To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders
Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications
Featured Image Credit: Michael Currie/Speed Media/Alamy Live News
WorkSafe Victoria has charged the Victorian government over its handling of its hotel quarantine system.
The watchdog has outlined 17 alleged breaches in the system that accuses the Department of Health, who was in charge of rolling out hotel quarantine, of 'failing to provide a workplace that was free of health risks to employees'.
There were also an additional 41 charges laid against the department. The alleged breaches occurred between March to July last year.
A statement from WorkSafe Victoria said: "In all charges, WorkSafe alleges that Department of Health employees, Victorian Government Authorised Officers on secondment, or security guards were put at risk of serious illness or death through contracting COVID-19 from an infected returned traveller, another person working in the hotels or from a contaminated surface.
"The decision to prosecute has been made in accordance with WorkSafe's General Prosecution Guidelines, which require WorkSafe to consider whether there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction and whether bringing a prosecution is in the public interest.
"Inquiries into other entities associated with this investigation including hotels, security firms and other Government departments and agencies have concluded."
The Department of Health has been criticised for not stationing people with infection prevention and control expertise at each hotel participating in the quarantine system, which was a breach of occupation health and safety laws.
The state government was also slammed for not giving security guards enough training on how minimise face-to-face transmissions of Covid-19.
Staff at the hotel quarantine sites were also allegedly not given adequate written instructions on how to use personal protective equipment.
It's taken so long for WorkSafe Victoria to bring these charges forward because they had to sift through tens of thousands of documents and interview multiple witnesses.
The maximum penalty for each charge is $1.64 million, meaning the department could be fined a maximum of $94 million.
Shadow Health Minister Georgie Crozier said this is a damning day for the Victorian government.
"This has been a long investigation and after the tragedy that occurred last year, every Victorian wants to see some answers, they want people to be held accountable for that tragic loss and the devastation that occurred - not just with the loss of lives but the extended lockdown, the loss of business, the mental health impacts that have absolutely plagued Victorians," she said.
"This has been a monumental failure by government - the biggest failure in government administration in the state's history - and the Premier and the ministers responsible need to be accountable for those failures."
The case will go before Melbourne Magistrates' Court on October 22.