Troops offered from start of hotel quarantine scheme, but never taken up
5 min read
Recordings of meetings that set up Victoria's failed hotel quarantine program reveal Australian Defence Force troops were on offer to the Victorian government from the outset.
The recorded meetings, held on March 27 and March 28 between multiple Victorian agencies, came after the national cabinet announced travellers returning to Australia would have to undergo mandatory two-week hotel quarantine stays from March 29. Mr Crisp appeared before the hotel quarantine inquiry on Tuesday. The inquiry heard recordings of the meetings at which he was asked what role the ADF would play in hotel quarantine. He told a meeting they would merely help plan the operation. "At this stage we can manage this," he said. "At this stage, we don't see a need for boots on the ground." The Morrison government's submission to the inquiry said that from March 28 there were 360 soldiers in Sydney policing international travellers arriving at the airport and at the city's quarantine hotels. In Queensland more than 100 soldiers were at Brisbane Airport and the city's quarantine hotels. But in Melbourne, Victoria Police told the ADF its soldiers were not needed. And in May, just days before the first outbreak at the Rydges on Swanston hotel in Carlton, the army said it was told by Mr Crisp that "the situation in Victoria has improved to such an extent that it is unlikely Victoria would need any further ADF support except planners". Victoria's decision to rely on poorly trained private security guards in its quarantine hotels – instead of a mix of police, soldiers and private guards as other states did more successfully – allowed coronavirus to escape into the community. Guards at the Rydges on Swanston and the Stamford Plaza in the CBD contracted coronavirus from returned travellers and then spread the disease in the community – sparking a deadly second surge that has now left 574 elderly Victorians dead from the virus. The federal government documents provided to the inquiry on Tuesday included an email with the subject heading…