Despite having constitutional responsibility for quarantine, and having the nation’s deepest pockets, the Morrison Government continues to pass the buck.
At Friday’s National Cabinet meeting, the federal government again rejected Queensland’s sensible proposal to construct a mining-style quarantine facility near Toowoomba because it is supposedly is not located near an international airport, is too far from hospitals, and would be used in place of instead of in addition to quarantine hotels:
The Morrison government had released strict criteria for funding quarantine facilities that include being close to an international airport, within an hour’s drive of a specialist hospital and being complementary to hotel quarantine. Those that receive funding will also be government owned.
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A Queensland proposal to build and operate a quarantine centre near Toowoomba was scuppered by the Prime Minister as it failed to meet the commonwealth criteria, prompting a sharp rebuke from state Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk.
“A regional quarantine centre could be built right now with the planes landing next door if only Scott Morrison could answer a simple question: do you support it or not?” she said.
It comes as Labor slammed the Morrison government on Sunday, warning lockdowns would still occur while hotel quarantine suffered leaks of the virus and the vaccine rollout remained sluggish.
Mr Albanese told Sky News on Sunday Mr Morrison “should have put in place purpose-built quarantine facilities run by the national government last year”.
“That was the best time to do this, the next best time is right now,” he said…
Health Minister Greg Hunt… on Sunday defended the nation’s quarantine system as being “arguably the strongest” in the world and involving “multiple rings of containment”, including tracing, distancing and vaccination.
The obvious question is: why must planes fly into Brisbane, and risk spreading the virus into the capital city, when they could land at Wellcamp Airport in Toowoomba instead?
Toowoomba also has multiple hospitals, which could be geared-up to accommodate international arrivals. Or they could erect a tent hospital at the quarantine facility. All that is required is a little bit of planning and funding, which is obviously too hard for the Morrison Government.
The suggestion by Greg Hunt that hotel quarantine is effective is laughable given nearly every hard lockdown across the nation has been caused by breaches. Even the NSW Coalition Government wants quarantine shifted out of hotels:
Speaking to reporters in Sydney on Sunday, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said a purpose-built hub would help alleviate pressure on the state’s hotel quarantine system.
“The federal government has said it will support these types of facilities in other states and we want to work to a proposal that makes sense and keeps our people safe,” Mr Perrottet told reporters.
Blind Freddy, but not the Morrison Government, can see that quarantine must be shifted out of hotels into purpose-built federal facilities like Howard Springs near Darwin (pictured below).
These types of dedicated quarantine facilities offer major benefits over conducting quarantine in capital city hotels, including:
- They are located away from major population centres;
- They provide abundant fresh air and space between guests and staff; and
- They provide greater comfort than being stuffed into a hotel room for two weeks.
The costs of shutting down major cities centres due to regular quarantine breaches far outweighs the cost of building and operating these dedicated facilities. Just look at Victoria!
Federal facilities like Howard Springs should be built in every jurisdiction across the nation and be used for quarantining all international arrivals. It should have been done last year, but now is better than never.
So why has the Morrison Government deferred responsibility to the states to devise safe regional quarantine facilities? Why hasn’t it done the work itself?
Ridiculously, last month’s federal budget contained billions of dollars of funding for everything except the construction of national quarantine facilities.
A robust quarantine system remains Australia’s best defence against the virus and the primary way of preventing further virus outbreaks and costly shutdowns.
Sadly, rather than taking decisive action, the Morrison Government continues to deflect to the states via lies and spin.
The Morrison Government is now the major roadblock to having a COVID safe nation.