Queensland Attorney General Shannon Fentiman has averted criticism of the government’s lease of a quarantine facility near Toowoomba, saying the investment was worthwhile.
- Shannon Fentiman says governments don’t know what’s around the corner
- He says the Wellcamp quarantine facility is still necessary
- The state opposition claims that Pinkenba will be better for cruise passengers than Wellcamp
The Wellcamp facility has hosted only 504 people since opening in February.
Fentiman said the government would talk to the cruise ship industry about how the 1,000-bed facility could be used for passengers who tested positive for COVID-19.
“We don’t know what’s around the corner, and we’re still experiencing COVID, and there are people today,” she said.
Ms Fentiman insisted that the Queensland Regional Accommodation Center, built by Wagner Corporation with the support of the state government, remained useful and necessary.
“The federal government has come back so as not to step up and do what it was responsible for, and that was quarantine, so we acted. It was used and still is used, and I believe it will continue to be used.”
She said the cost of the facility would remain a trade secret.
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A state government spokesman said 72 people had been isolated at the facility on Friday.
The spokeswoman said the Wellcamp facility had been used by 504 people since its opening, which included 296 guests in isolation and 208 guests in quarantine accommodation.
Quarantine is no longer required for overseas arrivals.
Queensland has seen seven COVID-related deaths in the last 24 hours on Saturday.
More than 7,200 new infections were added and 513 people were treated for the virus in the hospital.
The cost of the equipment built by Wagner Corporation remains confidential. 09.30 ABC: Peter Gunders
Earlier this year, a government source revealed that the state had contributed $ 48.8 million to the construction of the facility, while media reports speculated that the total cost of the first year of operation would be $ 190 million.
Opposition leader David Crisafulli said the construction of the Wellcamp facility could be part of an “argy-bargy” between the state and federal governments.
“If that’s the case, it’s really sad because taxpayers’ money deserves to be treated sacredly,” he said.
The federal government’s quarantine facility in Pinkenba, East Brisbane, is expected to open in a few weeks.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the Pinkenba facility “will serve Australia for decades.”
Simon Birmingham says Pinkenba is one of three federally built centers for national resilience. 04.30 ABC News: Lucas Hill
“Like the facilities we have at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory, it has served so usefully in the last few years,” Mr Birmingham said.
“I expect these facilities to be able to serve future health crises or future pandemic situations, as well as be able to respond to natural disaster emergencies by providing emergency accommodation or an overseas humanitarian crisis.”
Queensland’s opposition leader Jarrod Bleijie said the estimated cost of the Wellcamp facility was more than $ 200 million.
“Every day they make excuses for what this device will be useful for, because they never planned it properly,” Mr Bleijie said.
“Is the government really proposing that they don’t use this device when cruise ships arrive?” [Pinkenba] for a cruise ship terminal that is right along the way?
“Will they take them by bus to Wellcamp – a facility in Toowoomba?”
Mr Bleijie said the state government still paid for hotel quarantine as part of contractual agreements with hotels, even though they were no longer used.
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