Calls grow for probe powers into Western Australia's COVID response

As Western Australia prepares for a review of its handling of the COVID-19 Pandemic, opposition leaders are calling for increased powers for the expert panel investigating the state's response.

Calls grow for probe powers into Western Australia's COVID response
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The government of Western Australia is facing calls from opposition leaders to increase the powers of the expert panel investigating the state's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three-member panel, which includes former Liberal health minister John Day, was recently announced and is expected to release its report by mid-year.

The review will examine various aspects of the state's response to the pandemic, including lockdowns, mask mandates, and border closures.

Nationals leader Mia Davies welcomed the review but said it was something the opposition had been calling for two years.

"We hope (the experts) have unfettered access to the information in terms of how it's been managed over the course of the last two to three years," she said. "And we would hope the report is presented to parliament, and certainly there’ll be an opportunity for people to provide open and transparent feedback."

However, emergency services spokesman Martin Aldridge called for the panel's powers to be increased, saying the opposition preferred a special inquiry or a royal commission-style investigation to ensure independence and the ability to compel agencies to provide information. "There was significant government expenditure, there was significant disruption to our economy at different stages, there are going to be lessons to be learned, and I hope that they are learned in a transparent and accountable way," he said.

The Australian Medical Association of Western Australia expressed concern that the panel lacks a medical expert and is instead made up of political and corporate governance experts.

Branch President Mark Duncan-Smith said he hoped the review would also examine the social and economic impacts of the emergency pandemic measures in addition to the health impacts. Despite these concerns, Duncan-Smith said he expected the review to show that the state's hard border restrictions were "very effective."

"We had a situation of Covid containment until we got to a good level of vaccination," he said. "As a result, we had one of the lowest rates of mortality anywhere in the world."

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  • By Avi Yemini

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