Brett Sutton, Daniel Andrews evidence released by COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry


Brett Sutton’s anger at how Victoria’s hotel quarantine program was set up without his input has been laid bare in an email released by the inquiry into the scheme.

The state’s Chief Health Officer said it was “astounding” that he and his deputy, Annaliese van Diemen, were excluded from the planning process for the scheme, known as Operation Soteria, despite having legal responsibility for it.

The tensions are revealed in an April 13 email from Professor Sutton to Euan Wallace, the CEO of Safer Care Victoria, which is responsible for patient and hospital safety.

In it, Professor Sutton said Operation Soteria was set up and put in place through Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) “without even getting my approval or even input”.

“It was seen as an almost wholly logistic exercise and had EM [Emergency Management Victoria] governance without an understanding of where accountability sat, or perhaps should sit.”

He said because hotel quarantine was a policy recommendation from National Cabinet, state chief health officers needed to issue directions for its implementation — which made them legally accountable for it.

“In this case Annaliese wrote the direction —so was effectively the ‘maker’ of the entire scheme and has responsibility in law for it,” he wrote.

A “disconnect” with EMV colleagues meant they “effectively excluded those with significant accountability”, he wrote.

In previous evidence, Professor Sutton told the inquiry he believed he should have been appointed to the role of ‘state controller’, so he had better oversight of pandemic responses for which he bore some responsibility.

Dozens of documents released by inquiry

The COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry has been looking into the beleaguered scheme after its failures were blamed for Victoria’s devastating second wave of the virus.

On Friday afternoon, it released dozens of documents, including affidavits from Professor Sutton and Premier Daniel Andrews, phone records from top staffers at the Department of Premier and Cabinet and Mr Andrews’s office, and emails from various departments.

The inquiry requested the additional material to try and determine who was involved in the decision to engage private security at the quarantine hotels and at what point Professor Sutton knew private security guards were being used — matters that weren’t resolved by the inquiry’s last hearing in September.

Professor Sutton has said he did not know private security was being used in the scheme until he read about it in the media — even though he was copied into an email about that plan.

Premier Daniel Andrews, in his affidavit, also maintained he played no role in determining that private security would be used in the program, and did not know who had.

Daniel Andrews provided additional evidence to the inquiry after his appearance.(AAP: Erik Anderson)

However, the Premier shed some light on why he mentioned “private security” at a press conference he held on the afternoon of March 27, despite later saying no decision had been made to use private security by that time.

Mr Andrews said while he had no memory of it, it was likely he was briefed before the press conference by his chief-of-staff Lissie Ratcliff, and “probably” his press secretary Stephanie Anderson and media director Adam Sims.

Mr Andrews said they may have been briefed by a member of his private office, whose name had been redacted.

“I am informed that it is possible that those who briefed me obtained information from [name redacted] for the purposes of the briefing, but I am informed that [name redacted] was not present when I was briefed.”

Text messages between Premier, chief-of-staff released

At the press conference, Mr Andrews told the media that “police, private security, all of our health team will be able to monitor compliance in a much easier way” at the hotels.

However, when he gave verbal evidence to the inquiry, Mr Andrews said he was not sure why he had mentioned private security at the press conference, or how he had learned they would be used.

Jennifer Coate sits behind a bend with the words
Jennifer Coate’s final report is due to be handed down by December 21.  (AAP: James Ross)

Mr Andrews said for the sake of “completeness” he would also provide text messages between him and his chief-of-staff about the hotel arrangements that he was aware of later that evening.

The text messages showed the CEO of Linfox was happy to assist with hotel arrangements, and supermarket La Manna was happy to feed people.

Mr Andrews asked Ms Ratcliff: “how are we going on hotels and midnight tomorrow. Do we have many flights tomorrow? Call if you need to”.

Ms Ratcliff responded that she would have updates on the number of rooms: “we’re aiming for more than 5,000 — transportation, guidelines for leaving rooms, protection for workers, number of expected arrivals and flights for Sunday”.

The reply from Ms Ratcliff to Mr Andrews also said “it’ll only apply to flights landing after midnight so anyone coming in during the day tomorrow won’t be caught up.

“Will get you an update as soon as it comes through.”

Inquiry chair Jennifer Coate is due to hand down her findings by December 21.



