Sunday, August 09, 2020

Failed security guards hired for hotel quarantine in an attempt at social inclusion

Minorities hired regardless of their fitness for the job.  The result was a disastrous failure, with the virus being spread instead of contained

A senior Department of Jobs official has been shifted from their role as evidence mounts that the decision to use private security guards at Melbourne’s quarantine hotels was partly driven by a well-meaning attempt to provide jobs under "social inclusion" policies.

A leaked email from another public servant, the department's deputy secretary for inclusion, also paints a picture of how rushed the implementation was, describing "heroic efforts" over a weekend in late March as bureaucrats became "expert in the delivery of hotel concierge services".

Departmental sources insisted on Saturday that the official’s secondment to another senior job creation role was not a reflection on their performance in contracting private security firms for hotel quarantine.

The revelations will increase pressure on the Andrews government over whether it put too much emphasis on finding jobs for marginalised Victorians without ensuring that those guarding hotel guests were trained in infection control and supervised by authorised officers.

A spokesman for the Victorian Department of Jobs denied that job creation was the main driver: "Supporting an effective quarantine program was the department’s motivation, not job creation.”

Infection outbreaks among security guards at two quarantine hotels in Melbourne are widely believed to be responsible for the state's second devastating wave of coronavirus, which has killed dozens of people and put hundreds of thousands out of work.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald can now reveal that officials in the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions employment division and its international trade agency, Global Victoria, were responsible for engaging private security firms for hotel quarantine on the weekend of March 28 and 29. They also had an ongoing role overseeing the quarantine operation.

The task of contracting the security firms was given to the department’s executive director of employment, whom The Age and Herald have chosen not to name. The official has since been replaced by two acting directors on the latest version of the department's organisation chart. The officer has retained their senior role at the department.

Media reports from 2013 reveal the official had professional dealings with the Sydney-based security company given much of the hotel quarantine work, Unified Security, in their previous role as general manager of work and learning at the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

The charity and Unified established a partnership in 2012 to provide security training and jobs for marginalised people. The official also did some work with Unified in 2019 in finding a small number of positions under a Jobs Victoria project.

As an Indigenous-owned company, Unified satisfies the government’s criteria for contracts under its social inclusion procurement policy. It won the security contract for Metro Trains last year and specifically referred to its Brotherhood of St Laurence partnership in briefing documents supplied to government.

A Monday March 30 email written by the department's deputy secretary for inclusion, David Clements, refers to the rush to get arrangements in place to handle returning travellers over the weekend. Mandatory 14-day quarantines had been authorised the previous Friday by national cabinet.

"I have had a crazy weekend, getting roped in to helping with arrangements for 'standing up' the hotels accommodating passengers returning from overseas for their 14 days of quarantine," Mr Clements wrote in the email.

"Suffice to say there have been some heroic efforts from numerous of your colleagues across DJPR to make this happen – including from [the executive director of employment] who is now an expert on contracting hotel security; the Global Victoria team who are now expert in the delivery of hotel concierge services."

The revelation of Global Victoria’s role in hotel quarantine raises further questions for the government because the agency has no experience in security or public health measures. Global Victoria manages Victoria’s trade relationships and international marketing.

The hotel quarantine inquiry will examine the decision-making process that led to the hiring of security firms - and questions will be asked about who decided the Department of Jobs be given responsibility for contracting security providers and overseeing the rollout.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday said he was unable to explain how the decision to rely on private security guards was made and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Friday he had found out about "rumours and reporting around deficiencies with the workforce ... when I read it in the newspapers".

The rushed procurement process to find guards for hotel quarantine resulting in contracts being awarded to three security companies: Wilson, MSS and Unified.

The appointment of Unified proved controversial because, unlike Wilson and MSS, it was not on the government’s preferred panel of security suppliers. Despite this, Unified ended up doing the bulk of the hotel quarantine work. All three companies had to rely on sub-contractors to supply their guards – some of whom were recruited via WhatsApp messages – at short notice.

In early April, well before COVID-19 began crippling Victoria, Mr Andrews and Jobs Coordination Minister Martin Pakula released a media statement highlighting the government’s role in creating jobs for 1300 Victorians whose employment prospects had worsened due to the global pandemic.

The press release specifically referred to 450 jobs being created in the hotel quarantine program “including transport operations, security and cleaning”. International students and temporary migrants were key targets under the jobs program.

