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The Senate committee examining Australia’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has recommended the establishment of a royal commission, arguing the case for a full-blown inquiry with investigative powers is “overwhelming”. Source: The Guardian.

In a report tabled in an out of parliamentary session on Friday, the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee said a royal commission should be created to examine the key elements of the pandemic’s emergency phase.

These should include virus testing, contact tracing, quarantine protocols, the impact of lockdowns, the procurement of vaccines and the capacity of the health, education, aged care and housing and domestic violence systems to respond to the crisis.

It advocated looking at these elements in light of costs and benefits in order to record lessons to be learned. The report also said the commission should examine the effect of these policies on different sections of the community.

Among the committee’s seven members, the decision to call for a royal commission was not universal.

The Coalition members – whose government under Scott Morrison was in office through the pandemic’s emergency phase – called for a royal commission, along with the Greens. Members who were part of the Albanese Labor Government argued their own now-completed Senate inquiry would suffice.

“There are strong views with respect to a range of issues, including the response of federal and state governments,” the committee’s majority report said. It was “imperative” that Australia learn from COVID-19 in preparing for any future pandemic.

The committee is chaired by the Liberal Senator Paul Scarr and has one other Liberal and one Nationals member. The sole Greens representative, Senator David Shoebridge, also endorsed the call.

In disagreeing with the royal commission call, deputy chair and Labor senator Nita Green and fellow Labor senator Varun Ghosh pointed to a separate government-commissioned independent 12-month inquiry into the Covid-19 response, led by Robyn Kruk AO, which is due to report on September 30.


‘Overwhelming’ need for royal commission into Covid pandemic response in Australia, Senate committee finds (By Karen Middleton, The Guardian)