Victoria’s hotel quarantine program was $24.3 million over budget by mid-June, with senior government officials attributing much of the blowout to the decision to use private security instead of Australian Defence Force personnel.
Internal government emails tendered in evidence at the board of inquiry into hotel quarantine show the Victorian government’s contentious decision to use security guards rather than defence force personnel at COVID-19 quarantine hotels cost taxpayers millions of dollars and delivered windfall profits to the owners of security companies.
“Both Queensland and NSW have enlisted the help of the ADF, which would have significantly decreased expenditure on security,” a Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions official wrote in an email to colleagues. The official’s name has been redacted.
The emails show Victoria’s spending on quarantine was forecast to reach $130 million by the end of June compared to NSW’s $50 million and Queensland’s $19 million. However, the DJPR’s own breakdown of spending said it did not know what was included in the Queensland and NSW figures, and whether they took into account that the Commonwealth was splitting costs approximately 50-50 with the states.