to that, almost a third of the party’s members were paying by cash or other untraceable methods.

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The figures also show that, across Victoria, 3500 members did not renew their memberships before the renewal cut-off last month.

After the branch-stacking revelations, Premier Daniel Andrews asked the federal party to run all Victoria’s state and federal preselections for the next three years and suspend the voting rights of every member. However, new members are continuing to join the Victorian Labor Party, which has increased its overall membership base by about 200 since the comparable time after last year’s renewal deadline.

The reason for this increase is not clear, because the post-scandal reforms mean it may be less attractive to join the ALP. Members have had their right to vote for candidates stripped until 2023 and the party’s national executive will determine preselections.

But the figures show an uptick of new members compared to the same time last year after membership renewals were due, bringing the total membership to 13,909.

Nick Economou, a senior lecturer on politics at Monash University, said the fact that membership had grown from a comparable point last year could be the sign of a “Dan bump” caused by supporters of Mr Andrews rallying around the under-pressure leader.

Former Victorian minister Marlene Kairouz.

Former Victorian minister Marlene Kairouz.Credit:Eddie Jim

It was more likely, however, that the power vacuum created by Mr Somyurek had caused competing factions to recruit members in the hope of achieving supremacy. Even though voting rights are cancelled until 2023, he said elements in the party would be working to maintain their local membership bases.

Mr Economou said the drop-off in membership of branches associated with Mr Somyurek weakened the ex-minister’s Moderates faction “enormously”.

The Labor Party has assigned former premier Steve Bracks and former federal minister Jenny Macklin to investigate the conduct of Mr Somyurek and Ms Kairouz and other suspected branch stackers in the party.

And the Liberal Party is conducting its own forensic membership audit as a result of this masthead’s exposure of branch stacking. All party members who signed up in the past five years will be examined to determine whether they are genuine.

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Branch stacking has been described by former prime minister Kevin Rudd as a “cancer” on democracy because the power amassed by stacking local political branches by backroom operatives can help propel the corrupt or unmeritorious into state and federal parliaments.

Mr Bracks and Ms Macklin’s appointment was described by the ALP as a way of reinvigorating grassroots politics, but months after the pair’s appointment Labor insiders are debating the effectiveness of their investigation.

One Labor Right factional powerbroker and opponent of Ms Kairouz and Mr Somyurek told The Age that members of Ms Kairouz’s faction were “going around and saying its business as usual”. A source on Labor’s Left complained that the party’s way of detecting suspect recruitment, including asking members to fill out email questionnaires and banning cash payments, discriminated against genuine older Labor members from ethnic communities who may not be email savvy or possess a credit card.

“When the stackers wanted to abuse ethnic members to amass power, they could do so easily. But now when genuine ethnic people try to join or stay in the party, they get rid of them,” the Labor Left source says.

Prior to Mr Bracks and Ms Macklin delivering their final report, and IBAC concluding its investigation, one measure to test the success of efforts to clean up the party is the most recent branch membership.

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Victorian Council elections: Generation Next


Oh, and we should mention he’s also the son of Ted Baillieu, the 46th premier of Victoria.

Baillieu Jr, running as an independent, is not the only political offspring standing for council. Meet the proto-politicians of Generation Z. Their surnames might be familiar but their faces – and their policies – are fresh.

Laura Mayne, daughter of Stephen, is running for Manningham Council.

Laura Mayne, daughter of Stephen, is running for Manningham Council.

“It’s never too early to start and that shouldn’t be an excuse to not at least try,” says Laura Mayne, a 19-year-old law and commerce student at Deakin University. Mayne, the daughter of Stephen Mayne, founder of the Crikey independent news website, is standing in Schramm ward in Manningham and faces an uphill battle against a popular incumbent. Her dad is a former independent councillor in the City of Melbourne and in Manningham who is running this year in the adjacent ward of Ruffey.

“Politics has always been a part of the dinner table discussion and has only influenced me for the better,” says Laura, who was playing VFLW for Richmond before the pandemic interrupted. “A big benefit is that they have also shown me a practical pathway to get involved, which isn’t as easily acquired for other young people who share my same passions.”

Mayne is campaigning to reduce gambling harm, an issue her father is passionate about, and also wants to protect the environment and support small businesses hurt by the pandemic, policies she has in common with other Generation Z politicians.

