Hotel request for exceptional seating as new emails contradict Sutton’s account

Hotel request for exceptional seating as new emails contradict Sutton’s account
Hotel request for exceptional seating as new emails contradict Sutton’s account
“There was a lot of debate, but a decision was made that the department could get away with claiming they were not relevant,” said an unidentifiable source. Under the Victoria’s Inquiries Act, obstructing, hindering, or misleading an investigation is a criminal offense.


Timing is important because as the most visible health official in the Andrews administration, Professor Sutton could potentially use his authority to ask questions about the use of private security guards, as he later did, on the basis that an occasional and poorly trained workforce weren’t equipped to work in the dangerous environment of the hotel quarantine.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health responded to questions that a thorough and quick search for documents was carried out when the investigation was set up. In mid-July, the investigation had made it clear that only documents that are considered to be “most relevant” and “greatest help” and amount to around 600 documents should be provided. The department had now provided 4,000 documents and the investigation asked for two more this week, the spokesman said.

“DHHS continues to strive to work together with the board of directors and to work together openly and promptly on all inquiries.”

The missing chain of emails shows Professor Sutton instructing another Department of Health official to answer a series of questions from the Department of the Interior about Victoria’s hotel quarantine arrangements and then confirm his department’s response.

Government sources aware of the situation have confirmed that the Department of Health and Human Services served the investigation further emails on Friday after receiving a notice of issue. The news came after Age had alerted the request to the presence of new emails.

Just hours after the National Cabinet decided on March 27 to place all international arrivals in a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine, Professor Sutton received an email from Sandra Jeffrey, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Border Measures.

Jeffrey asked Professor Sutton to provide an overview of Victoria’s quarantine arrangements and key contacts. Professor Sutton asked colleagues in the department to prepare a response and copy it into the email returned to Ms. Jeffrey.

In response to Ms. Jeffrey’s fourth question about safety precautions, the DHHS replied: “Instructions are given to passengers when disembarking (sic) and assisted by Victoria Police at the airport. Private Security is tasked with providing security to VicPol in the hotels with escalation agreements if necessary. “Professor Sutton was copied into this email.

The chain email shows Professor Sutton thanking a colleague for his work after Home Affairs was notified of Victoria’s precautions, including the use of personal security.

In his testimony and September 16 testimony, Professor Sutton said repeatedly that he did not know that private security was being used in hotels until after a COVID-19 outbreak among guards and hotel staff in Rydges in late May.


“I have not been involved in giving instructions, directions, or guidance to private security companies. As explained earlier, I was unaware that security forces were being used prior to the outbreaks, ”said the Chief Health Officer in his written statement.

He retrospectively admitted that relying on private security poses a health risk due to the vulnerabilities and demographic structure of the workforce.

The material originally withheld from the investigation also includes an April 1 email describing a structure of command for the surveillance of detainees that the chief health officer would use to assist other members of the public health team .

“It is important that all instructions, guidelines, reports and agreements not break this chain,” the email read. “This rigorous view is critical to ensuring the state’s welfare and due diligence towards these individuals, as well as the legal and other risks to the department and its staff who administer the detention regime on behalf of the deputy chief health officer and chief health Officer.”


In reality, however, the public health team has been excluded from the operational side of the quarantine program, according to information prior to the investigation.

Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said Friday that Professor Sutton’s absence from the daily COVID-19 media conference had nothing to do with doubts about his evidence for the investigation. Mr. Andrews said he did not know anything about the matter.

“I don’t know much more than this [this morning’s] Reports … this is not a big surprise as this is a matter between the chief health officer, the department, and the board of directors [of inquiry]. ”

When asked if he was confident that Professor Sutton’s evidence for the investigation was true and correct, Andrews said, “I have no reason not to do this, but these matters are being pursued by the board.”

Opposition leader Michael O’Brien said Professor Sutton should be called back from the investigation to explain the inconsistency in his evidence. Shadow Attorney General Ed O’Donohue wrote Friday to the chief investigator, Judge Jennifer Coate, to urge her to seek extension from the council’s governor to recall several witnesses, including Professor Sutton, for further investigation .

Late Friday, Professor Sutton issued a statement saying the evidence he presented to the investigative committee was honest and to the best of his knowledge.

“If I am asked to appear before the board again, I will of course cooperate fully and be open and honest, as I always have been.”

Professor Sutton said the commission of inquiry recently asked the department for additional documents, and the documents had been made available.

Mr Andrews also announced Jeremi Moule as the Ministry’s new Secretary to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on Friday. Mr. Moule has been Deputy Secretary of Governance Policy and Coordination since 2018. He replaces Chris Eccles, who resigned Monday after inconsistencies emerged in his testimony to investigate Ms. Coate.

Learn more? Be sure to contact Richard Baker [email protected]

Richard Baker is a multi-award winning investigative reporter for The Age.

Noel Towell is the state policy editor for The Age

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