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Premier Daniel Andrews defends state’s JobKeeper share


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A frustrated Mr Andrews replied that Victoria had done its “fair share of the heavy lifting” for several years leading up the pandemic and said the needs-based JobKeeper and JobSeeker subsidies were designed to deal with the hardships that Victorians experienced during the state’s second coronavirus wave.

“If you look at jobs created in the five years before this pandemic, we fully accounted for half the new jobs in our nation,” the Premier said, adding he could not predict what future events might affect the state’s debt by 2024.

“Victoria is part of this nation. This is not foreign aid, and I won’t have that suggested. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Victorians received $12 billion in JobKeeper payments by September and are expected to make up 60 per cent of the 2.24 million Australians receiving JobKeeper in the October quarter, according to federal Treasury figures.

Mr Andrews also took aim at the Morrison government for failing to formally introduce paid sick leave for casual workers – an issue that came to the fore at the height of Victoria’s second coronavirus wave and has also caused concern following South Australia’s latest outbreak.

The centrepiece of this week’s state budget was a plan to create 400,000 new jobs in Victoria, with the government projecting net debt will reach nearly $155 billion within three years, more than 28 per cent of Victoria’s total annual economic output.

Mr Andrews said he could not provide a long-term debt repayment plan but argued debt would begin to be paid down “once we have the economy growing and once we have healed the wounds in our economy and communities and repair the damage that has been done”.

“The repayment of these borrowings and the repair from this pandemic will be long-term … There will be costs incurred by many Victorians,” he said.

“I do acknowledge these are unprecedented borrowings, but these are unprecedented times.”

Mr Andrews indicated his government would not increase any taxes in order to improve the budget’s bottom line, saying a competitive tax system that encouraged business investment would be key to growing the economy.

The Premier, who has made interventions in several policy areas usual the domain of the Commonwealth, said his government decided to counter the negative effects of insecure, casual work because of a lack of national leadership on the issue from the Morrison government.

Casual workers in industries including cleaning, hospitality and aged care will receive five days sick and carer’s leave under a “secure work pilot scheme” that will eventually be funded by an industry levy, the government announced this week.

“This is the sort of leadership that should be, I think, provided across the whole nation. But if others aren’t prepared to do it, we are and we will push forward and hopefully we can convince others to join us,” Mr Andrews said.

Exchanges between the Premier and opposition MPs Danny O’Brien and Richard Riordan were often testy on Friday morning.

Mr Riordan accused Labor MP Lizzie Blandthorn, the chair of the committee, of running a “protection racket” for repeatedly calling points of order during Coalition MPs’ questioning.

In response to one of their questions, the Premier declined to give an up-to-date estimate of the projected cost blowout for the $11 billion Metro Tunnel project.

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Daniel Andrews faces public accounts and estimates committee


Premier Daniel Andrews will face questioning about this week’s state budget and the government’s pandemic response at Parliament’s public accounts and estimates committee hearings on Friday.

He will first be asked about government expenditure and then about the state’s COVID-19 response by Labor, Liberal and crossbench MPs.

You can watch a live stream of the hearings below.

Minister for Women, Aboriginal Affairs and Family Violence Gabrielle Williams is due to front the committee from 2.30pm.

In coming weeks, other senior ministers will appear before the committee.



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Joyce, Andrews meet over plan for Qantas to call Melbourne home


Mr Joyce also toured Melbourne Airport on Wednesday to scout out potential locations for Qantas’ operations. Qantas has said it is looking to move its Brisbane-based heavy aircraft maintenance facilities, which employ 750 workers, as well as its flight training simulators currently based in Sydney and Melbourne.

Mr Andrews, whose government this week unveiled a $49 billion budget spending spree to create 400,000 jobs over the next five years and drag it out of its COVID-19 recession, said in September he would pitch aggressively for Qantas to call Victoria home.

Dan Andrews said in September he was keen to get Qantas to call Victoria home.Credit:Paul Jeffers

“We think that we have a very attractive offer to make and we’ll work through that to try and have as many jobs as we possibly can in our city and state,” Mr Andrews said at the time, adding his proposal would cover both office and engineering jobs.

It is not clear whether Victoria has made a formal proposal to Qantas nor what the scope of any such proposal is. A spokesman for Mr Andrews did not comment further before deadline on Thursday.

