Australia

Scott Morrison has rejected Queensland’s proposal for quarantine camp near Toowoomba

The federal government is in talks with Victoria and the Northern Territory about proposals for two quarantine camps, but it has rejected Queensland’s plan.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he has received comprehensive plans for camps at Bladin Point Worker Village in Darwin and another site on Commonwealth land about 40 kilometres north of Melbourne.

Mr Morrison has held talks with NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner about the proposal for Bladin Point, which is currently being used to quarantine US marines, to be utilised to isolate arriving farm workers.

“When those contracts finish then there is the opportunity to do further work there, particularly dealing with workforce requirements in the Territory,” he told reporters on Brisbane on Monday.

The federal government is also assessing Victoria’s proposal to construct a purpose-built quarantine facility at Mickleham north of Melbourne.

The 500-bed facility would cost about $200 million to build, with the state government committing $15 million to get the project ready for construction.

Mr Morrison said there would be a response to the Victorian plan in coming weeks.

“There’s discussions going back and forth with the Victorian government, and I’ve got to say it’s a very constructive, positive process,” he said.

“There are other alternatives in Victoria as well, that we know that are available there, and they present some good opportunities as well.”

However, the prime minister rejected Queensland’s proposal for a quarantine camp near Toowoomba because it would be too far from a major capital city airport.

The Wagner Corporation wants to build a facility at Wellcamp Airport that would host up to 1000 travellers and 300 staff with the support of the state government.

Mr Morrison says the facility would be too far from Brisbane airport and from any major state hospital.

“The idea that you can just put these out in the desert somewhere, and I know Toowoomba’s not in the desert but the point being (that) they need to be close to a major capital city airport.

“The planes aren’t going somewhere else, they’re coming into Brisbane, and that is a very long trek over to Toowoomba,” he told reporters.

He said Queensland had not explained who would run the healthcare, where workers would come from, or how the facility would be funded.

The Victorian and NT government’s proposals would supplement, rather than replace, existing hotel quarantine programs, unlike Queensland’s plan, Mr Morrison said.

“The problem with it is, we’ve never actually had a proposal and the details, when you compare what’s been put forward by the Victorian government, is chalk and cheese,” he said.

“Victoria has put a very comprehensive proposal to us, something we can actually work with, and we are.”

The prime minister encouraged Queensland’s government to rethink their plan.

“If they were to do that, then they could expect the same sort of hearing that the Victorian government’s getting,” Mr Morrison said.

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