Credlin ambushes Dan’s press conference

Tony Abbott's former chief of staff Peta Credlin has ambushed Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews at his daily coronavirus press conference, grilling him on why crucial phone records have not been handed over the hotel quarantine inquiry.

Credlin, a Liberal insider and Sky News host, asked at least a dozen detailed questions about the phone records, which she argued could shed light on who decided to use private security in the bungled quarantine system.

In a statement to the inquiry published today, Victoria Police chief Graham Ashton referred to a six-minute phone call he received where he learnt details about the private security plan, but couldn't remember who the caller was.

Credlin asked the Premier repeatedly why he wouldn't freely hand over the records to the inquiry to clear up finally who made the decision to hire private guards.

She said the inquiry didn't have the power to compel Mr Andrews or Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles to hand over the records.

"For the avoidance of doubt are you, Chris Eccles and indeed your chief of staff prepared to provide your outgoing calls in that six-minute period?" Credlin asked.

"We've been happy all along as the inquiry has sought information from us - from any Victorian - and the answer should be yes," the Premier replied.

Peta Credlin grilled Daniel Andrews on Friday. Picture: Sky News via NCA NewsWire
Peta Credlin grilled Daniel Andrews on Friday. Picture: Sky News via NCA NewsWire

Credlin stepped in again and asked: "Can you provide it anyway whether (the inquiry) ask for it or not? It goes to the heart of the question of who had called Ashton?"

The Premier replied: "I would've thought we well and truly established if not from today's press conference but from many I've done in recent times that the inquiry is independent.

"The inquiry act makes that clear - that's not a matter of opinion, that's a matter of fact - and I'm not going to get into telling the inquiry what they should be seeking, what they should be calling for or finding."

He went on to say it was within the inquiry's power "to raise those matters".

But Credlin interjected, saying it was not within its power.

"Under the Victoria inquiry act, it does not have the power to request from you or your chief of staff or Mr Eccles phone records … but you as an individual, your chief of staff and Mr Eccles can willingly provide information now and completely clear up this six-minute period that has been subject to a whole lot of debate and conjecture," Credlin said.

Daniel Andrews dismissed questions about whether he would provide his telecommunications to the hotel quarantine inquiry. Picture: Sky News via NCA NewsWire
Daniel Andrews dismissed questions about whether he would provide his telecommunications to the hotel quarantine inquiry. Picture: Sky News via NCA NewsWire

 

The Premier replied: "I understand the point you're making but the point misses a key element here.

"I've given evidence, Mr Ashton has given evidence, there's no federal or state prohibition on people being asked a question in fact they're obliged regardless of which government passed the law to answer fully."

But the fiery exchange continued when Credlin stepped in again to say "Ashton wasn't asked".

"He does say that someone called him with that decision (private security guards) - he cant recall who it is …" Credlin said.

"Well, there you go," the Premier chimed in.

"No, no please," Credlin continued on. "He's a former police commissioner who clearly says he had a call in that period of time. He cannot remember the name but he says it was an individual … So if his record of his incoming calls could be obtained we would be able to tell who called him.

"If you, your chief of staff or Mr Eccles provided your phone records at that time and if you did not call Mr Ashton this whole matter would be cleared up."

Former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton was a hot topic of conversation at Friday’s press conference. Picture: COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry via NCA NewsWire
Former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton was a hot topic of conversation at Friday’s press conference. Picture: COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry via NCA NewsWire

 

The Premier replied with harsh words for the TV host.

"With the greatest of respect, if you're putting it to me that somehow you've got the power to put the request of me but the board doesn't, that's just not right," Mr Andrews said.

"If the board requires that information or any other information, they can seek that from anyone they choose.

"I don't agree with the notion that now you and your network have an ability to put something to me and make a request of me but the board of inquiry doesn't. The board has that power."

It comes after former health minister Jenny Mikakos turned on Premier Daniel Andrews, saying his decision to "subvert" usual cabinet process caused Victoria's hotel quarantine disaster.

In the bombshell statement submitted to the hotel quarantine, Ms Mikakos took aim at Mr Andrews and also threw Jobs Minister Martin Pakula under the bus.

"The haste with which this program was established saw the usual cabinet processes subverted with the Premier," her statement said.

Originally published as Credlin ambushes Dan's press conference


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