Melbourne Airport CEO Lyell Strambi said he was proud to be contributing to Victoria’s efforts to lure Qantas south, with his airport estate being more than six times the size of Melbourne’s CBD and already home to commercial offices, hotels and logistics providers.

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“We think there’s a really strong proposition that would be incredibly hard to match anywhere else,” Mr Strambi said. “The most recent commitments to airport rail underscore just how highly Victoria values aviation.”

Qantas is also talking to Queensland, South Australia and NSW sate governments about possible incentives packages. The airline has flagged one option could be to consolidate its office, training and engineering facilities at the new Western Sydney Airport, due to open in 2026.

The airline had expected to conclude its property review by the end of this year, but is now likely to announce a decision by April 2021.

Qantas’ decision to review its office footprint was prompted by the need to cut costs in response to the COVID-19 crisis, which has devastated airlines globally and seen the Australian carrier announce around 8000 redundancies, or close to a third of its workforce.

State government incentives to lure employment to the state is not uncommon. Victoria gave retailer David Jones a taxpayer handout to move 820 head office jobs from Sydney to Melbourne in 2016, while a bidding war for Virgin Australia’s head office after it went into administration in April ended with Queensland making a $200 million investment to keep it based in Brisbane.

The Queensland government also gave Qantas financial support two years ago to build its new $35 million flight school in Toowoomba.

Meanwhile, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said in September that the state would offer “every assistance to Qantas so they can keep as many of their employees as possible in NSW”.

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Coronavirus Australia live news: Daniel Andrews encourages Victorians to stay home despite Queensland border opening on December 1



Audience comment by Julia

Not sure if I read between the lines correctly, but if I did…<br>Happy birthday Natty!!! 🥳

Audience comment by Natty

Looking back on 2020, all we’ve been through, especially our Victorian friends, families separated for such long periods of time, and, in contrast, hearing all the great news about the borders reopening, it’s finally starting to feel like we’re all one Australia again. Sitting here, reading this awesome blog, that’s kept us all informed and sane for the best part of this year, I feel proud of every Aussie for their efforts and sacrifices, and the best birthday present I could ask for, is for families to reunite and have optimistic hopes for a great Christmas 🙂

Audience comment by Sarah

Thankyou ☀️ <br>We’re all Australians so it’s great to know we can now travel where and when we want !!<br>Thankyou Victorians for keeping our Country safe and stopping the spread through all your hard work and sacrifices 🙏🏻<br>Happy Christmas xoxoxo

Audience comment by missing home

I moved to Melbourne from Brisbane in February and went for an overseas trip shortly after. I haven’t seen my family since late Jan. When I heard the *unofficial* news yesterday; I could not stop crying. Time to go home!!

Audience comment by Staying in Vic

I don’t have any relatives interstate. For those who do, please go and reunite with your loved ones. I’ll be holidaying in Victoria.



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What interest groups want from ‘biggest and most significant’ state budget pledged by Andrews government


The Andrews government will hand down its budget on November 24, with debt expected to soar even further as the Treasurer seeks to steer Victoria out of the COVID-19 recession.

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Interest groups have put together wish lists designed to get more people back into jobs and stimulate the state’s economy. Here’s what they want.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The payroll tax threshold would be increased to $1 million (from $650,000), and its liabilities for employers with payrolls of up to $10 million in 2019-20 would be waived this financial year, under a bold plan put forward by the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The powerful business lobby group wants the government to focus on protecting and growing local business and jobs, “reclaim” the state’s global reputation and define and implement the next big build when it hands down its budget later this month.

The chamber has made more than 50 recommendations to the Andrews government, including grants of up to $50,000 to offset business costs associated with becoming COVID-safe, and providing one-off grants of up to $20,000 to sole traders.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra lays out his wish list ahead of the November 24 budget.Credit:Wayne Taylor

“Victoria was the engine room of the national economy before COVID-19 hit, and, with the right incentives, levers and policies, we can be once again,” chamber chief executive Paul Guerra said.

“Victoria’s post-COVID-19 economy will be a different economy: we must be bold in our thinking and embrace innovation, collaboration, technology and business entrepreneurship.”

Victorian Farmers Federation

The VFF has its sights on the completion of the Murray Basin Rail Project, $30 million to extend the Agriculture Energy Investment Plan and $10 million to match the Commonwealth’s commitment for the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme.

The sector has been hit hard by bushfires, drought, floods and the escalating trade war between China and Australia over the coronavirus pandemic.

