The state of Victoria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is now the most examined and investigated of any jurisdiction in Australia. While Australia’s response to the pandemic is internationally recognised as a success, Victoria’s second wave – caused by ‘leaks’ from a poorly managed quarantine system and running from early May until the end of October 2020 – was the most significant failure.
This case study draws on three inquiries into aspects of the Victorian government’s handling of the second wave and asks what lessons can be learned. The inquiries found systemic failures by government, as well as problems with decision-making reflecting on ministerial responsibility. The case study identifies key decision-making points as well as both long and short-term issues of governance including: the impact of emergency public health responses on human rights obligations; the consequences of government outsourcing of key services; the quality of emergency planning, particularly for pandemics and the implications of greater centralisation of policy; and decision-making, including through the establishment and operations of “National Cabinet”.
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