Melbourne’s lockdown curfew has been locked in despite a second senior Victorian government official distancing himself from the controversial COVID-19 measure.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton on Thursday revealed he only found out about the curfew a couple of hours before the government decided on it.
That comes two days after Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the curfew was not his recommendation.
It’s created another coronavirus battlefront for Premier Daniel Andrews, who continues to staunchly defended the measure.
The government is already under fire for its botched hotel quarantine program and the management of contact tracing, two key factors in Victoria’s disastrous second wave.
The roadmap that Mr Andrews announced on Sunday to bring the state out of its virus restrictions also has sharply divided opinion.
Victoria had seven more deaths on Thursday, taking the state toll to 701 and the national figure to 788.
But new case numbers have dropped to 51 and the 14-day averages, critical factors in the roadmap plan, are down to 70.1 for Melbourne and 4.5 for regional Victoria.
While acknowledging the draconian nature of the curfew, Mr Andrews said it is working.
“The term ‘curfew’ is rather loaded but, at the end of the day, it is effective, just as all of these rules … are effective in reducing movement,” he said.
Mr Andrews became increasingly frustrated during his daily media conference as he was questioned repeatedly about the curfew.
“The only people who should be upset with the curfew are those who were planning to go out against the rules,” he said.
“They are working because case numbers are coming down.”
Mr Patton confirmed Victoria Police had no input into whether the curfew should be introduced.
It was brought in on August 2, when the state of disaster was announced.
While its start time will be wound back from 8pm to 9pm next Monday, it is set to remain until October 26 as part of the roadmap plan.
“As best as I can work out, our policy area was provided a copy of the proposed guidelines … a couple of hours before they were signed off,” Mr Patton told 3AW.
“We had never requested a curfew.”
But Mr Andrews said the government consulted with Victoria Police almost daily about virus issues and the curfew had made their jobs easier.
He was also unrepentant about Mr Sutton’s revelation.
“The notion that the government can’t do anything whatsoever unless the chief health officer provides it in detailed advice, that doesn’t make any sense,” the premier said.
The premier had some good news on Thursday, saying regional restrictions could ease by late next week as case numbers continue to fall.
According to a Roy Morgan survey, he also has a 70 per cent approval rating.
And 63 per cent agreed that the curfew should stay beyond this week.
State Treasurer Tim Pallas also announced that the government would waive the vacant residential land tax for properties that are empty this year.
The government said it would save property owners a combined $6 million.