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Victoria’s emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp made it clear in two meetings in late March that Victoria did not need the help of the Australian Defence Force in running hotel quarantine, the inquiry has heard.

In audio recordings of state control centre meetings on 27 and 28 March played to the inquiry on Tuesday, Crisp said twice that there was no need for support from the ADF for hotel quarantine.

“We can manage this…at this stage, we don’t need boots on the ground, so to speak,” he said on 27 March.

Crisp said he saw the role of the ADF to fill any gaps in capacity or capability that he saw in the program and there was no requirement for that at the time. He said it is his belief that private security could do the job.

Victoria’s emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp.

Victoria’s emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

I thought they would have been a suitable and appropriate workforce to use in the hotel.

I’ve worked a lot with private security and my thinking was that well-trained, well-supervised private security in this type of role would have been efficient and effective.

In late June, Crisp did eventually request the support of 850 ADF personnel to replace private security in hotel quarantine, at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services, but one day late he rescinded this request at the behest of the Department of Justice.

He said he was told Justice was looking into other options, including using police and corrections staff.

It remains unclear who exactly made the decision to use private security firms in the ill-fated hotel quarantine program.

The inquiry heard on Tuesday that Victoria Police made it clear in the 27 March meeting that the preference was that private security be used, and the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions was tasked to hire the firms, but Crisp said the decision had already been made prior to that meeting.

Labor has called for an investigation into whether Australian privacy laws have been breached after reports the personal details of about 35,500 Australians were included on a database compiled by the Chinese tech company Zhenhua Data.

The shadow assistant minister for cyber security, Tim Watts, wrote to the information commissioner today to request an investigation into “the extent to which the privacy of Australians may have been compromised and whether any Australian privacy laws have been broken”.

In a media release issued a short time ago, the Labor party said the reports that personal information may have been scraped from social media accounts and other sources “for potential use by foreign intelligence services” were “deeply concerning” and that the investigation should look into whether or not a data collection centre was located in Australia.

Zhenhua Data, based in Shenzhen, has denied any links to the Chinese government or military and insisted that it merely “integrated” public data found on the internet. There is no concrete evidence to suggest that a data collection centre has been set up in Australia.

Watts said the data security of Australian citizens was “now a national security issue” and he argued that an effective data protection regime was “crucial to our efforts to fight foreign interference”.

Labor senator Jenny McAllister, who chairs a Senate select committee into foreign interference through social media, said the reports about the database were “the latest in a long line of warnings that there are actors with the intent and ability to influence Australia’s democracy”.

The opposition also called on the government to ensure the Information Commissioner and her officer were properly resourced to complete the task, saying the office’s investigation into Cambridge Analytica was launched in March 2020, two years after the event.

The shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said the protection of online privacy was more important than ever and a standalone privacy commissioner should be appointed.

The NSW Liberals and Nationals have endured their first joint party room following the Nats threatening to sit on the cross benches over koala protections.

As expected Nationals leader, John Barilaro has hung onto the leadership of the junior coalition party and remains deputy premier.

Ever the diplomat, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the joint meeting was “extremely constructive” but she wouldn’t be talking about the details.

The koala habitat state environmental planning policy will be discussed in cabinet in October. How flexible the Liberals will be with their National colleagues remains to be seen.

Victoria’s emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp was unable to recall key details about meetings deciding the hotel quarantine program.

Crisp was asked about notes he made in a meeting with officials, including police minister Lisa Neville and then police commissioner Graham Ashton on 27 March, referencing security guards and ADF officers. Crisp said he did not recall the notes.

In a submission provided to the inquiry, read out in the hearing, Ashton has said he asked Crisp about Victoria Police’s role in the program, and he recalled Crisp saying private security guards were going to be used. He also said emergency management Victoria was assisting with the coordination of the program but the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions would be running it. Crisp did not recall this conversation.

Crisp’s predecessor, Craig Lapsley, also told the inquiry in a written submission that it would have been “prudent” for the state controller – to oversee the program – be someone like the chief health officer or someone with a medical background.
It was envisioned that chief health officer Prof Brett Sutton could have filled the role, but the deputy secretary of DHHS, Melissa Skilbeck, told Crisp it would be difficult for Sutton to take the role with his other obligations.

Skilbeck appointed Andrea Spiteri and Jason Helps from Emergency Management Victoria to the role. Skilbeck told the inquiry last week Sutton was against that decision.

Read the original article at The Guardian

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