“Victorian farmers and rural communities need and deserve fit-for-purpose roads, freight rail, affordable telecommunications, health and education to ensure they have the means to be a viable, attractive proposition for those wishing to make the move to the country,” president David Jochinke said.

“At the very least, this must form part of a minimum standard that allows agriculture to be a major part of Australia’s economic recovery.”

Property Council of Australia

The Property Council is arguing for a planned return to the office, extending planning permits and fast-tracking new ones, stamp duty concessions for first home owners and off-the-plan investors, a build-to-rent package and extending the HomesVic program.

“There is no question that stimulus for the property sector will make a huge difference to the economy,” interim executive director Matthew Kandelaars said.

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Australia, thousands of people lost their jobs. Melburnians pictured here are lining up at Centrelink's South Melbourne office on March 25.

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Australia, thousands of people lost their jobs. Melburnians pictured here are lining up at Centrelink’s South Melbourne office on March 25.Credit:Jason South

“International experience has shown it takes time for people to return and every day they don’t return has an impact on jobs and workplaces. A back to office plan that works through the various issues for all of us is urgent.”

Public Transport Users Association

Boosting public transport services across the day, detailed planning for the Metro 2 rail tunnel and funding “relatively cheap but effective” infrastructure projects, such as short tram extensions, accessible tram upgrades and better pedestrian facilities, should be a priority for the government, the association’s Daniel Bowen says.

Mr Bowen also wants more funding for regional rail upgrades, including the Murray Basin Rail Project.

“Infrastructure is an effective way of boosting jobs and the economy, particularly if it is distributed around the state, and not confined to Melbourne,” Mr Bowen said.

“Aside from infrastructure, boosting public transport services provides direct relief for households affected by COVID-19 by helping them reduce the financial impact of driving when accessing education and employment opportunities.”

Australian Education Union

Victoria’s prolonged lockdown forced millions of students to learn from home.

The union is urging the government to invest further in public schools, hire and retain more than 6000 additional early childhood educators and secure TAFE funding based on the actual cost of education and training.

“High quality public education is the basis of a prosperous social and economic future for Victorians,” the union said.

“Funding our future by investing properly in public education must always be a fundamental focus of any government. It is not enough to just invest in roads and other infrastructure, we need to invest in our people and the future of our people.”

Council to Homeless Persons

The council’s key priorities are increasing Victoria’s social-housing stock to the national average of 4.5 per cent of all housing; expanding the Housing First teams to reduce recurring homelessness; implementing Housing First for people transitioning out of psychiatric care and fully funding Home Stretch, which allows 18-year-olds leaving out-of-home care to receive support until they turn 21.

Locals and tourists on the Mallacoota wharf as bushfires surrounded the Victorian summer holiday spot on New Years Eve.

Locals and tourists on the Mallacoota wharf as bushfires surrounded the Victorian summer holiday spot on New Years Eve. Credit:Siobhan Heanue

Environment Victoria

Before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Australia, this year began with some of the most destructive bushfires in the country’s history.

Environment Victoria is calling for large investments in energy efficiency and switching from gas to electricity, modernising the electricity grid with more energy storage, expanding the Latrobe Valley Authority to support the region’s transition from coal, funding that enables the Portland aluminium smelter to start running on clean energy and landscape management for bushfire-affected areas as well as protecting riverbanks.

“As we emerge from lockdown, Premier Andrews’ job isn’t just to build back the economy we had, but to build the economy we need to face the big challenges of the future, including climate change,” chief executive Jonathan La Nauze said.

“There are thousands of good local jobs in energy efficiency, renewable energy and restoring our devastated landscape after the bushfires. Smart governments are recognising a healthy economy depends on a healthy environment – they don’t have to be pitted against one another.”

Law Institute of Victoria

The institute’s top priority in this year’s budget is more funding for Legal Aid, saying vulnerable Victorians had been “suffering” from a lack of face-to-face access to independent legal advice.

It also wants court infrastructure updated and dedicated funding for legal practices to upgrade their phone systems, IT and offices.

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“Access to justice is a fundamental right. We have supported legislation to allow the courts to continue to operate during the pandemic, for example judge-alone trials,” president Sam Pandya said.

