Evidence has emerged throwing doubt over sworn testimony Health Minister Jenny Mikakos gave on Thursday to the official inquiry into the Victorian government’s ill-fated hotels quarantine program.
There was even more trouble for the minister on Friday afternoon as the union movement’s peak body, Trades Hall, backed the Health Workers Union in its dispute with Ms Mikakos over a hospital privatisation deal, but not the union’s call for the minister to be sacked.
Ms Mikakos told the inquiry she first learnt in May that private security guards were working on the hotel quarantine program.
But footage from a press conference in March shows Ms Mikakos standing beside her cabinet colleague Martin Pakula as he told the media that private security had been deployed to the hotels.
Briefings to Labor state MPs from April, seen by The Age, also mention that private guards had been hired.
The documents and the press conference footage throw doubt over Ms Mikakos’ claim in her evidence to the inquiry on Thursday that she first learnt of the guards working on the program in May after an outbreak of COVID-19 at one of the hotels.
Meanwhile, the group of unions that make up the Council of Trades Hall voted on Friday to back the HWU in its dispute over a proposal by the government to ask for private bids to rebuild Frankston Hospital.
The dispute sparked a furious public attack on Ms Mikakos by HWU Secretary Diana Asmar on Thursday.
Ms Asmar accused the minister of "breathtaking incompetence", "arrogance and pomposity" and demanded she be sacked by Premier Daniel Andrews.
The draft resolution voted on by the Trades Hall Council, says the government failed to consult with unions over their plans for Frankston Hospital and called for the expressions of interest process to be rescinded.
But the council did not endorse Ms Asmar’s attack on the minister, Trades Hall secretary Luke Hilakari told The Age.
"No, not at all, we didn't say that, it wasn't discussed," he said.
"I don’t think she should be sacked, I think this [hospital] issue should be resolved."
Mr Andrews stood by Ms Mikakos on Friday, before his own appearance at the inquiry, saying all his ministers had his confidence.
Ms Mikakos’ office has been contacted for comment.
More to come.
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