Sunday, June 4, 2023

Parliamentary questions and no answers: democracy denied, again

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Beverly McArthur, MP Western Victoria Region, Media Release, 30 August 2021

As the Parliament of Victoria remains empty – again – questions remain unanswered.

430 unanswered questions asked in the Legislative Council alone relate directly to the Health portfolio during a pandemic.

Worse than that, just as it was suspending Parliament on 17August, the Government, via Minister Symes admitted “many of those (are) from prior to the current Minister”.

Jenny Mikakos resigned as the Health Minister, and from the Parliament, on 26 September 2020 after the Premier blamed her for his Hotel Quarantine mess during the Coate Inquiry.

Of the 430 unanswered health questions, 106 are outstanding from the Mikakos reign.

Member for Western Victoria, Bev McArthur, said it represents a reckless and a belligerent snubbing of democracy.

“We have a state in total lockdown – wiped out by the decisions of unelected health bureaucrats and a government in political hiding from the parliament.

“And yet – they still cannot answer basic questions asked nearly a year ago about COVID-19.

“Of all the Ministers and portfolios that should be able to answer every question quickly – it is this one,” Mrs McArthur said.

Basic questions that remain unanswered by Mikakos in 2020 include:

  • 12 August: What modelling and international evidence was utilised by the Victorian Chief Health Officer to inform the decision to put Metropolitan Melbourne into Stage 4 lockdown?
  • 12 August: What is the total number of Intensive Care Unit beds across Victoria, broken down by each health service?
  • 21 August: How many people have contacted the COVID-19 hotline?
  • 24 August: What capital works are being undertaken and at what total cost at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, University Hospital Geelong, Bendigo Hospital, Shepparton Hospital, The Alfred Hospital, Austin Hospital, Monash Medical Centre Clayton and Casey Hospital?
  • 01 September: A request for an urgent review of arrangements around visiting people in palliative care and numbers allowed to attend funerals
  • 15 September: In the first and second wave of the COVID-19 crisis in Victoria, how many cases were detected in people employed in – policing, hairdressers, supermarkets, outdoor markets, fuel retailing…and the like?

Questions unanswered by the current Minister, Martin Foley in 2020 and 2021 include:

  • 27 October 2020: In relation to the contact tracing team within DHHS, how many were employed month by month starting 1st February 2020 to this date, what is the breakdown of each employees’ professional qualification, where are the teams located and how many are employed within the DHHS team and how many are sub-contractors?
  • 29 April 2021: Between 1 January 2021 and 29 April 2021, what was the total number of bed closures per day for 18 health services and hospitals including Alfred Health, Alfred Health, Monash Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
  • 25 May 2021: In relation to healthcare shift workers attempting to obtain information on their COVID-19 results: Why does the COVID-19 hotline not operate on a 24-hour, seven days a week basis?
  • 03 August 2021: How many breast cancer screenings were undertaken from 12-Feb 2021-17 Feb 2021, 27 May 2021 to 10 June 2021 and 15 July 2021, to date?

“Not one of these questions – some asked more than a year ago – has been answered.

“These are not difficult questions.

“And all of them require an answer.

“They are asked by Members of Parliament on behalf of the people of Victoria.

Of the seven questions asked specifically by Mrs McArthur to the current Health Minister, only one has been answered.

The ignored questions refer to matters such as border permits and the unsafe regulations around these, inconsistencies in business classifications which impact upon their ability to operate, and in May, a question about the limits on the number of people attending funerals while crowds attended the football.

In February, Mrs McArthur questioned the nine month extension of the State of Emergency and what was being done to prepare Victoria for a post-Covid world, reminding the parliament of the Premier’s own words that “These restrictions will be in place for not one day longer than they need to be.”

And in October last year, she questioned how Covid-restrictions on travel were going to impact people getting to regional properties to make them safe for the fire season.

“While a permit system was ultimately implemented, my question remains officially unanswered. It smacks of arrogance.

“It highlights Labor’s contempt for proper governance, the rules of the parliament, and as such, the people of this state.

“These questions are not frivolous or demanding of excessive research– all of this detail would be well known to the Minister.

“Labor’s Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, Jaclyn Symes, told the upper house members on August 17th that “We will endeavour to chase those up.”

“I think that’s a very good idea of Minister Symes’, Mrs McArthur said.

“And while she’s chasing them up, perhaps she could catch up with the Premier and ask him to get MPs back in the parliament so even more questions can be asked.

“Because there are many more questions this Government needs to answer,” Mrs McArthur said.

“This disgraceful scenario is the manifestation, not only of incompetence, but the breakdown of our most important democratic institution.”

 “Equally wearing this demise, via the closure of Parliament, are those cross bench MPs who voted with the Government to suspend parliament on August 17, namely Fiona Patten (Reason Party), Andy Meddick (Animal Justice Party), Rod Barton (Transport Matters Party), Geoff Bourman (Farmers, Shooters and Fishers Party), Clifford Hayes (Sustainable Australia Party) and Catherine Cumming (Independent).

“The two Liberal Democrat MPs, David Limbrick and Tim Quilty, along with Tania Maxwell from the Hinch Party joined the Coalition in opposing the cessation of Parliament.

“Victorians deserve the truth, not tyranny.  They would do well to remember the MPs who also think so.


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