There are 2187 candidates contesting the council elections, standing for 623 available positions, according to an analysis by Spence Consulting.

But very few are members of Generation Z, those born after 1996 who say diversity in all its guises is extremely important to them. They are digital natives who cannot remember a time before smartphones, so Zoom campaigning should be a breeze. And as children, they have seen their parents try (and fail) at politics.

Annabel Yates, a 19-year-old first-year science undergraduate at the University of Melbourne, is standing as an independent, and continuing a proud tradition of sticking it to the majors in Boroondara’s Studley Ward.

Annabel Yates, daughter of Oliver, is standing as an independent candidate.

Annabel Yates, daughter of Oliver, is standing as an independent candidate.Credit:Penny Stephens

She is the daughter of Oliver Yates, the former Liberal member and renewable energy executive, who ran as an independent for Kooyong against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the 2019 federal election.

Yates, an environmentalist, says the power councils have to spark change is underestimated. “Local councils build the foundations of what we want to see at a higher level,” she says.

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Her father lost his battle against Frydenberg, and failed to have the vote overturned in the Court of Disputed Returns, after alleging Frydenberg’s team had misled voters.

“Dad’s definitely kickstarted my interest with his campaign mostly because I admired how he carried himself – his intention was genuine.

“When something is not the way you want it to be, instead of complaining about that, it’s important to make the change in a positive way and I think Dad did that in a really good way, he may not have won but he showed that doing something imperfectly was better than doing nothing.”

These politicians don’t like talk of political dynasties. Indeed, from an early age, Robert has showed an independent mindset from his Liberal premier father. As a nine-year-old, Robert accompanied his dad on to the polling booth at his unsuccessful 2006 attempt to become premier. A local reporter asked young Baillieu whom he would vote for. “I will only vote for Ted Baillieu if he gives me a hot dog.”

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Western Australia relaxes rules for Victorian travellers as Daniel Andrews shuffles ministry


From next Monday, people travelling to WA from Victoria will be allowed to complete self-isolation for 14 days at a “suitable premise” such as a house.

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As the state recorded its seventh consecutive day with fewer than 20 cases, Mr Andrews continued to defend three department secretaries who, according to counsels assisting the hotel quarantine inquiry, did not adequately brief their ministers on crucial matters as they arose.

Chris Eccles, Kym Peake and Simon Phemister, secretaries of the Premier’s Department, the Health Department and the Jobs Department respectively, were alleged to have left their ministers unbriefed on key issues relating to the state’s bungled hotel quarantine system, including infection control breaches, the conduct of security firms and an offer of Australian Defence Force support.

The Premier said he was satisfied the bureaucrats should remain in their roles until the inquiry hands down its findings in November.

He said the department secretaries, who can earn up to $700,000 per year, were appropriately briefing their ministers on all elements of the pandemic, including the hotel quarantine program, which is now the responsibility of the Department of Justice.

“Yes, I believe they are [briefing ministers],” he said. “I’m confident. We will wait for the [inquiry’s] report, and then the report will give us a sense, [a] very clear sense, about what the next steps and actions need to be.”

In the reshuffle, Mr Merlino and Danny Pearson – a former lobbyist who replaced Adem Somyurek in cabinet in June – will take on portfolios previously held by Martin Foley, who was appointed Health Minister.

Mr Merlino will become Minister for Mental Health in addition to his education duties and Mr Pearson will become Minister for Creative Industries.

Both roles were previously held by Mr Foley, who will retain his status as Minister for Equality.

Gayle Tierney, another Left faction member, will replace Ms Mikakos as deputy leader of the government in the legislative council.

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Coronavris Victoria. Jenny Mikakos resignation. Should more Victorian ministers resign in the wake of the second coronavirus wave of infections?


Premier Daniel Andrews said Ms Mikakos has made the appropriate decision, but insisted he would not resign.

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“I don’t run from problems and challenges. I’ve got a very important job to do which is to continue to get these case numbers down and then to begin the biggest recovery project that our state has ever seen. I don’t run from challenges,” he said.

But many readers think otherwise.

