Victorian Lockdown Briefings to be Released After Legal Battle

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Victorian Government Forced to Release COVID-19 Lockdown Briefings

Following a nearly four-year legal battle, the Victorian government will be forced to release thousands of pages of secret briefings that informed its COVID-19 lockdown decisions. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled in favor of Liberal MP David Davis, who had filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the documents.

The briefings, estimated to be around 6,900 pages, played a crucial role in numerous lockdown decisions, including the controversial closure of children's playgrounds in August 2021.

Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto welcomed the VCAT decision, stating that Victorians, particularly businesses, have a right to know the reasoning behind the prolonged lockdowns that significantly impacted their lives and livelihoods. He criticized the government's lack of transparency and accountability, emphasizing that the public deserved to understand the basis for decisions that had such profound consequences.

The government has yet to decide whether it will appeal VCAT's ruling. Government minister Anthony Carbines defended the government's actions, stating that public safety and health were prioritized throughout the pandemic.

The Department of Health had initially objected to the FOI request, citing concerns about diverting resources and the significant processing time and cost involved. However, VCAT ruled that the work involved would not substantially disrupt the department's operations.

Pesutto expressed suspicion that the government's reluctance to release the briefings stemmed from concerns about exposing flaws in their decision-making process. He emphasized the public's right to information, particularly regarding matters that directly impacted their rights and livelihoods.

This decision echoes a previous ruling in October 2021, where the state government was ordered to release details of confidential lockdown briefings surrounding a five-day lockdown. The Public Access Deputy Commissioner found that the documents contained important information about the government's COVID-19 response and the rationale behind public health orders.

The release of these briefings is expected to shed light on the Victorian government's decision-making process during the pandemic and provide valuable insights into the rationale behind the lockdowns.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09