Bureaucrats need to be held to account over hotel quarantine

Bureaucrats need to be held to account over hotel quarantine

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Every modern democratic government is made up of elected officials and a bureaucracy. Victoria’s state government is no different. Those brought to power by the people, from Premier Daniel Andrews down, are entrusted with overseeing and enacting the laws of the land, while government departments are responsible for implementation.

In principle, the doctrine of ministerial responsibility ensures that it is the elected officials who are accountable for all government actions. In practice, as the state hotel quarantine inquiry is making clear, the bureaucracy must also be held to account.

Professor Brett Sutton appears before the hotel quarantine inquiry.

Much of the public blame for the hotel debacle has focused on the hiring of private security guards to monitor returned travellers. There is no doubt that hiring a casual workforce with poor job security who often operated across multiple workplaces was a bad call.

But there is a deeper, more systemic problem that is playing out before the inquiry. Mr Andrews highlighted the issue, probably inadvertently, even before the public hearings began. When asked who he believed was at fault in making the fateful decisions leading up to the hotel outbreaks, he came up blank.