Andrews continues to abuse legal processes to keep critical COVID order briefs secret

Daniel Andrews continues to block the release of key documents critical to understanding Labor’s flawed management of the Victorian COVID response, desperately trying to prevent Victorians seeing the truth.

Four Freedom of Information matters are listed for a directions hearing at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) at 9:30am on Monday 11 July 2022.

The purpose of the directions hearing is to make arrangements for these matters to progress to a full hearing – over two years since the first application was made.

Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, David Davis, said Victorians deserved transparency and to see the health advice upon which the world’s longest lockdown was based.

“Victorians have every right to access the documents underpinning Andrews’ draconian curfew and lockdowns, his deprival of their freedoms, liberties, livelihoods and, sadly in too many cases, their loved one’s lives.”

“Two years on and Andrews is still fighting tooth and nail to keep his appalling mismanagement of the pandemic a secret. It’s a cover up, pure and simple. What does Andrews have to hide?”

(Proceeding Z917/2020)

First Request

On 7 July 2020 the Department of Health and Human Services received a Freedom of Information request form from the Opposition, requesting access to: “All the working documents, information, advices, materials, scientific assessments, other assessments and monitoring that the Victorian Chief Health Officer and the Deputy Chief Health Officer, or delegate, have relied upon in making [specified] public health orders under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008”.

(Proceeding Z918/2020)

Second Request

On 13 July 2020 the Department of Health and Human Services received a second Freedom of Information request from the Opposition, requesting access to: “All the working documents, information, advices, materials, scientific assessments, other assessments and monitoring that the Victorian Chief Health Officer and the Deputy Chief Health Officer, or delegate, have relied upon in making [specified] public health orders under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008”.

(Proceeding Z920/2020)

Third Request

On 17 July 2020 the Department of Health and Human Services received a third Freedom of Information request from the Opposition, requesting access to: “A copy of the formal (or informal) brief, PPQ or Q&A provided to the Minister for Health regarding [specified] orders or recommendations of the Victorian Chief Health Officer, Deputy Chief Health Officer or delegate Health and Wellbeing Act 2008”.

(Proceeding Z225/2021)

Fourth Request

On 22 December 2020 the Department of Health received a Freedom of Information request from the Opposition seeking access to: “Briefs provided to the Chief Health Officer relating to Public Health Orders made under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 from 9 July 2020 to the date of this request.”

In the case of each request, the Department notified the Opposition of its decision to refuse access to the documents sought under s 25A(1) of the Freedom of Information Act as processing the request would substantially and unreasonably divert resources from its other operations.

In each case the Opposition sought the Information Commissioner’s review of the Department’s decision and in each case the Information Commissioner did not make a decision within the statutory time frame under s49J of the Act giving rise to a VCAT reviewable decision taken to have been made to refuse access to the requested documents.