“But we want to ensure that, as we return to ‘COVID normal’, clients’ rights to access a lawyer and obtain independent legal advice is not compromised due to the urgency to cut back on court waiting lists. We welcome the return of jury trials and support further funding to support our courts return to some in person trials and hearings.”

Domestic Violence Victoria

Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown contributed to the highest rate of family violence in the state’s history as reports of abuse in the home rose 6.7 per cent in the 12 months to June, according to the latest Crime Statistics Agency figures.

Domestic Violence Victoria chief executive Tania Farha said the pandemic exacerbated problems that existed prior to COVID-19.

The organisation is pleading with the Andrews government for increased funding to hire more case workers and give the workforce a pay rise, money to upgrade technology and equipment, ongoing funding to implement all the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and funds to build more social housing.

“We know that, across the board, emergencies like natural disasters increase the frequency and severity of family violence,” Ms Farha said.

“COVID-19 is no exception and the specialist family violence sector needs to be resourced to respond to demand during the COVID-19 recovery and any future outbreaks or other disasters.”

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Regional Cities Victoria

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released this week revealed Melburnians fled to regional Victoria as the coronavirus pandemic upended people’s lives.

Regional Cities Victoria wants Treasurer Tim Pallas to deliver on initiatives that will accelerate construction projects, improve digital and telecommunications infrastructure, build more affordable housing and developing recycling and resource recovery infrastructure.

“The issue of digital connectivity has been brought into sharp focus during the pandemic, with the shortcomings of accessible and reliable digital connectivity in regional Victoria evident as more people have had to work and study from home,” spokesman Craig Niemann said.

“It is a disadvantage that must be addressed as a matter of priority to future proof regional communities.”

Volunteering Victoria

As the pandemic gripped the state, Volunteering Victoria recorded a sharp decline in the number of volunteers – there were 1.1 million fewer volunteers (down from 2.3 million).

Volunteering Victoria said volunteering was not “free” and it does not “just happen”.

“It requires a range of investments, including staff for volunteer co-ordination and management,” chief executive Scott Miller said.

The group wants grants programs that support volunteers directly and indirectly, funding for emergency volunteering and programs to help unemployed young people develop skills.

The State of Volunteering report has found there is a return on investment of $3.70 for every $1 spent on volunteering.

Municipal Association of Victoria

Local governments are best placed to understand the dire impact of COVID-19 on communities, the MAV says.

It is asking the Andrews government to provide councils with $60 million for walking and bike riding infrastructure, $16 million to support local creative industries, $8 million to build a network of youth support workers, $40 million over four years for local road black spot funding and $100 million over four years for coastal climate change adaptation.

Australian Medical Association

The peak medical body has asked the Victorian government to consider a dramatic overhaul of the state’s public health system to reflect a NSW-style model by establishing a number of smaller units across the state.

In NSW, locally focused public health units were established over three decades, with some concentrating solely on containing and preventing infectious diseases, while others tackle immunisation and prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and obesity.

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What interest groups want from ‘biggest and most significant’ state budget pledged by Andrews government


The Andrews government will hand down its budget on November 24, with debt expected to soar even further as the Treasurer seeks to steer Victoria out of the COVID-19 recession.

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Interest groups have put together wish lists designed to get more people back into jobs and stimulate the state’s economy. Here’s what they want.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The payroll tax threshold would be increased to $1 million (from $650,000), and its liabilities for employers with payrolls of up to $10 million in 2019-20 would be waived this financial year, under a bold plan put forward by the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The powerful business lobby group wants the government to focus on protecting and growing local business and jobs, “reclaim” the state’s global reputation and define and implement the next big build when it hands down its budget later this month.

The chamber has made more than 50 recommendations to the Andrews government, including grants of up to $50,000 to offset business costs associated with becoming COVID-safe, and providing one-off grants of up to $20,000 to sole traders.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra lays out his wish list ahead of the November 24 budget.Credit:Wayne Taylor

“Victoria was the engine room of the national economy before COVID-19 hit, and, with the right incentives, levers and policies, we can be once again,” chamber chief executive Paul Guerra said.

“Victoria’s post-COVID-19 economy will be a different economy: we must be bold in our thinking and embrace innovation, collaboration, technology and business entrepreneurship.”

Victorian Farmers Federation

The VFF has its sights on the completion of the Murray Basin Rail Project, $30 million to extend the Agriculture Energy Investment Plan and $10 million to match the Commonwealth’s commitment for the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme.

