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Premier to PM: If not Toowoomba, then where will people quarantine?

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As NSW joins the call for federally-funded regional quarantine, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk still has only one place in mind.

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Palaszczuk today said the Morrison Government had been sent a “comprehensive proposal” on the Wagner Group’s plan for a quarantine facility linked to its Wellcamp Airport in Toowoomba.

She said it addressed “all of their outstanding issues” and, for the first time, acknowledged the Commonwealth would need to pay for an air traffic control tower, as revealed by InQueensland last week.

The Commonwealth now has a list of criteria for stand-alone quarantine facilities, based largely on Victoria’s successful proposal for federal funding to build a new facility for the State to operate.

The Wellcamp proposal is different in that the Wagners would build the facility, the State would help run it, but the Commonwealth would need to upgrade the airport. There are also questions about health services.

With the Commonwealth now requiring a tertiary hospital to be nearby, Palaszczuk was today asked whether Townsville, the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast would be considered, but again made clear her preference was Toowoomba. That is despite Toowoomba not having a tertiary hospital.

“It’s great to see the Commonwealth now having criteria because it’s showing a sense of ownership of the issue,” Palaszczuk told journalists in Brisbane.

“If the Commonwealth wants to set the criteria they can design the facility, they can construct the facility, they can pay for the facility and they can run the facility. After all, quarantine is a Commonwealth responsibility.”

Palaszczuk has repeatedly said that hotel quarantine is not the best way to deal with COVID-19, and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today said that would definitely be the case once international borders reopened.

“We need to think about when the vast majority of our population is vaccinated, international travel resumes, presumably quarantine will look a bit different to what it is now,” Berejiklian told 2GB radio.

“The feds do have to consider what that means for the future of facilities. If they want extra capacity in NSW, they’re going to have to build and run it themselves.”

Morrison has long argued that hotel quarantine has generally served Australia well and should continue, despite breaches leading to outbreaks in several states.

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