Jenny Mikakos’ resignation follows a six-week inquiry into the Australian state of Victoria’s hotel quarantine program for returned international travellers, with infection control failures in the program ultimately sparking Victoria’s second wave.
Much of the state is under strict lockdown restrictions, and borders to other Australian states remain closed or heavily restricted.
While most other states and territories opted to use police or Australian defence force (ADF) staff to implement the hotel quarantine program, Victoria used private security contractors who were poorly trained in infection control, the inquiry previously heard. The premier, Daniel Andrews, and Mikakos have been under pressure to explain why ADF and police were not used.
Her resignation follows comments from Andrews on Friday at the inquiry into the hotel quarantine program that he held her “accountable for the program”.
In a statement issued on Twitter on Saturday, Mikakos said:
Since the start of this pandemic I have worked every day with a single focus to protect the Victorians from an unprecedented global public health threat in our lifetime. It has been a responsibility for which I have felt only a sense of urgency and resolve. I have been in awe of our health professionals saving lives every day and I can never express my admiration of them enough.
When the case numbers started to rise in June I sought explanation. On 30 June, I received a briefing on a genomic sequencing report. To say that I was shocked would be a massive understatement. The sacrifice and suffering of Victorians is something that I feel deeply. As I said to the board of inquiry, I take responsibility for my department. The buck stops with me. With the benefit of hindsight, there are clearly matters that my department should have briefed me on. Whether they would have changed the course of events, only the board and history can determine.
For three months I had looked forward to learning who made the fateful decision to use security guards. Victorians deserve to know who.
I have always put everything into my ministerial responsibilities. I have never wanted to leave a job unfinished but in the light of the premier’s statement to the board of inquiry, and the fact that there are elements in it that I strongly disagree with, I believe that I cannot continue to serve in his cabinet. I have never shirked my responsibility for my department but it is not my responsibility alone.
I look forward to the board of inquiry’s final report. I am disappointed that my integrity has sought to be undermined. I know that my statement and evidence would have been uncomfortable for some. I have today written to the governor of Victoria to resign my commission’s as a minister effective today.
I will also be resigning from the parliament.
I am deeply sorry for the situation that Victorians find themselves in. In good conscience, I do not believe that my actions lead to them. I thank Victorians for the privilege of serving them. I thank the premier, my colleagues, my loyal staff, the Labor party and broader Labor movement for their support.
I will not be making any further public statements.
Victoria’s second wave has resulted in more than 780 deaths and prompted weeks of strict lockdown measures for Melbourne.
Mikakos’ resignation follows her appearance at the hotel quarantine inquiry on Thursday, where she said she was “very disappointed” problems identified with the program early on were not raised with her.
Mikakos said she did not know public health commander Finn Romanes had written to health and human services department secretary Kym Peake on 9 April, warning of a “risk to the health and safety of detainees” due to governance issues.
The letter was backed by chief health officer Brett Sutton and his deputy Annaliese van Diemen. Peake also failed to brief Mikakos on two Safer Care Victoria reports, which identified problems with the hotel quarantine program.