Private security companies, including Unified, were also used in NSW hotel quarantine, but private security guards in Sydney were overseen by police or Border Force officials in each hotel. In Victoria, the government decided against using police or defence force personnel, and there remains considerable confusion in public service ranks and security companies about which department had ultimate responsibility.

The Age and Herald have previously revealed leaked emails in which officials from the Department of Jobs requested Emergency Management Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services get police involved in hotel quarantine in late March amid doubts about the preparedness of private security.

Some senior police at that time were privately frustrated Victoria has not been declared a state of disaster by Mr Andrews.

Such a declaration would have empowered police as the state’s authorised officers to lead crucial aspects of the pandemic response instead of those powers remaining with health department officials under the less serious state of emergency provisions.

Mr Andrews declared a state of disaster recently when Melbourne was moved onto stage four restrictions.

The inquiry into hotel quarantine led by former state coroner Jennifer Coate will begin public hearings later this month. Ms Coate will deliver her report in November.


 Chef puts out an advert for jobs in his restaurant and 470 people apply but only TWO of them are Australian - as he claims 'the youth of today simply don't work as hard as foreigners'

A chef says he has struggled to hire Australian employees during the coronavirus pandemic because they are happy receiving the JobSeeker payment.

Attila Yilmaz recently posted an advertisement for a couple of roles at Pazar Food Collective in Canterbury, Sydney's south-west. Mr Yilmaz was inundanted with 470 applications but only two of the candidates were Australian citizens, while an additional two were permanent residents.

'I don't want to sound like an old man, but I just don't feel like the youth of today are willing to do the work these foreign workers do,' he told the ABC.

Mr Yilmaz, who pays his workers above award wages and full entitlements, is concerned the JobSeeker payments are encouraging Australians to stay at home.

'It's been a very good deal for people in an industry that's been broken for a very long time,' he said.

The JobSeeker payment is financial help for Australians between 22 and the Age Pension age, who are looking for work. 

The elevated unemployment benefit will remain at $1,100 a fortnight until September 27.

From that date until the end of the year the $550 coronavirus supplement will be cut by $300 to make the overall fortnightly payment $800.

The mutual obligation rules requiring people to search for four jobs a month restarted on August 4.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously claimed Australians were refusing to work because the JobSeeker payment was too high.

'Well, on JobSeeker, we doubled the payment with the supplement because we knew unemployment was going to be rising steadily and it has and that's been devastating,' he told 2GB radio in June.

'What we have to be worried about now is that we can't allow the JobSeeker payment to become an impediment to people going out and doing work, getting extra shifts.

'And we are getting a lot of anecdotal feedback from small businesses, even large businesses where some of them are finding it hard to get people to come and take the shifts because they're on these higher levels of payment.'


Morrison prepares a natural gas plan to boost economy out of the pandemic

Not enough, say Greenies

Gas projects will gain federal support to drive down energy costs for industry and households in what Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls a broader plan to lift the economy through the pandemic.

Mr Morrison backed the use of gas to help Australian industry solve its energy challenges, signalling he would act "in the months ahead" to tackle the problems caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Three cabinet ministers are working on ways to cut gas prices, raising the prospect of measures in the October budget to address years of industry calls to boost domestic gas supplies.

The next test is a NSW regulatory decision due on September 4 on whether Santos can develop the Pilliga gas field in the state’s north on the condition all the gas goes to the domestic market.

Mr Morrison said the "energy challenges" were a factor in his goal of running the national economy in a "COVID-safe" way when there was no certainty about when a vaccine might arrive and the pandemic might end.

"I have talked a lot of times about what we need do in the gas sector and I’ll have a lot more to say about that in the months ahead," he said.

"What we’re doing in our manufacturing sector, what we’re doing to get infrastructure, getting almost $10 billion brought forward – that’s the plan.

"That can give the confidence and the assurance, because that plan goes in place, vaccine or no vaccine. Operating in a COVID-safe economy is then the challenge."

Greens leader Adam Bandt has attacked the government for backing new gas projects, following a series of leaks from the National COVID Commission chaired by Nev Power, former chief executive of Fortescue Metals.

The commission's manufacturing taskforce set out plans to put taxpayer support behind a significant expansion of the domestic gas industry.

"Gas is not only a toxic fossil fuel, it's becoming too expensive to compete with clean energy," Mr Bandt said.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor addressed the media on Wednesday about wanting Australia to capitalise on depressed global oil and gas markets to deliver cheap energy for industry and boost the strategic oil reserve during the coronavirus crisis.

