AFL star linked to Melbourne hotel quarantine decision

 

An email from the Sydney-based security business at the centre of Melbourne's quarantine farce to one of its subcontractor companies over "leering" at nurses and "hitting on" hotel workers reveals the subcontractor was used because of a "significant relationship" with an AFL star.

Unified Security was responsible for the bulk of quarantine work in a three-month arrangement worth $30 million-plus and engaged subcontractor Elite Protection Services (EPS) to guard the Rydges on Swanston, which became a significant source of infections in Victoria's second wave of Covid.

According to evidence before the official hotel quarantine inquiry, on May 11 the Principal Policy Officer for Inclusion and Employment at Victoria's Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions wrote to Unified's majority owner David Millward raising "issues" including "leering comments towards nurses" and "speaking to hotel staff in ways that are overly friendly and hitting on them".

Unified Security majority owner David Millward. Picture: News Corp Australia
Unified Security majority owner David Millward. Picture: News Corp Australia


It is unclear why the contact came from the Inclusion unit, however Unified is classified as Indigenous-owned due to Mr Millward's heritage and the inquiry has heard the department considered engaging it was "in keeping with the state government's social procurement objectives of utilising Aboriginal businesses".

This view was formed despite Unified not being on the government's list of preferred security providers.

Four hours after the alarm was raised with Mr Millward, Unified's Victorian manager Nigel Coppick emailed the policy officer saying security staff at the Rydges would be replaced.

Four days later, after providing the department with a report and "continuous improvement process", a livid Mr Coppick wrote to EPS owner Andrew McLean.

 

The Rydges on Swanston hotel was linked to one of the sources of Melbourne's coronavirus outbreaks. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
The Rydges on Swanston hotel was linked to one of the sources of Melbourne's coronavirus outbreaks. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

 

"This is the second time you have failed Unified Security Group during our COVID-19 operations," he said in an email tendered to the inquiry. "I afforded EPS an additional opportunity off the back of a significant relationship with Andrew Walker. This is something I do not normally do, however as can be displayed, this was my error.

"The potential reputational damage to our current position with Victoria Government is to (sic) significant to risk with further engagement with EPS, thus we are terminating our relationship with EPS effective immediately," Mr Coppick said.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the Andrew Walker referred to by Mr Coppick is a former Carlton AFL star who played more than 200 games for the Blues over 12 years to 2016.

 

Andrew Walker in action for Carlton. Picture: Michael Klein
Andrew Walker in action for Carlton. Picture: Michael Klein

 

Unified has strong ties in Australia's elite football codes. Mr Millward provided security for the Manly Sea Eagles and trained league bad boy John Hopoate to the Australian heavyweight boxing title. Also, one of Unified's directors is Warren Liddiard, brother of former Parramatta Eels player David Liddiard.

In his written statement to the inquiry, Mr Millward said Unified was first contacted about providing quarantine security in an email from the department's inclusion unit received at 11.33pm on Friday, March 27.

The following night Mr Millward drove from Sydney to Melbourne to deliver a car load of personal protective equipment to workers before buses of returning international travellers began arriving at hotel quarantine at 8.30am Sunday.

Mr Millward said in his statement that Mr Walker had once been a business partner of EPS's Mr McLean.

Email replies from Mr McLean to Unified said he had found a single EPS was responsible for both the leering and hitting on. Mr McLean said he considered the behaviour unacceptable.

Mr McLean made no comment when contacted by The Telegraph. Mr Walker did not respond, but there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by him or any of his employees. Mr Walker owns and runs a "100 per cent Aboriginal controlled" company called A2B, which provides services including security training.

Unified told The Telegraph that Mr Millward and Mr Walker had a pre-existing "professional relationship", collaborating to identify "opportunities to train and employ young Aboriginal people."

Mr Walker had been a point of contact with EPS and past experience gave Unified confidence "he could rectify ... issues".

Originally published as AFL star linked to Melbourne hotel quarantine decision


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