A federal government inquiry into the response to the Covid pandemic has broadened its scope and will examine the evidence used by state leaders to order lockdowns.
A paragraph recently appearing on the inquiry’s website says it will: “Consider how evidence informed decisions about interventions, such as lockdowns, in different jurisdictions across Australia.” »
THE The government was widely criticized after the inquiry, announced in September, specifically said it would not examine “unilateral” decisions made by state and territory governments.
Measures such as lockdowns, school closures, mask requirements and the strengthening of state borders were all within the control of state and territory governments, so under the terms of reference, they would not be in the spotlight.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton claimed Labor premiers were immune from scrutiny, saying the inquiry should be able to order states and territories to participate.
Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay said the inquiry would be a toothless version of a royal commission.
Evidence used to declare lockdowns will be examined by the federal government’s Covid inquiry after it was previously stated that prime ministers’ decisions would not be included (pictured: Melbourne during the 2021 lockdown)
Former Victorian premier Dan Andrews oversaw the world’s longest lockdown in Melbourne. He recently resigned, saying the state’s top job had exhausted him.
Prime ministers’ decisions about when to implement lockdowns or closures, for how long and how they would be enforced will still be excluded from the inquiry, but the change means it will examine whether the measures themselves were supported by evidence.
Other rules introduced between 2020 and 2022 included restrictions on outdoor exercise, restrictions on group gatherings, a ban on traveling more than a few kilometers from one’s residence, and nighttime curfews.
The aim of this new inclusion in the mandate is to examine the extent to which evidence has been used during policy development so that the process can be improved in the future, rather than passing every decision made by the prime ministers under the microscope.
“It is not the job of the inquiry to question why a lockdown took place in a particular context, but how the evidence was used in the process of (this) decision-making,” said the one of the three people responsible for the investigation, Catherine Bennett, at the Sydney Morning Herald. .
Mr Dutton has previously said it was a “protection racket” against Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and WA Premier Mark McGowan.
“For the Prime Minister of our country to side with Daniel Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk over the people of Victoria, or even the people of our country, is a shameful act,” he said .
Health and childcare experts want the inquiry to examine the impact of the pandemic on children, including school closures.
Melbourne’s CBD deserted in the depths of lockdown in 2021 (photo)
National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds said the inquiry should “shine a spotlight” on children’s needs as the country grapples with young people’s mental health, school refusal and outcomes schools.
“School is so much more than just academic learning that can be replaced by Zoom, and that social learning environment was missing,” she said.
Ms Hollonds said she would personally write to the inquiry to recommend that it take inspiration from how other countries have looked after their children during the pandemic.
“I would perhaps recommend that we consider the creation of a multidisciplinary expert council on child welfare that could provide advice to governments at critical times like this,” she said.
“And ideally, there would be a minister for children whose responsibility would be to pay attention to the unique needs of children and young people.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr are now the only state and territory leaders to remain in office since the National Cabinet was formed in March 2020 to help drive Australia’s response to Covid.
Andrews, McGowan, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein all said the Covid crises had exhausted them and played a role in their resignations.
Public submissions to the inquiry began on Monday and a final report from the panel will be delivered by September 30, 2024.