PM’s big move on quarantine

Scott Morrison has offered to build quarantine hubs in Queensland and WA, provided the states cover their operational costs.

The Prime Minister has also confirmed a new purpose-built quarantine facility in Victoria, agreed to by the Commonwealth and state government earlier this month, will be located in Mickleham.

In a surprise letters to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and WA Premier Mark McGowan on Thursday, Mr Morrison suggested locations for Commonwealth-built quarantine facilities in both states.

The federal government would cover the cost of constructing the facilities, while the state would cover upkeep and operational costs.

Mr Morrison has proposed a new hub at the Damascus Barracks, next to Brisbane Airport, despite previously ruling out using military bases for quarantine.

The site, which would house about 1000 beds, is a pre-existing RAAF base and located in Pinkenba, about 9km from Brisbane’s CBD.

The letter also killed off the state government’s Wellcamp proposal, which it hoped would see a purpose-built facility near Toowoomba.

Mr Morrison, who has been at loggerheads with Ms Palaszczuk over the proposal, confirmed it had been rejected, as it was not located close enough to a an active international airport or hospital.

“I appreciate the significant work that has gone into developing this (Toowoomba) proposal,” he wrote.

“It remains the priority of my government to ensure that more Australians who are overseas can safely return home.”

In a separate letter to Mr McGowan, the Prime Minister suggested a purpose-built facility at either Jandakot Airport, about 20km south of Perth, or a portion of land next to Perth Airport.

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“The sites are of suitable size and meet the Commonwealth’s relevant site-specific key assessment criteria, including access to an international airport taking regularly scheduled international commercial passenger flights and proximity to a principle referral hospital,” he wrote.

Mr Morrison has invited both premiers to participate in a joint formal assessment of the suggested sites.

In a separate letter to Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino, Mr Morrison confirmed the state’s $200m quarantine facility would be located in Mickleham.

The Commonwealth and Victoria earlier this month signed a memorandum of understanding over the proposal, which had been narrowed down to either Mickleham or Avalon.

Mr Merlino had described Mickleham as his preference but said both sites would “work equally well”.

“Our strong argument has been we must have a Howard Springs-like alternative, a purpose-built quarantine facility for our highest risk individuals. That’s exactly what we will deliver,” he said.

The Prime Minister has faced called to expand the number of quarantine-run facilities after the success of the NT’s Howard Springs hub in avoiding outbreaks.

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