Queensland’s Health Minister says she is “disappointed” in Scott Morrison after his apparent backflip over the state’s proposal to move hotel quarantine to regional mining camps.
After a Brisbane hotel quarantine worker contracted a highly infectious strain of COVID-19 and sparked a three-day lockdown, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she and the chief health officer were looking at ways to better manage the state’s quarantine facilities.
She announced last week that she would submit a proposal to national cabinet about moving overseas arrivals and quarantine staff to remote mining camps to decrease the risk of the virus leaking into the community.
The proposal was initially welcomed by the Prime Minister, who has been touring regional Queensland this week.
“I haven’t seen the proposal as yet, but I’ve always been very interested in positive proposals that have come forward from premiers about how we can best manage what are very challenging issues,” he said on Tuesday.
But Mr Morrison seemed to change his tune on Thursday while in Gladstone, which is near one of the proposed mining camps.
He said the people of Gladstone would need “some sort of net positive” to accept the proposal and locals feared the virus could spread into the local community.
“I think there are concerns that people up here don’t want to see Brisbane’s issues dumped on those in the north,” he said.
Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath told ABC Radio on Friday morning she was “really disappointed” the Prime Minister had “used that language.”
“He said he was open to the idea,” she said.
“Our biggest risk is international arrivals and how we manage them. All states and territories have been managing that alone with no financial support from the government.
“But this is a national issue and a national risk.
“To say it’s a Brisbane problem we shouldn’t dump … It’s not about moving (the hotel quarantine), it’s about how we manage it better.”
Mr Morrison said the Premier needed to get regional councils and mayors over the line.
“For something like that to be even considered, I think the Premier would have to get the local Labor mayor on-board for a start, and I don’t think that’s happening at this point,” he said on Thursday.
Ms Palaszczuk is expected to discuss the proposal at national cabinet on Friday after last week saying it was a matter for all states and territories to consider.
“I think with this new strain, we have to put all options on the table, and these are sensible, rational options,” she said last week.
“The Howard Springs works very well in the Northern Territory, and there’s no reason why we couldn’t do something similar here in Queensland.”