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Health Minister Jenny Mikakos denies misleading Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry when she claimed she first learned private security guards became involved in the program in May. Footage has emerged of Ms Mikakos standing alongside Jobs Minister Martin Pakula at a press conference on March 29, during which he confirmed private security would be patrolling quarantine hotels. “All of those passengers returning will now undergo mandatory two-week quarantine at those Melbourne hotels with security guards in place,” Mr Pakula said at the time. Ms Mikakos told the hotel quarantine inquiry on Thursday she didn’t know private security guards were being used in the program until an outbreak at the Rydges on Swanston in mid-May. Following a second outbreak at the Stamford Plaza in June, the minister said she became “exasperated” and formed a “very strong view that we should work to replace the security guard workforce”. A number of media outlets have also reported Ms Mikakos received a briefing note sent to caucus by the Premier Daniel Andrews’ office on April 8, which mentions the use of private security in the program. Ms Mikakos’ lawyer Georgina Schoff QC tendered a statement to the inquiry on Friday following the reports. Ms Schoff said her client “categorically denies” she was misleading the inquiry. “I have become aware of media reports today suggesting that there may have been opportunities for me to become aware of the use of security guards in the HQP (hotel quarantine program) prior to the Rydges outbreak in late May 2020,” Ms Mikakos said in the statement. “Consistent with the evidence that I have given the board, I do not recall becoming aware of (and had no reason to turn my mind to) the use of security guards in the HQP on these or any other occasions prior to the Rydges outbreak in late May 2020.” Ms Mikakos states she has “no independent recollection of the matters raised in the media”. Mr Andrews refused to comment on the health minister’s evidence. “What people knew, when they knew it, what people did and the degree to which that was right, wrong or indifferent, that is a matter that the board is actively examining,” he told reporters. Asked if he had confidence in Ms Mikakos, the premier replied: “Yes. And if that were to change, then ministers would not be ministers.” Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the incident proved the Labor government was “full of ministers who cannot tell the truth”. “Jenny Mikakos must go. She has given false evidence to the inquiry, she has lied to Victorians, she is incompetent,” he said. The premier was the final witness at the $3 million inquiry on Friday, which is headed by retired judge Jennifer Coate. It will hand down its final report on November 6. Australian Associated Press

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