Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:28): I present the transcripts of evidence and move:
That the transcripts of evidence lie on the table and the report be published.
Motion agreed to.
Ms PATTEN: I move:
That the Council take note of the report.
It is a nice coincidence that the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee report on its inquiry into COVID-19 was tabled as well today. The Legal and Social Issues Committee inquiry into contact tracing and testing we adopted within six weeks. We were asked to inquire into this on 28 October, and we reported on 10 December. I would like to say that I was grateful for the many organisations, including the department, who were so quick in responding to our requests for information, for data and for experiences. We heard from many members of the community. We held three public hearings. It was a very interesting process. There was no doubt that what we found was that the system was completely overwhelmed and that in many places it failed us. When I say ‘failed’, people died. Families spent this Christmas mourning the loss of people. But what we were able to do was look very much at the current system and how it is working and what has changed.
I am certainly very grateful to Professor Alan Finkel, who provided us with some of his assessments.
He gave us some direction into what a top-class system of contact tracing and testing should look like, and I think we can be relatively confident that that system is in place now, that we are seeing test results returning within 24 hours, that we are seeing close contacts contacted within 48 hours. But this is not just the work of governments and the work of organisations. This is the work of Victorians as well—the very hard work of Victorians. But we did hear that the government was late to the table with a digital data system; that our centralised health system has not assisted us in the rollout, particularly in regional areas; that we did not take advantage of some of our public health networks and some of our GP networks when we could have, and I think that was especially and crucially important when we were looking at our CALD communities. I think we saw some real failures, but I think we have also seen that some considerable changes have been made to our systems in Victoria.
I would also like to acknowledge that our Victorian health workers, both at the front line and in the contact tracing, were working around the clock, 24/7, throughout 2020. It was an extraordinarily difficult situation, and sometimes they did not have the tools they needed. I would also particularly like to thank the Parliamentary Budget Officer of the Parliament, Mr Anthony Close, who for the first time I think actually provided a parliamentary committee with some detailed budget advice as to how the money was spent and where the money went. I think that really assisted us in our deliberations.
This is not over, and as we have just heard from the announcement this morning from the Premier and the Minister for Health, we are going to see further requests for further extensions of our state of emergency—or we will see legislation come before this house for debate about this. COVID is not over. We are seeing what is happening across the world, also we are seeing what is happening in Perth and around here, so this is not over. We need to continue to monitor the situation. We have made a series of recommendations around how we think we can keep monitoring our systems to ensure that they are fit for purpose and ensure that they are meeting the needs of what we are now learning to be an ever-changing pandemic, and we will have to be nimble in our response to that.
Finally, I would really like to thank the team in the Council standing committees office, who worked so hard on this inquiry and turned it around so quickly: our inquiry officer, Caitlin Connally; our research assistants, Meagan Murphy and Holly McLean; Justine Donohue and Cat Smith for administrative assistance; and of course the unflappable committee manager, Lilian Topic. I would also like to thank all of the members of the committee who really came forward and worked respectfully and openly. We took this on professionally and diligently. I commend the report to the house.