Senator Katy Gallagher chairs the Senate select committee on COVID-19 (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

While Australia is only starting to look the other side of the coronavirus outbreak, reviews and inquiries have already begun into various organisations’ handling of the crisis.

An inquiry into the federal government’s response began this morning, while an inquiry into the Ruby Princess saga continues today. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also called for greater powers for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to investigate disease outbreaks — alongside calls for a review. 

COVID-19 inquiry begins

An inquiry into Australia’s coronavirus response, chaired by Labor Senator Katy Gallagher, has kicked off in Parliament House today.

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy has appeared in person, with other committee members — including Liberal Senator James Paterson as deputy chair, with senators from major parties, plus independent Jacqui Lambie — attending virtually.

The inquiry was set up to allow other parties to scrutinise the government and national cabinet’s response to the pandemic. The national cabinet, which is bound by secrecy and solidarity provisions, consists of Labor and Liberal state leaders. 

A final report is expected mid-2022. 

Bad WHO, have some more powers

Morrison has called for WHO to have special “weapons-inspector” powers, allowing representatives to enter a country and investigate a disease outbreak without the express consent of the nation’s government.

Morrison has previously expressed criticism at WHO for supporting China’s decision to reopen wet markets in Wuhan, where COVID-19 is thought to have originated. 

Morrison, along with Foreign Minister Marise Payne and US President Donald Trump have called for a global review into WHO’s response to the outbreak. 

Ruby Princess doctor ‘shocked’

A live-streamed inquiry into the Ruby Princess debacle started yesterday, with the ship’s senior doctor Ilse von Watzdorf saying she was “surprised” so many passengers were allowed to disembark.

Watzorf added that passengers shouldn’t have been allowed off until test results came through. One crew member had a temperature of 39.2 Celsius despite testing negative for both influenza A and B when the cruise ship docked in Sydney. 

The inquiry resumes this morning. 

No backdoor entry for police

Attorney-General Christian Porter has promised to introduce regulations to stop police from accessing data from the government’s contentious coronavirus movement-tracking app. 

The app, which shows when two users have been within 1.5 metres of other users for more than 15 minutes, is supposed to only be used by state health “detectives,” Morrison said, however current telecommunication laws do allow police access. 

Cyber-security experts have expressed concerns the app’s data is likely to be hacked and may never be deleted.

Fat cat pay cut

Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch will take a paycut from his US$5 million (A$7.9 million) salary, while still receiving US$29 million (A$46 million) in incentives and stock.

Chief executive officer Lachlan Murdoch will also forgo his salary to help protect full-time employees during the coronavirus. 

The company has lost advertising revenue after key sports programming was cancelled, and is expected to save US$6 million ($9.5 million) from board member salary cuts.