More ministers, including the Premier, should resign

“The four ministers should all be accountable for their lack of apparent oversight of the quarantine program that failed in its ability to contain the virus. The level of bureaucracy that supported the program that did not have health knowledge was ludicrous. Lawyers and economists dominated the professions of those making largely clinical decisions. All of our government departments should be subject to scrutiny going forward. The people in charge of our government departments lack expertise and are reliant on being ‘informed’ by the experts around them. We have seen how this has played out now in the most devastating of circumstances. These are our tax dollars at work, feathering the pockets of lifetime bureaucrats. It’s time for change.” – Marietta


“Had to happen, and there should probably be two or three more including the Premier.” – Adam


“Yes it’s fair … but Daniel Andrews, Martin Pakula and Crisp should also resign.” – Anonymous


“Although I like Daniel Andrews, I think the ‘buck’ should stop with his accountability because he is the ‘Chief’.” – Jayv


Many others came out in support of Ms Mikakos, saying the hotel quarantine failings were not entirely her fault.

Daniel Andrews said he will not be resigning and that Ms Mikakos' resignation was appropriate.

Daniel Andrews said he will not be resigning and that Ms Mikakos’ resignation was appropriate.Credit:Joe Armao

Mikakos is a scapegoat

“Scapegoat. And yes, other ministers and high level bureaucrats need to have their heads roll. We the people of Melbourne are paying a high price for their mishandling of the situation. Saying ‘sorry’ doesn’t cut it.” – Anyonmous


“Andrews should be out the door too. What a catastrophic failure of government.Has there been a worse government failure in the state’s history? Mikakos is the first to go, she shouldn’t be the last. This is coming from a lifelong Labor voter, too.” – David

“It’s not fair and all people involved in the decision making process need to share the blame. Also Dan Andrews is the premier and Captain of the state, needs to accept responsibility as the buck stops with him.” – Anonymous

Hundreds of our readers responded to our call-out and we thank you for your contribution. Having read your emails, there was one common theme: Victorians can’t wait for this second spike in cases to be over and for the lockdown to end.

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Major dump of snow at Victorian ski resorts but spring set to return this week


Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Miriam Bradbury said while it “does feel really unseasonable to have this type of snow really late in the year”, it wasn’t any more unlikely than snow falls in winter.

“We’re still having powerful fronts pushing up from the Antarctica area, which are still managing to push us back into those wintry conditions even as we head toward summer,” she said.

Ms Bradbury said there was a push and pull between the winter and summer weather patterns thorough the Victorian spring.

That, she said, explains why Victorians saw snow this Saturday but will be basking in a top temperature of 27 degrees by next Friday.

Mt Buller has been blanketed by fresh snow.

Mt Buller has been blanketed by fresh snow.

“As we get more summer synoptic patterns, they will be directing stronger northerly winds across Victoria, pushing that gradually warming air down across the state,” she said.

“It is pretty crazy, but essentially that’s spring.”

The maximum temperatures across Victoria on Friday were 5 to 9 degrees lower than the average for this time of year.

Rain fell across much of the state, with the highest total of 63.2 millimetres at Mount Donna Buang in the Victorian Alps. Places like Beechworth and the Macedon Ranges reported more snow on Saturday morning.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, there was snowfall down to 400 metres above sea level, and flurries spotted down to 200 metres.

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Jamie Devenish from the State Emergency Service said there were 83 requests for assistance in the 24 hours to 1.30pm on Saturday.

Fifty-three calls for help were made because of fallen trees and 14 for building damage. Emergency crews were busiest in the coastal regions, including Hastings and Sorrento, where winds were stronger.

With flurries of snow over Ballarat and a top of 7 degrees in the late afternoon, the regional centre experienced its coldest September day since 2004.

Ms Bradbury said the snowfall in Ballarat was “unusual” compared to other parts of the state – the snow did not melt when it hit the ground, because the temperature was sitting at zero degrees.

Melbourne is set for a top of 13 degrees on Sunday with a high chance of rain before the mercury gradually rises during the week. A maximum of 20 degrees is forecast for Tuesday and 27 on Friday.

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Victorian Health Minister resigns over botched hotel quarantine program


A day after her testimony to the $3 million Victorian government inquiry set up to investigate the ill-fated hotel quarantine program, evidence emerged throwing Ms Mikakos’ sworn statement into doubt.

