Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says it’s time for the federal government to take full responsibility for coronavirus quarantine across Australia.
Under the constitution, the Commonwealth is responsible for quarantining international arrivals, but states and territories have agreed to do so in city hotels and a camp since the pandemic began.
Victoria’s disastrous second wave, Sydney’s Christmas outbreak and Brisbane’s New Year cluster were linked to breaches of hotel quarantine.
Ms Palaszczuk has recently proposed moving quarantine to vacant regional mining camps, such as the Northern Territory’s Howard Springs facility.
She’s now calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to take full control of international quarantine, saying the Commonwealth must keep the highly contagious UK coronavirus variant out of Australia.
“Just as we weren’t willing to take chances when we declared a public health emergency 12 months ago, we are not willing to take chances when it comes to keeping new and more infectious strains out of Queensland,” Ms Palaszczuk wrote on Twitter.
“That’s why I am publicly calling on the prime minister to take greater responsibility for international quarantine.”
The premier wants a federally-run and funded national quarantine system with adequate Australian Defence Force and Border Force staffing.
She said Mr Morrison should also consider consolidating many hotel quarantine sites into centralised hubs.
“With potentially another unpredictable year ahead of us, now is the time for the prime minister to step up to his responsibilities and put in place a well-funded, adequately resourced, nationally consistent international quarantine plan,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Ms Palaszczuk has called for the federal government to extend JobKeeper payments to stuggling tourism operators.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he’s monitoring the situation in the travel sector, but stressed that states needed to spend more money to help their own businesses.
He said the Commonwealth has already spent more than three times what the Palaszczuk government had on COVID-19 stimulus.
“We’d welcome the states putting their hands in their pockets and spending a little bit more in their own states as part of the economic recovery,” Mr Frydenberg told Nine’s Today show.
“But of course, when it comes to the tourism sector, I recognise they’ve been doing it tough and will continue to monitor that situation very closely.”