Daniel Lewkovitz Interviewed by Peta Credlin (Sky News) – Melbourne Covid19 Isolation Hotel Failure

Transcript of video

Peta Credlin: It will end up I am telling you, one of the biggest scandals of Daniel Andrews’ leadership regardless of how he hides behind the inquiry. Three private security firms employed by the Victorian Government, given the contracts without even having to qualify through a formal tender process. We have heard a lot of other claims too have not we, lack of care moving in and out of hotel spaces, likely transmission to family members, allegations of fake documentation and taxpayers paying for workers that were never on the books. Even sex with those in quarantine if you can believe it.

But it is not just Victoria too. We heard today, private security guards employed to enforce strict hotel quarantine in New South Wales have been sleeping on the job, not sleeping with quarantine people though, just falling asleep on their seats. Tell you what, it cannot get any worse can it?

I am joined now by someone who knows the world of security inside out and the sort of operating protocols that are meant to apply. CEO of Calamity Security, Daniel Lewkovitz joins me now from Sydney.

It is a really sorry tale here Daniel and I am sort of a bit embarrassed for good security companies that theres’ this sort of exposure. This is your area of expertise, the Government hiding behind an inquiry that we are not to see for months and months. Can you tell all of the viewers who are so concerned right around the country, what went wrong here?

Daniel Lewkovitz: In short everything. And it was entirely predictable and it was entirely avoidable.

Now, let me start by saying the security industry has many thousands of men and women who work exceptionally hard for very little thanks and often very little money and it is people like that who get particularly disappointed when things like this happen because this is not a new problem for the security industry and the Victorian government are about to spend three million dollars trying to have a judicial inquiry to work out what happened. I could have told them for free and most of the people in my industry could have predicted exactly what was going to happen.

You have a situation where there is very lax vetting on security providers and then they subcontract the work from Company A to Company B. Company B subcontracts it to Company C. So right at the coal face, you have WhatsApp groups circulating around the Guard Community saying “Who is available for work?” and so forth people just turn up no one actually knows what is happening.

Now given that Victoria is the state that is obsessing over wage theft and introducing its own state laws for a federal problem, this is exactly what leads to exploitation of workers and of course when you pay peanuts, you get monkeys and when you are talking about something that has a life safety element, which this does, that sort of failure is absolutely unacceptable to me.

Peta: It was interesting last night I was speaking to a health expert and they were saying you know not only where there it is this process of “ghosting”, where taxpayers were paying let us say on the floor of a hotel for ten security guards, they were filling in the forms, the pay sheets for ten. As I said, they were being paid to have ten people there but they might have only had three or four. They are saying what was happening then of course was those three or four people were in and out of multiple rooms, so the risk rate for those three or four individuals was much higher, not spread among a broader team and of course they were working longer shifts, going home to their communities.

They were obviously these companies potentially – allegedly we do not know – but looks like they were trying to get more money in as revenue and limit their exposure in terms of expenditure. So make money out of this system.

Why wasn’t there checks and balances from the officials you know, turning up and doing audits, checking that people were doing what they were said to do and what the taxpayer was paying for? Is that normal?

exterior of the Rydges building

Daniel: Well a very good contrast would be what is happened in New South Wales, which as far as I am concerned, has done everything right. Now, in New South Wales, where we also have quarantine hotels and that number is growing, there was a vetted panel of suppliers and the head contractor for each was told specifically “no subcontracting”, which meant there was one butt to kick and there was a line of accountability, and in New South Wales subcontracting without permission is actually illegal under the Security Industry Act. So what happened in Victoria is not necessarily even illegal, it is just dodgy.

In New South Wales, the security companies were vetted daily by SLED, which is the New South Wales Police Security Licensing Enforcement Directorate. Any companies that were found to be doing the wrong thing – and there were some unfortunately – they were gone.

Whereas in Victoria, those are the companies that continue to line their pockets at the total expense and to the disadvantage of legitimate companies that try to do the right thing and so we have ended up in this awful situation. What really frustrates me is that Daniel Andrews, whose government has got so much explaining to do not only over this scandal, but how the virus has spread throughout Victoria, is going to try and you know push some poor old security guard under the bus and try and blame contracts and so forth when his was completely preventable.

Government has a big role in regulating the security industry, keeping a level playing field there and making sure that the right people get rewarded with business and the wrong people get driven out of the industry.

What is happening in Victoria today, demonstrates that when you have pyramid subcontracting where the guard getting paid a few dollars an hour does not even know who he is working for that particular day. A lot of them are new migrants with very limited communication skills and they work in small communities as well, which contributes in this case, to CoViD infection. If you compare that again between say New South Wales and other states, in New South Wales, to be a security licensee, you have to be a citizen or a permanent resident.

Interstate, it is not uncommon for people on student visas to be doing work in the security industry. So that of course means when things go wrong and when they do it’s bad, sometimes fatal, they can just you know, disappear overseas and there is very low accountability but it also means that those guards are subject to exploitation as well because unscrupulous employers tell them that “This is what you are going to do and if you complain, I will have you on the next plane home”.

This has a life safety risk and so even though there is a lot of men and women working very hard in the security industry, at a broader level the security industry is potentially a threat to National Security.

Peta: Everyone at home is watching and listening to you and thinking why on earth weren’t you contracted in to clean up the mess because I tell you what, a lot of the lines from senior politicians have been what is happening in Victoria could have happened everywhere else. It didn’t – that tells you something, but you have explained better than anyone I have heard in the last few weeks, where the systemic failures are both in the security industry in Victoria, the contracting system and I think the lack of oversight by government and government officials.

Thank you very much for your time, Daniel and I can tell you what you will be back on the show in the not too distant future.

Daniel: Thank you.

Peta: Thank you. It is fantastic is it not and it is the detail we need to know.