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Morrison and Albanese must declare their stance on a COVID-19 Royal Commission

4 April 2022

Independent Senator Rex Patrick has called on the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader to commit in the Federal election campaign to establish a Royal Commission to investigate and report on the Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic response. 

“A Royal Commission inquiry is essential to learn all the lessons we can from the Australia’s COVID-19 response,” Senator Patrick said.

“COVID-19 has been the biggest public policy challenge Australia has faced since the Second World War and it’s essential that we review that experience in the most comprehensive way possible; across all Governments – national, state and territory.”

“Only a Royal Commission can take a deep dive into the decisions and actions of the Federal and State governments over the past two years.  Scrutiny is essential and we need to get moving on this before memories fade and documents are shredded.”

I first called for the establishment of a Royal Commission nine months ago. The need for a comprehensive national investigation was absolutely clear then and it’s equally clear now.” 

“On 19 January 2022, I wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging him to give positive consideration to the establishment of a Federal Royal Commission to inquire into and report on Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic response. I urged the Prime Minister to make the necessary financial provisions for such an inquiry in the forthcoming Federal budget.

“Regrettably, in a Senate Estimates committee hearing last week, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham indicated that the Federal Government has not yet undertaken any planning for a COVID-19 Royal Commission or any other whole-of-government review.  Senator Birmingham further confirmed that the Prime Minister has not yet discussed the issue with the Premiers and Chief Ministers and no specific funding has been allocated in the Federal Budget for any inquiry over the next twelve months, though there is general Covid-19 contingency funding available.”

“I also wrote to Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese urging him to lend bipartisan support to the establishment of a Royal Commission and, in the event that the Prime Minister is unwilling to progress this matter, for the Labor Party to publicly commit to establish such an inquiry in the event that they are able to form government following the Federal election. Mr Albanese has not revealed the Opposition’s position on this issue.”   

“My call for a Royal Commission has already been backed by independent MPs and Senators including Helen Haines and Zali Steggall.  A number of Coalition and Labor MPs have expressed support for establishment of a Royal Commission. These MPs include Julian Hill, Anika Wells, Patrick Gorman and Anne Aly on the Labor side; and Matt Canavan, Sam McMahon and Gerard Rennick in the Coalition. One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson has also expressed support.”

“It's now time for Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese to declare their positions on the question of a Royal Commission so that their intentions are clear in the election campaign.”

“If they are not prepared to support a Royal Commission inquiry over the next twelve months, they need to explain why.” 

“Only a Royal Commission will have the authority, power and scope to cover the breadth and depth of issues arising in Australia’s COVID-19 response. Only a Royal Commission can pursue a fully independent investigation, and deliver authoritative findings to serve as a guide for future policy.”

”Governments must deal with the continuing challenges of the pandemic, but many response actions have now been wound up and ongoing work can’t delay what is a very necessary and proper process of scrutiny and accountability.”

“A Royal Commission is an essential part of our nation’s COVID-19 response.”

Copies of Senator Patrick's letters to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader are available here.