Australia’s Covid response should be reviewed by royal commission, recommends Senate inquiry | Coronavirus

Australia needs a royal commission into the Covid response and should consider new laws to crack down on medical misinformation, the Senate Covid committee has recommended.

In its final report, published on Thursday, the Labor-chaired committee called for greater transparency, including by publishing the decisions of Australia’s health advisers and the secret national Covid commission, which called for a drawn-out economic recovery. by gas.

The report found that although ‘Australia fared much better than other countries’ during the first wave of the pandemic, ‘significant failures’ had caused ‘catastrophic consequences’, including more than 6,000 deaths , of which about 30% in care for the elderly.

“This failure to establish self-sustaining quarantine facilities has resulted in the imposition of overseas arrival caps, which have severely restricted the number of people who can return to Australia, denying thousands of citizens entry to their own country,” he said.

The rollout of the vaccine “has been plagued by the inability to secure sufficient supplies and significant delays which led to missing all the targets the government had set for itself”.

“The government has also failed to address the serious and dangerous misinformation about vaccines being promoted within the government’s own parliamentary ranks.”

The committee called for the creation of a center for disease control and for the federal government to intervene in the case of the value of the work of care for the elderly to support wage increases in the sector – both of which are labor policies.

He called for a review of the powers of the Therapeutic Goods Administration “to combat health misinformation during public health campaigns or emergency response.”

The committee called for all reports of the national Covid commission to be made public, including “all declarations of real and perceived conflicts of interest made by commissioners”; and “all previous and future minutes of the Australian Health Protection Senior Committee”.

He suggested that a “royal commission be set up to examine Australia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic”, in line with calls by Independent Senator Rex Patrick and backed by a number of Labour, Transbank and even from the coalition.

Katy Gallagher, chair of the committee, told reporters in Canberra that the royal commission was justified because the committee had been ‘blocked’ from accessing crucial information. This included national cabinet documents, which the Morrison government says are confidential.

Gallagher did not commit Labour, if elected, to setting up a Covid royal commission, noting that the Senate report was not opposition policy.

Asked about former Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s call for a royal commission in August, Morrison said he wouldn’t be “dragged into these things” because “we’re dealing with the pandemic right now, and this pandemic still has a long way to go. go”.

“So I’m sure at some point in the future it will be time to talk about these reviews or what form they might take,” he said.

On Thursday, Gallagher said Australia was “unprepared” for the pandemic and the federal government “hasn’t jumped in to meet its responsibilities”.

She cited the Morrison government’s failures on “quarantine and vaccines”, which caused “cascading consequences”.

“We think some of the failures have prolonged the lockdowns, we’ve had significant outbreaks as a result – obviously more cases, and sadly more deaths.”

In a dissenting report, Coalition senators said the Australian government had “one of the lowest death rates and one of the strongest economic recoveries in the world”.

Although it began as a bipartisan initiative, Coalition senators said the committee had become “a vehicle in which Labor senators have pursued partisan attacks on the government”.

There had been a “remarkably high degree of government cooperation with this committee”, they said.

Norman D. Briggs