The Federal Government has announced a 12-month inquiry to investigate the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the inquiry will not investigate actions taken by state and territory governments without federal instruction.
It will be independent of the Government. A final report will be submitted in September next year.
Health and safety matters, such as the decision to enter a lockdown, were mostly left to the states and territories.
However, the Federal Government, led by then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison, had several responsibilities to support Australians.
This included the $90 billion ‘JobKeeper’ payment, Australia’s biggest-ever one-off financial support measure. This gave eligible Australians a $1,500 fortnightly support payment.
Morrison also formed ‘National Cabinet’ during the pandemic. This is a regular meeting of leaders at the federal, state, and territory levels, which is still active today.
However, the Government faced significant criticism for what was seen as a delayed response to securing COVID-19 vaccines in 2021.
It was argued that the response led to many lockdowns staying in place for longer than necessary.
What will the COVID inquiry look at?
The inquiry will investigate the Government’s vaccine supply deals, and the quarantine facilities (such as hotels) that were used to limit COVID-19 transmission across Australia.
It will also examine the availability of mental health support services during lockdowns.
It will investigate the responsibilities of state and territory governments, but not their specific actions, such as decisions to enter lockdowns.
Why does the COVID inquiry matter?
The Government says the report will assist Australia with its preparedness for future pandemics.
The inquiry’s final report will likely include several recommendations. It will be up to the Federal Government to decide whether it implements those recommendations.
The Opposition has called the inquiry a “copout” and a “witch hunt” against the Morrison Government.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had previously promised an inquiry into all decisions made during the pandemic, including those by states and territories.
“The Prime Minister owes it to the Australian people to have a proper understanding of what happened at a state and federal level,” Dutton said.