The sector has been hit hard by bushfires, drought, floods and the escalating trade war between China and Australia over the coronavirus pandemic.

“Victorian farmers and rural communities need and deserve fit-for-purpose roads, freight rail, affordable telecommunications, health and education to ensure they have the means to be a viable, attractive proposition for those wishing to make the move to the country,” president David Jochinke said.

“At the very least, this must form part of a minimum standard that allows agriculture to be a major part of Australia’s economic recovery.”

Property Council of Australia

The Property Council is arguing for a planned return to the office, extending planning permits and fast-tracking new ones, stamp duty concessions for first home owners and off-the-plan investors, a build-to-rent package and extending the HomesVic program.

“There is no question that stimulus for the property sector will make a huge difference to the economy,” interim executive director Matthew Kandelaars said.

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Australia, thousands of people lost their jobs. Melburnians pictured here are lining up at Centrelink's South Melbourne office on March 25.

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Australia, thousands of people lost their jobs. Melburnians pictured here are lining up at Centrelink’s South Melbourne office on March 25.Credit:Jason South

“International experience has shown it takes time for people to return and every day they don’t return has an impact on jobs and workplaces. A back to office plan that works through the various issues for all of us is urgent.”

Public Transport Users Association

Boosting public transport services across the day, detailed planning for the Metro 2 rail tunnel and funding “relatively cheap but effective” infrastructure projects, such as short tram extensions, accessible tram upgrades and better pedestrian facilities, should be a priority for the government, the association’s Daniel Bowen says.

Mr Bowen also wants more funding for regional rail upgrades, including the Murray Basin Rail Project.

“Infrastructure is an effective way of boosting jobs and the economy, particularly if it is distributed around the state, and not confined to Melbourne,” Mr Bowen said.

“Aside from infrastructure, boosting public transport services provides direct relief for households affected by COVID-19 by helping them reduce the financial impact of driving when accessing education and employment opportunities.”

Australian Education Union

Victoria’s prolonged lockdown forced millions of students to learn from home.

The union is urging the government to invest further in public schools, hire and retain more than 6000 additional early childhood educators and secure TAFE funding based on the actual cost of education and training.

“High quality public education is the basis of a prosperous social and economic future for Victorians,” the union said.

“Funding our future by investing properly in public education must always be a fundamental focus of any government. It is not enough to just invest in roads and other infrastructure, we need to invest in our people and the future of our people.”

Council to Homeless Persons

The council’s key priorities are increasing Victoria’s social-housing stock to the national average of 4.5 per cent of all housing; expanding the Housing First teams to reduce recurring homelessness; implementing Housing First for people transitioning out of psychiatric care and fully funding Home Stretch, which allows 18-year-olds leaving out-of-home care to receive support until they turn 21.

Locals and tourists on the Mallacoota wharf as bushfires surrounded the Victorian summer holiday spot on New Years Eve.

Locals and tourists on the Mallacoota wharf as bushfires surrounded the Victorian summer holiday spot on New Years Eve. Credit:Siobhan Heanue

Environment Victoria

Before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Australia, this year began with some of the most destructive bushfires in the country’s history.

Environment Victoria is calling for large investments in energy efficiency and switching from gas to electricity, modernising the electricity grid with more energy storage, expanding the Latrobe Valley Authority to support the region’s transition from coal, funding that enables the Portland aluminium smelter to start running on clean energy and landscape management for bushfire-affected areas as well as protecting riverbanks.

“As we emerge from lockdown, Premier Andrews’ job isn’t just to build back the economy we had, but to build the economy we need to face the big challenges of the future, including climate change,” chief executive Jonathan La Nauze said.

“There are thousands of good local jobs in energy efficiency, renewable energy and restoring our devastated landscape after the bushfires. Smart governments are recognising a healthy economy depends on a healthy environment – they don’t have to be pitted against one another.”

Law Institute of Victoria

The institute’s top priority in this year’s budget is more funding for Legal Aid, saying vulnerable Victorians had been “suffering” from a lack of face-to-face access to independent legal advice.

It also wants court infrastructure updated and dedicated funding for legal practices to upgrade their phone systems, IT and offices.

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“Access to justice is a fundamental right. We have supported legislation to allow the courts to continue to operate during the pandemic, for example judge-alone trials,” president Sam Pandya said.