Ms Mikakos on Friday denied she had misled the inquiry following her testimony a day before that she learnt in late May that private security guards were being used, two months after the hotel quarantine program had been established.

But footage emerged of her standing beside Jobs Minister Martin Pakula on March 29 as he told media that private security had been deployed to hotels.

Briefings to Labor state MPs from April, seen by The Age, also mention that private guards had been hired. Private security guards were also mentioned in at least 13 emails sent to the party’s caucus throughout April.

Hours after national cabinet announced on March 27 returned travellers would be quarantined in hotels, the Premier said at a press conference that security guards would be used for the program, alongside Australian Defence Force personnel and Victoria Police.

In an additional statement to the hotel quarantine inquiry on Friday afternoon, the day after she gave evidence, Ms Mikakos said she still had no personal memory of appearing in a press conference on March 29 alongside Mr Pakula.

“At the time of giving evidence to the Board, both by my First Statement and in person on 24 September 2020, I had (and at the time of swearing this supplementary statement, have) no independent recollection of the matters raised in the media today,” the Health Minister wrote.

Pressure had been mounting on the senior Labor minister over her handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the quarantine program, which led to Victoria’s catastrophic second coronavirus wave that claimed the lives of more than 750 people, cost the economy $12 billion and forced Melburnians into the strictest lockdown in the country.

Ms Mikakos and the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kym Peake consistently maintained the hotel quarantine program was a “multi-agency operation with shared accountability”.

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In her resignation statement, Ms Mikakos said: “I have never shirked my responsibility for my department, but it is not my responsibility alone.”

But in an extraordinary testimony to the inquiry on Friday, Mr Andrews squarely held his Health Minister accountable.

In his statement tendered to the inquiry, the Premier said at the beginning of the hotels program, he regarded Ms Mikakos and Jobs Minister Martin Pakula as responsible for informing cabinet about “the initial overall service model and costings that had been determined for the program”.

“I then regarded Minister Mikakos as accountable for the program,” his statement says.

Ms Mikakos said she could no longer remain in cabinet following the Premier’s testimony to the inquiry, but denied her actions led to the catastrophic second wave.

“I have always put everything into my ministerial responsibilities,” Ms Mikakos said in her statement.

“I have never wanted to leave a job unfinished, but in light of the Premier’s statements for 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 his cabinet.

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

Ms Mikakos said “with the benefit of hindsight”, her department should have briefed her on the hotel quarantine program, after the inquiry this week heard Ms Peake failed to tell her minister about serious welfare concerns that Victoria’s three most senior health experts had with the disastrous hotel quarantine system.

“As I said to the Board of Inquiry, I take responsibility for my department, the buck stops with me,” Ms Mikakos wrote in her statement.

“With the benefit of hindsight, there are clearly matters that my department should have briefed me on. Whether they would have changed the course of events, only the Board and history can determine.”

On Wednesday, the hotel quarantine inquiry heard that Public Health Commander Dr Finn Romanes sent an email warning about “a lack of a unified plan for this program,” and saying the people running it were not “satisfied there is a policy and set processes to manage the healthcare and welfare of detainees, for whom this program is accountable”.

Dr Romanes wrote that “unless governance … issues are addressed there will be a risk to the health and safety of detainees”. Chief Health Officer Professor Sutton and his deputy Annaliese van Diemen have given evidence that they backed the email.

But when counsel assisting the inquiry, Ben Ihle, asked Ms Peake if she had briefed Ms Mikakos about these concerns, Ms Peake said: “No, Mr Ihle. I was satisfied that the issues that had been raised had been addressed”.

Following a suspected suicide in hotel quarantine, Ms Peake called for a review of the circumstances from Safer Care Victoria. But Ms Peake did not brief her minister about that report, or another from Safer Care Victoria about a delay in transferring a sick hotel quarantine detainee who wound up in intensive care. Both reports identified problems with the hotel quarantine program.

Neither the Premier nor any of his ministers or senior public servants were able to explain who made the decision to hire private security and knock back an offer of Australian Defence Force support to help with guarding returned travellers.

Genomic sequencing has revealed 99 per cent of coronavirus cases in Victoria’s second wave were a result of the hotel quarantine program, after security guards contracted the virus from returned travellers and spread it throughout the community.

More to come.

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