SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese Thursday announced the government will conduct a yearlong inquiry into the country's approach to COVID-19, but opposition politicians say the limited scope and powers of the inquiry will make it "a complete waste of time."
International border closures made Australia a fortress for much of the pandemic. It had some of the world's longest and toughest lockdowns.
Australian efforts to contain the virus were some of the most restrictive in the world, with residents of Melbourne spending more time in lockdowns than almost any other urban area.
An inquiry, announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will look at the health and economic issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic and bureaucratic obstacles to responding to it.
FILE - Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Three independent experts, to be appointed by the government, will examine vaccinations, the availability of personal protective equipment and public health campaigns as well as financial support for businesses and individuals.
Albanese told reporters Thursday that an independent inquiry will help to prepare Australia for the next pandemic.
"It was a time where Australians joined together,' said Albanese. 'They made sacrifices. We need to examine what went right, what could be done better with a focus on the future because the health experts and the science tells us that this pandemic is not likely to be the last one."
The federal inquiry follows up to 20 other state probes into COVID-19 in Australia.
Experts hope the new inquiry will provide a comprehensive nationwide assessment of Australia's response to the pandemic.
Nancy Baxter, head of the School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Australia must be prepared for the next global virus outbreak.
"The focus of this should be on what we do differently in the next pandemic or what we do similarly,' said Baxter. 'We need to learn. Unfortunately, we will likely face another pandemic in our lifetime and so we need to be able to face that in a better way than we did COVID-19."
Only federal government decisions, not those of state and territory authorities, will be scrutinized. Opposition lawmakers have said the probe therefore will not go far enough.
Albanese has not said whether the inquiry would have powers to force political leaders to testify.
The expert panel has been given a year for its work.
Over the past week, more than 5,000 cases were reported across the country, according to official data but Australian authorities say the virus's impact on the health system is fading.