As Health Minister Jenny Mikakos came under fire for for missing a Parliamentary deadline and refusing to answer questions, the opposition was forced to confront its own controversy.

Opposition leader Michael O’Brien called the attack by Mr Finn “inappropriate” but said the Liberal MP would not be disciplined further.
Liberal MP and upper house leader David Davis said Ms Mikakos had shown arrogance and disregard for Victorians as they suffered under stage three and stage four coronavirus restrictions.
Hot water, again: Not for the first time in the coronavirus pandemic, Bernie Finn was warned over his language.Credit:Jason South
“It’s outrageous that the minister thumbed her nose at Parliament and more importantly Victorians on Tuesday. And today she has again refused to meet the requirements to answer questions,” Mr Davis said.
“A minister of the crown should be answering legitimate questions, even if they’re painful and reflect directly on her failings on contact tracing and quarantine. This was an arrogant and wilful refusal. She just doesn’t get it.”
The written responses from Ms Mikakos, delivered about 5.30pm on Wednesday, said Victoria currently had 800 intensive care beds with capacity to scale up by hundreds, and that the state’s contact tracing resources were sufficient.
“There are now well over 2000 people undertaking this vital work including call centre staff and well continue to provide the team with the resources they need to manage this unprecedented global pandemic,” she wrote.
Ms Mikakos refused to answer two questions relating to hotel quarantine, stating she “will not be providing a commentary while the inquiry is ongoing”. Her refusal came hours after the former judge leading the inquiry said there was no legal reason preventing ministers from publicly answering questions about the quarantine hotel debacle.
The Health Minister defended her conduct on Wednesday and said it was on Mr O’Brien to explain why his party insisted the upper house sat despite Professor Sutton’s advice that it would be “prudent to consider delaying” Parliament.
“As MPs, as community leaders, we do need to demonstrate some leadership here … and that is why Parliament should not have sat this week,” Ms Mikakos said.
Hours after Parliament sat on Tuesday, Liberal MP Bernie Finn wrote on Facebook: “The entirely pathetic Health Minister Jenny Mikakos is a disgrace to Parliament.
“She refused to answer all questions of her today. How the hell does she keep her job?”
He went on to make a lewd suggestion that she must have incriminating “photos of Despot Dan”.
Mr O’Brien, who called for former deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen to be sacked over a tweet comparing COVID-19 to Captain Cook’s arrival in Australia, said “every single political party” had posted inappropriate comments on social media.
“It’s a distraction, it was something that was inappropriate and it was deleted and you move on,” Mr O’Brien said.
Victorian opposition leader Michael O’Brien called Mr Finn’s post ‘inappropriate’.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui
This is not the first time Mr O’Brien has cautioned his team against using inappropriate commentary against the government during the coronavirus pandemic.
In May, he warned Kew MP Tim Smith against using the word “loony” to describe the Premier just weeks after warning his party room to curb the political aggression.
At the time, he also took a swipe at Mr Finn who posted a meme on his social media likening the Premier to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and calling him “Despot Dan” and “Kim Jong Dan”.
Premier Daniel Andrews brushed off Mr Finn’s jibe on Wednesday.
“I’m just not prepared to invest any of my time or our collective energies on someone who is deeply irrelevant to the work I’m doing,” he said.
The Premier also backed Ms Mikakos’ conduct and said he was satisfied with his government’s priorities.
“If anyone thinks that were going to be taking front-line staff in the Health Department away from contact tracing, for instance, to deal with those issues [parliamentary questions], theyd be wrong to think that,” Mr Andrews said.
“Everyone is focused on what they should be focused on. And that is saving lives, stopping the spread of this virus and getting to the other side of it as quickly as we possibly can.”
The questions Health Minister Jenny Mikakos refused to answer in Parliament

  1. On what date in March or April were you advised there were serious issues with the hotel security program?
  2. Why is the government not listening to the advice from former federal Department of Health professor Stephen Duckett, Melbourne University professor Tony Blakely or Bill Bowtell, adjunct professor at University of New South Wales, and other authors of the Medical Journal of Australia article, which advocates the pursuit of coronavirus elimination rather than than yo-yo pattern we are now in?
  3. The health department has refused opposition requests to access the background documents, working papers and the scientific papers that have informed the health orders issued since March. What do you have to hide or what do you have to cover up that would be made evident in these documents?
  4. The Doherty Institute has undertaken a genomic report into Victoria’s COVID-19 positive cases. Will you release the report today?
  5. What is the current utilisation and spare capacity of ICU beds and ventilators, and how does that utilisation rate justify the recently announced stricter lockdown measures?
  6. The public health team that critically includes contact tracing had less funding in 2019-20 than in 2016-17. Is it not a fact, minister, that you have cut public health, including contact tracing, to the bone, leaving Victorians exposed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit?

Michael is a state political reporter for The Age.
Sumeyya is a state political reporter for The Age.