Health Minister Jenny Mikakos says she was not shown emails sent to her department by Victoria's top doctors in April that warned about problems with infection control in the state's hotel quarantine program.
Questioned in Parliament on Tuesday about the emails, which were sent a fortnight after the hotel scheme began, she said they had been read by a Health Department staffer but not passed on to her.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos arriving for question time on Tuesday.Credit:Eddie Jim
Her comments prompted the opposition to accuse her of avoiding responsibility for infection control lapses in quarantine hotels that sparked Victoria's second wave of COVID-19.
During a controversial sitting of Parliament, the Health Minister also accused a Liberal MP of mimicking US President Donald Trump by questioning Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton's advice on how Parliament should meet.
Emails from the Australian Medical Association's Victorian branch on April 15 advised the Health Department, based on feedback from health professionals working in quarantine hotels, that better personal protective equipment should be provided to staff.
They also suggested that a "green zone" should be created to separate returned travellers cleared of COVID-19.
Independent MP Dr Catherine Cumming (left) remonstrating with Ms Mikakos.Credit:Eddie Jim
Asked by opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier why her department had ignored that advice, Ms Mikakos said she first found out about the emails via the media this week.
"[Those emails] were, as I understand it, sent to an official in my department," Ms Mikakos told Parliament. "It was not an email that was addressed to me, it was not an email that was brought to my attention and it was not an email that I was briefed on."
The inquiry into Victoria's quarantine hotels has heard this week that the Health Department told security guards masks were not necessary in some scenarios. Last week Jobs Minister Martin Pakula said infection control was the responsibility of the Health Department.
Ms Mikakos went on to defend the government's record on Tuesday, saying "green zones" were already implemented when the emails were sent.
MPs wore face masks and sat at least 1.5 metres apart in Parliament on Tuesday.Credit:Eddie Jim
Ms Crozier called Ms Mikakos' comments a joke.
"The minister is very happy to blame others but not take responsibility for her own leadership and responsibility," Ms Crozier told Parliament.
Liberal MPs have repeatedly taken aim at Ms Mikakos in recent weeks, particularly after she previously refused to answer questions in Parliament about the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien has called several times for Ms Mikakos to resign and on Saturday told her to refrain from "self-pity" after the Health Minister said she was unlucky to encounter a one-in-100-year event such as a pandemic.
Ms Mikakos accused Liberal MP David Davis of a “Trumpian moment” for questioning the Chief Health Officer’s advice.Credit:Eddie Jim
On Tuesday, Ms Mikakos accused Liberal MP David Davis of a "Trumpian moment" after he said Professor Sutton should front Parliament to explain why he advised regional MPs not to attend Tuesday's sitting while essential workers such as tradespeople could still travel between regional and metropolitan Victoria.
Ms Mikakos rose to a chorus of heckling from the opposition to call Mr Davis' comments "very disappointing".
"I have heard members again come here, in particular Mr Davis, and attack the Chief Health Officer's advice yet again," she said.
"We are seeing a Trumpian moment yet again of attacking the health experts, and that is incredibly disappointing."
Liberal Democrat MP Tim Quilty, who represents northern Victoria, ignored health advice to attend Parliament.Credit:Eddie Jim
The Health Minister then criticised two regional MPs who defied Professor Sutton's advice: Shooters, Farmers and Fishers MP Jeff Bourman, who represents eastern Victoria, and Liberal Democrat MP Tim Quilty, who represents northern Victoria.
Amid debate over whether Parliament should be sitting at all and with the lower house not meeting this week, Mr Quilty said he valued his role of scrutinising the government above Professor Sutton's guidance.
"This is my job, to represent the people of northern Victoria … it's not the job of the Chief Health Officer to tell us not to come today and the government should not be telling us not to sit," he said. "We are here to hold you to account."
Labor MP Shaun Leane quickly stood to rebuke Mr Quilty.
Labor MP Shaun Leane responded by saying Mr Quilty was “one of the worst” contributors to Parliament he’d ever seen.Credit:Eddie Jim
"As far as you representing your region, well I cannot remember once that you have come in here with a positive suggestion or talked positively about your region," the newly promoted Local Government Minister said.
"So we will take anything you say with not even a grain of salt because this is your MO [modus operandi] and your contribution to this house would probably be one of the worst contributions that I have seen anyone put in."
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