By Neeraj Nanda
MELBOURNE, 4 August 2020: The Labor Andrews government in Victoria and the opposition are vertically divided over the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is now seeing stage-4 restrictions in Melbourne. The split is reflected in ‘The Public Accounts and Estimates Committee’ first report (Click link at the end of this story to access) which was today tabled arising from its inquiry into the Victorian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee has made 23 recommendations following six days of public hearings held in mid-May. Further hearings by the committee will take place from 11 August to 27 August 2020 (11, 12, 13, and 25, 26, 27 August).
The report says the decline of the Victorian economy as a consequence of the pandemic is expected to bring a substantial change in the 20-21 budget. The downturn in all sectors including tourism, international education, infrastructure, industry among others will hit the state hard.
The hearings enabled the Committee to obtain evidence from the Premier and Ministers of the COVID-19 Crisis Cabinet, peak industry groups, community organizations, unions, the education sector, local government, and health experts.
“This emergency is unprecedented in the lives of most Victorians and has been a constantly evolving situation that has challenged all of us,” Committee Chair Lizzie Blandthorn said.
“The Committee was asked to conduct this inquiry in recognition of the importance of oversight in a time when public sector administration and public finances have been directed in unprecedented ways towards the emergency response.”
The inquiry and this first report have covered many areas of life in Victoria affected during the emergency, including health, economy, jobs, infrastructure, industry, justice, education and environment, as well as social impacts.
“The Committee will have the opportunity to follow up on these issues when we conduct further hearings,” Ms. Blandthorn said. “The next report is due at the end of October.”
The 209 pages Interim Report uploaded today at the Victorian Parliament presents a snapshot in time at the early stages of the pandemic. The last part of the report consists of a dissenting ‘Minority Report’ by the opposition where it slams the Victorian Government for its failures including the hotel quarantine issue which it blames for the second phase of the pandemic in the state.
The Public Accounts and Estimates Committee consists of Ms. Lizzie Blandthorn, Chair (ALP), Mr. Sam Hibbins (Victorian Greens), Mr. David Limbrick (Liberal Democrats), Mr. Gary Maas (ALP), Mr. Danny O’Brien (The Nationals), Ms. Pauline Richards (ALP), Mr. Tim Richardson (ALP), Mr. Richard Riordan, Deputy Chair (Liberal Party), Ms. Ingrid Stitt (ALP) and Ms. Bridget Vallence (Liberal Party).
PAEC_59-07_Vic_Gov_response_COVID-19_Interim_reportCLICK HERE FOR REPORT