“I established the Board of Inquiry into the Hotel Quarantine Program to find the answers that all Victorian are entitled to,” he said.
“Given the program was established as a decision of National Cabinet I always anticipated that I would need to appear in order to provide the context for its beginnings.
“I can confirm I have been asked to appear on Wednesday 23 September and I look forward to assisting the Inquiry in its important work.”
Mr Pakula’s Department of Jobs, Precincts and the Regions hired the security contractors for the quarantine hotels, but evidence to the inquiry has established that it was Ms Mikakos’ Health Department that was in charge of much of the day to day running of the program.
As Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Ms Neville is likely to be questioned about the decision to deploy private security to the hotels instead of police or military personnel after the inquiry heard evidence that former police chief Graham Ashton played a leading role in the decision.
Some of the other major figures in Victoria’s pandemic response, including Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, his former deputy Annaliese van Diemen as well as Mr Ashton, are due to give evidence this week.
On Tuesday, when the inquiry resumes, it will hear from Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp, who has been at the centre of a debate about whether Australian Defence Force assistance was offered to the Victorian government.
Also on Tuesday, former emergency management commissioner Craig Lapsley will appear along with Chris Eagle from Fire Forest Management Victoria. Mr Eagle, who was seconded to the pandemic response, was one of the key people involved in the day-to-day management of the scheme when it began in late March.
On Wednesday, Professor Sutton will appear along with Jason Helps and Andrea Spiteri, Health Department officials who previously served as state controllers for health, effectively the lead position in the pandemic response.
Mr Ashton will appear on Thursday along with police chief Shane Patton.
The inquiry, which began public hearings in late July, has heard revealing evidence of the rushed establishment of the scheme, poor infection control protocols in hotels and substandard training for guards and other workers in the program.
Last week, the prove led by retired judge Jennifer Coate heard health bureaucrats stopped Professor Sutton taking control of the state’s coronavirus response against his wishes and in contradiction to the state’s own pandemic plan.
The inquiry heard that Health Department deputy secretary Melissa Skilbeck advised her department secretary that Professor Sutton would be too busy in his lead advisory role and as the public face of the pandemic response to also serve as state controller.
Professor Sutton didn’t agree with the decision, the inquiry was told.Senior health officials told the inquiry that the sidelining of Professor Sutton on crucial matters such as hotel quarantine and Melbourne’s curfew had hampered its handling of the pandemic.
Noel Towell is State Political Editor for The Age