With up to 100,000 Aussies stranded abroad, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has written to state governments demanding they lift their hotel quarantine capacity so that the arrival cap on returning Aussies can be lifted from 4,000 a week to 6,000 a week:
New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have each been asked to take an additional 500 incoming passengers per week, with South Australia also asked to boost its capacity.
Mr McCormack said he had also written to the leaders of Tasmania, the ACT and the NT, to gauge their ability to take on more international arrivals.
“Those letters are telling them that’s what they in fact need to do, and I’ve had discussions with them,” he said.
“They know, they understand, this needs to happen.
“There’s plenty of empty hotel rooms in these capital cities, and I want them filled with returning Australians.”
Mr McCormack said he hoped to see the proposal agreed to and implemented by the end of the month, suggesting Queensland in particular should explore whether it could further boost its quarantine capability by using hotels on the Gold Coast and in Cairns.
State Governments have rightfully hit back:
Western Australian premier Mark McGowan has slammed deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, accusing him of breaching the spirit of the national cabinet by publicly calling for the states to increase their intake of Australians returning from overseas.
In comments that will set the scene for a tense meeting of the national cabinet this Friday, Mr McGowan also accused the Commonwealth of trying to “palm off” its quarantine and customs responsibilities to the states…
The WA government is pushing for the Commonwealth to house any additional arrivals in either defence bases or detention centres such as Christmas Island or Yongah Hill near Northam in rural WA.
Mr McGowan said there were “scores” of defence bases around Australia that could be used to quarantine returning Australians, while army, navy and airforce personnel at those bases could also manage security…
Mr McGowan cautioned that boosting hotel quarantine capacity “run the risks of security making mistakes” and introducing failures into the system, like what occurred in Victoria…
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said NSW could manage the extra load but only if the other states agreed to increase their numbers…
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk[said]… “We will do whatever we can, but the federal government has resources as well…The states have had to do the heavy lifting. (The commonwealth) they’ve assisted with quarantine with ADF, and I appreciate that, but there’s a lot of resources that are needed, especially with our police. Every time we put a new hotel up, there’s extra police that are needed to look at those hotels as well.”
Whereas Labor Opposition leader Anthony Albanese accused the Morrison Government of passing the buck:
“How absurd is it that the Deputy Prime Minister says he is writing a letter about the 25,000 Australians who are stranded overseas, who can’t get home and the national government is responsible for?” Mr Albanese said. “This isn’t the responsibility of the state. It is the responsibility of the national government and what it requires is national leadership and not the Deputy Prime Minister writing a letter.”
Mr Albanese said it was increasingly clear that National Cabinet was becoming dysfunctional and that Scott Morrison was in danger of being an “observer rather than a participant” because he “didn’t have control over anything.”
“We are a vast continent,” Mr Albanese said. “If we cannot provide accommodation and space for many more people than we are now, then it’s because the federal government is not being fair dinkum about finding those solutions.”
Too right. The Australian Government must take responsibility for repatriating Australian citizens.
Open up quarantine facilities and charter flights to pick them up. Even better, use the outbound flights to send stranded temporary migrants home. Just get it done.
The biggest kick in the guts comes from the Northern Territory, where taxpayers will foot half the cost of international student quarantine while Australians returning from overseas to the NT are being charged the full $2,500 cost ($5,000 for families) for their hotel quarantine.
The federal government must quit making excuses and do its job. Bring our stranded Aussies home.