“But we want to ensure that, as we return to ‘COVID normal’, clients’ rights to access a lawyer and obtain independent legal advice is not compromised due to the urgency to cut back on court waiting lists. We welcome the return of jury trials and support further funding to support our courts return to some in person trials and hearings.”

Domestic Violence Victoria

Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown contributed to the highest rate of family violence in the state’s history as reports of abuse in the home rose 6.7 per cent in the 12 months to June, according to the latest Crime Statistics Agency figures.

Domestic Violence Victoria chief executive Tania Farha said the pandemic exacerbated problems that existed prior to COVID-19.

The organisation is pleading with the Andrews government for increased funding to hire more case workers and give the workforce a pay rise, money to upgrade technology and equipment, ongoing funding to implement all the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and funds to build more social housing.

“We know that, across the board, emergencies like natural disasters increase the frequency and severity of family violence,” Ms Farha said.

“COVID-19 is no exception and the specialist family violence sector needs to be resourced to respond to demand during the COVID-19 recovery and any future outbreaks or other disasters.”

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Regional Cities Victoria

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released this week revealed Melburnians fled to regional Victoria as the coronavirus pandemic upended people’s lives.

Regional Cities Victoria wants Treasurer Tim Pallas to deliver on initiatives that will accelerate construction projects, improve digital and telecommunications infrastructure, build more affordable housing and developing recycling and resource recovery infrastructure.

“The issue of digital connectivity has been brought into sharp focus during the pandemic, with the shortcomings of accessible and reliable digital connectivity in regional Victoria evident as more people have had to work and study from home,” spokesman Craig Niemann said.

“It is a disadvantage that must be addressed as a matter of priority to future proof regional communities.”

Volunteering Victoria

As the pandemic gripped the state, Volunteering Victoria recorded a sharp decline in the number of volunteers – there were 1.1 million fewer volunteers (down from 2.3 million).

Volunteering Victoria said volunteering was not “free” and it does not “just happen”.

“It requires a range of investments, including staff for volunteer co-ordination and management,” chief executive Scott Miller said.

The group wants grants programs that support volunteers directly and indirectly, funding for emergency volunteering and programs to help unemployed young people develop skills.

The State of Volunteering report has found there is a return on investment of $3.70 for every $1 spent on volunteering.

Municipal Association of Victoria

Local governments are best placed to understand the dire impact of COVID-19 on communities, the MAV says.

It is asking the Andrews government to provide councils with $60 million for walking and bike riding infrastructure, $16 million to support local creative industries, $8 million to build a network of youth support workers, $40 million over four years for local road black spot funding and $100 million over four years for coastal climate change adaptation.

Australian Medical Association

The peak medical body has asked the Victorian government to consider a dramatic overhaul of the state’s public health system to reflect a NSW-style model by establishing a number of smaller units across the state.

In NSW, locally focused public health units were established over three decades, with some concentrating solely on containing and preventing infectious diseases, while others tackle immunisation and prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and obesity.

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Premier Daniel Andrews unveils $200 voucher scheme to spur regions


The state government will offer Victorians 120,000 vouchers worth $200 each in an attempt to stimulate tourism and the regional economy.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Wednesday announced the vouchers as part of $465 million tourism package ahead of next week’s state budget.

Under the $28 million voucher scheme, Victorians will qualify for a voucher if they spend at least $400 on accommodation, attractions or tours in regional Victoria.

In an announcement in regional Victoria, Mr Andrews said Tuesday’s budget would also provide more than $149 million to build new visitor accommodation, improve major tourist trails and promote regional tourism.

“Whether it’s a day trip with the family or a tour along our stunning coast, we’re helping more people get out and enjoy the best Victoria has to offer,” Mr Andrews said.



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Daniel Andrews unveils $200 voucher scheme to spur regions


The state government will offer Victorians 120,000 vouchers worth $200 each in an attempt to stimulate tourism and the regional economy.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Wednesday announced the vouchers as part of $465 million tourism package ahead of next week’s state budget.

Under the $28 million voucher scheme, Victorians will qualify for a voucher if they spend at least $400 on accommodation, attractions or tours in regional Victoria.

In an announcement in regional Victoria, Mr Andrews said Tuesday’s budget would also provide more than $149 million to build new visitor accommodation, improve major tourist trails and promote regional tourism.

Spending initiatives include:



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