"More and more, industrial users are keen to make the switch to renewable energy, but are being hamstrung by a government desperate to prop up dirty coal, oil and gas."

Industry Minister Karen Andrews, Resources Minister Keith Pitt and Energy Minister Angus Taylor are all working on the gas and energy agenda with a team from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

Federal government sources named problems with red tape, environmental regulation and state moratoriums on gas projects as key obstacles to driving down the price and clearing the way for new power stations fuelled by gas.

While one option is an import terminal on the east coast, the other is federal approval for the Santos project under the Environment and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Santos is waiting on a decision from the NSW Independent Planning Commission by September 4 on whether the company can extract coal seam gas from the region around Narrabri, but the project must also gain federal clearance under the EPBC Act.

Santos chief executive Kevin Gallagher said the company needed certainty about the Narrabri project after starting the process six years ago.

"Narrabri means more jobs and more investment in NSW and the local region, and lower gas and electricity prices for customers in the state," he said.

The Prime Minister's comments signal the agenda for the October budget after Mr Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg committed another $15.6 billion to fund JobKeeper payments for millions of workers through to March.

While the total cost of the JobKeeper scheme has now reached $101.3 billion to pay a wage subsidy to four million workers – albeit not all of them at the same time – the government is facing calls for a bigger stimulus.

Mr Morrison discussed new measures in skills policy with state and territory leaders in national cabinet on Friday, as well as agreeing a new freight code to keep food and other supplies moving despite Victoria’s business shutdowns.

The Prime Minister said the pandemic would force Australia to adjust the way it does business and named the digital economy as a potential opportunity.

"There is a broader plan when it comes to the economy and that continues to be rolled out, vaccine or no vaccine."


Andrew Bolt leads lockdown dissent in Australia

Andrew Bolt has doubled down on his argument that Covid-19 restrictions should be lifted because they are destroying the economy “to save aged-care residents from dying a few months earlier”.

Writing in the Herald Sun this week, Bolt noted that most people dying of the virus were over 80.

“We don’t crash this economy just to stop the young getting a stuffy nose,” he said. “Note: 40 per cent of aged-care home residents die within nine months. The average stay is just under three years.

“So Victoria’s bans are doing huge damage to – essentially – save aged-care residents from dying a few months earlier.”

Attacked by ABC presenter Michael Rowland for his “disgraceful” suggestion, Bolt defended himself on his Sky program on Tuesday night, saying the breakfast host was indulging in “woolly thinking” and “fake sentimentality”. His critics were typically leftwing and did not have a good heart, Bolt said, but a “weak head”.

The chief executive of the Council on the Ageing, Ian Yates, said Bolt’s argument was totally unacceptable.

“It’s an attitude that certain kinds of lives are disposable,” Yates told Weekly Beast. “Logically the next step would be to ask, ‘Why do we have nursing homes at all, why don’t we just bang them on the head?’”

As the pandemic has worsened, Bolt’s rhetoric has sometimes been overtaken. “Not a single person under 40 has died,” he said on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced a man in his 30s had died.

“A lot of people are very upset with me,” Bolt said in an editorial on Sky News. “What I wrote was confronting, some thought it was brutal, but it was also absolutely true.”

Bolt’s rhetoric is echoed by Sky News Australia’s Alan Jones and the Australian’s economics editor, Adam Creighton. They all rail against Victoria’s stay-at-home orders, and the premier, Daniel Andrews.

Bolt’s stablemate at the Herald Sun and Sky News, columnist Rita Panahi, has said the health measures are “draconian” and people who back Andrews are “in the thralls of Stockholm syndrome”.

Jones says mask-wearing is “alarmism” and “ineffectual” and Australia’s death rate does not warrant it. “Only a mad person would believe a lockdown will wipe out the virus,” he said when masks were made compulsory.

Now in his fifth week of broadcasting a new show on Sky News, Jones is averaging around 70,000 viewers each night, which for comparison is one-tenth of the audience for ABC News at 7pm. Nine and Seven news bulletins at 6pm sit above 1.1 million.

But his somewhat strident takes are getting a wider audience through follow-up news stories on and posts on social media.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

1 comment:

Paul said...

Once again Australia's best interests are sacrificed in the names of "diversity" and "equality".