World News – UA – Hotel quarantine investigation calls for explanation from Sutton after emails contradict his evidence


Victoria’s COVID-19 hotel quarantine investigation has asked health director Brett Sutton to provide another statement to the board after a series of emails contradicted his testimony

In a special session this afternoon, assistant lawyer Tony Neal QC told the chairman of the investigation that he had received a series of emails and was looking for more documents from the Department of Health and Human social services (DHHS), which better indicated when Professor Sutton was aware of the decision to use private security in hotels

Professor Sutton claimed during the investigation that he was not aware of the involvement of private security in the program until he read it in « media reports »In May

But in a chain of emails sent to the investigation today, senior public health official Braedan Hogan informed Professor Sutton about the use of private security on March 27

« Private security is contracted to provide security in hotels with escalation arrangements to VicPol (Victoria Police) as needed, » he wrote to Professor Sutton and several other senior officials health and government

M Neal said the emails were relevant because they stated « the time at which Professor Sutton became aware of private security in the hotel schedule, » but said it did not imply that the investigation had been misled

« [There is] no basis on which to infer or speculate that a view has been formed on veracity or otherwise, » he said

In a statement, Professor Sutton said he had « fully cooperated » with the investigation and took his obligations to the council seriously

« The commission of inquiry has a job to do and I respect the job it does, » he said

The DHHS told the inquiry it did not submit the documents sooner because they did not consider them relevant and were working under a tight deadline

Commission of inquiry chair Jennifer Coate said the revelations could mean the November 6 report date should be pushed back

« Unfortunately, these new developments may disrupt the report’s deadline, but I am not able to be clear on this at this point, » she said

« If the date of the report is affected and needs to be extended, I will notify the Prime Minister and request any necessary extension »

In its own statement, the DHHS said it was also fully cooperating and responding « urgently » to any requests for further information arising from the investigation

M Neal said, in addition to Professor Sutton, that many others have been asked to provide more documents and affidavits on « two quiet developments » that occurred after the inquest hearings closed.

M Neal said that despite evidence in the investigation that indicated Graham Ashton had not spoken to the Prime Minister’s Department and to Cabinet Secretary Chris Eccles, the two did in fact speak at a key time

« M’s phone records Eccles show, in fact, that he telephoned M Ashton at 1:17 p.m. on March 27 on a call that lasted 135 seconds, « said M Neal

« After obtaining this additional information, the investigation team asked some parties to provide additional affidavit answers to questions relating to the decision to engage private security providers in the hotel quarantine program and provide other documents related to this problem « 

During a Senate investigation in Canberra, Home Office secretary Mike Pezzullo was asked about email evidence that appeared to contradict Professor Sutton’s account

M Pezzullo said he received the emails and that the content of the message sent by Mr. DHHS ‘Hogan reportedly caught the health director’s attention

« Any reader of this email from M Hogan would undoubtedly have drawn his attention to the following sentence: « Private security is contracted to provide security in hotels with escalation arrangements at VicPol (Victoria Police) if necessary » « M Pezzullo said

Earlier, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw told a Senate inquiry that he expected the Australian Defense Force (ADF) and police to guard hotels in victoria quarantine

Commissioner Kershaw also revealed that a Commissioners Forum involving police chiefs from across Australia had agreed that the police and ADF would guard the hotels and that Graham Ashton, who was the head of the police in Victoria at the time had raised no objections

Commissioner Kershaw was also asked about a series of key messages he received from Mr. Ashton on March 27, the day the hotel quarantine program was announced

The Victoria Police Chief sent a message to his federal counterpart « Private security will be used », then later sent the text « I think this is the deal put in place by our DPC ( Prime Minister and Cabinet Department) « 

Commissioner Kershaw told Victorian Senator Sarah Henderson he replied ‘this is new’ to the messages because he believed the police and ADF were going to be used

« My opinion was that the agreed or suggested solution would be to resort to the police and the ADF, » he said

He added that he didn’t know who made the unfortunate decision to use private security in Victoria and that he had no immediate concerns about the failure of the model.

« It’s a flexible approach and it was their decision, not mine… I moved on to our priorities, » he said

This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and BBC World Service which is copyrighted and may not be reproduced

AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time, which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

Hotel Quarantine Investigation

World News – UA – Hotel Quarantine Investigation Calls Sutton for Explanation After Emails Contradict Its Evidence



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