Australia

COVID zoom tweet sparks anger

A Labor MP’s tweet about a Zoom meeting has sparked a series of angry responses from opposing politicians, claiming they are continuing to be left out of vital COVID-19 briefings.

State Labor MP for the southern metropolitan Melbourne region Nina Taylor tweeted on Thursday night about a coronavirus meeting, where Health Minister Jenny Mikakos briefed the Labor caucus over Zoom.

But Liberal MPs who “haven’t had a single briefing” with the Victorian Health Minister said the tweet was a “social media brag”.

“It’s terribly frustrating the government is not acting in a bipartisan way on this COVID-19 issue,” member for northern Victoria Wendy Lovell said.

“We’ve absolutely had no briefings – we are searching for answers and clarity ourselves.

“I’m dealing with countless concerns from constituents – it’s relentless – and it would be a little easier if we had direct communication from the other side of government about the decisions being made.

“This is an unprecedented crisis and instead of bragging about Zoom meetings on Twitter which we’ve never have any access to and playing politics, there needs to be a bipartisan approach.”

State Liberal MP for Gembrook Brad Battin said he also had not been invited to a single COVID-19 briefing from the Health Minister.

He said there should be ongoing coronavirus discussions and meetings “no matter what side of government”.

“I have between 15-350 constituents contacting my office a day wanting accurate, detailed information they rely on, but the government is unwilling to share any information with us about key decisions that are impacting lives and livelihoods daily,” Mr Battin said.

“There is a lot of confusion in what can and can’t be open for instance. In one case I had a furniture maker who works alone in his factory on high-end designs but can’t go to work, yet you can line up with others for a takeaway coffee – it defies logic.

“These lockdown rules are always changing and politicians need clarity so we can give people answers.”

Jenny Mikakos has faced increased pressure from media and politicians for avoiding scrutiny on the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a recent parliament sitting the Health Minister refused to answer questions from her colleagues when questioned about the state government’s botched hotel quarantine program.

“I will take the member’s question on notice. I will provide her with a written answer in accordance with the standing orders,” she said multiple times to various MPs.

At a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday Ms Mikakos again baulked at questions over hotel quarantine, thought to be responsible for unleashing the state’s second coronavirus wave.

“Are you saying today, Minister, today was the first time you have become aware as Minister Health in the state of Victoria in the worst pandemic in a lifetime, it’s the first time today that you knew who was running your hotel quarantine program designed to keep Victorians safe?” Mr Riordan asked.

Ms Mikakos replied: “What inevitably will happen is there will be new revelations in the media on a day-to-day basis, as there have been already to date, and that’s why it’s important that there is a thorough examination of what happened.

“We all want answers. I want answers and Victorians want answers. And the inquiry will allow us to get to the bottom of it.”

Jenny Mikakos’ office was contacted for comment.

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