Telstra hands crucial phone records to hotel inquiry

 

Exclusive: The hotel inquiry has finally obtained a full set of records from former chief police commissioner Graham Ashton's phone, as it continues secret investigations into what happened in the crucial few minutes the quarantine program was being decided.

The Herald Sun can reveal Telstra has provided a full breakdown of Mr Ashton's incoming and outgoing calls and messages for March 27, which is expected to provide further insight into communications at the highest levels of the Andrews Government in the minutes where it appears the decision to hire private security instead of using ADF was made.

The call logs are thought to have been provided despite initial concerns the inquiry did not have the legal authority to apply for access to them.

It is the inquiry's third attempt to interrogate Mr Ashton's phone, and comes three weeks after public hearings had closed.

The inquiry declined to comment, and Mr Ashton said he had no knowledge of the application to Telstra.

Former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton.
Former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton.

A series of phone logs - of outbound calls only - provided by Premier Daniel Andrews and his staff were also due to be handed to the inquiry tonight.

Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles resigned on Monday after reviewing his log, which showed he had called Mr Ashton during the six crucial minutes where the decision appears to have been made to hire private security.

He had misled the inquiry by previously saying that he had examined his records and they did not show he had called Mr Ashton.

Pressure is mounting on the inquiry to re-open public hearings, with the calls logs likely to raise further questions.

The Herald Sun can further reveal NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, who also spoke to Mr Ashton in the same crucial time period, was never asked by the inquiry to provide a statement.

In a text sent at 1.32pm on March 27, Mr Ashton told AFP chief Reece Kershaw that private security would be used in quarantine hotels as "part of a deal set up by our DPC. I understand NSW will have a different arrangement. I spoke to Mick F.''

Examination of Chris Eccles, Secretary, Department of Premier and Cabinet at the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry.
Examination of Chris Eccles, Secretary, Department of Premier and Cabinet at the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry.

A spokesman for Mr Fuller confirmed he had never been contacted by the inquiry, but would co-operate if asked to do so, including by appearing in person.

"If the Board of Inquiry requests Commissioner Fuller to give evidence or appear as a witness he will do so,'' the spokesman said.

Victoria Police also confirmed it had been unable to determine who made a call from an anonymous number to Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent on March 27.

Mr Nugent had written in an email that someone from DPC had called him that night to discuss private security, but Chief Commissioner Shane Patton told the inquiry he had since spoken to Mr Nugent, and he no longer remembered who had called him, or even if they were from DPC.

"Victoria Police explored all options for identifying the caller to Deputy Commissioner Nugent's mobile phone on the evening of 27th March,'' a spokesman said.

"This included contacting Telstra to determine whether the incoming call records could be obtained. Telstra advised us that the records could not be provided as there was no relevant legal basis which would allow them to do this.''

 

Originally published as Telstra hands crucial phone records to hotel inquiry


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