Queensland Attorney General Shannon Fentiman has deflected criticism of the government’s lease on a quarantine facility near Toowoomba, arguing it remains a worthwhile investment.
- Shannon Fentiman says governments don’t know what lies ahead
- She says the Wellcamp quarantine facility is still needed
- State opposition says Pinkenba will be better than Wellcamp for cruise ship passengers
The Wellcamp facility has only seen 504 people since it opened in February.
Ms Fentiman said the government would discuss with the cruise ship industry 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 getting COVID, and there are still people out there today,” she said.
Ms Fentiman insisted the Queensland Regional Accommodation Centre, built by the Wagner Corporation with support from the state government, remained useful and necessary.
“It’s up to the federal government not to step in and not do what they were responsible for and it was quarantine, so we acted. It’s been used and is still being used, and I think it will continue to be used in the future.”
She said the installation costs would remain confidential.
A state government spokesman said on Friday that 72 people were in isolation at the facility.
The spokesperson said 504 people had used the Wellcamp facility since it opened, which included 296 isolation guests and 208 quarantined accommodation guests.
It is no longer mandatory for overseas arrivals to self-quarantine.
Queensland on Saturday recorded seven COVID-related deaths in the past 24 hours.
There were more than 7,200 new infections and 513 people were being treated for the virus in hospital.
Earlier this year, a government source revealed that the state had contributed $48.8 million towards the construction of the facility, while media speculated that the total price for the first year of operation would be $190 million.
Opposition Leader David Crisafulli said the construction of the Wellcamp facility could have been 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 in a sacrosanct way,” he said.
The federal government’s quarantine facility, on Crown land in Pinkenba, east Brisbane, is due to open within weeks.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the Pinkenba facility would “serve Australia for decades to come”.
“Just as the facility we have at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory has been so useful over the past two years,” Mr Birmingham said.
“These facilities, I believe, will be able to deal with future health crises or future pandemic situations, just as they will be able to respond to emergencies related to natural disasters by providing emergency accommodation, or to humanitarian crises in the foreign.”
Queensland Deputy Leader of the Opposition Jarrod Bleijie said the estimated cost of the Wellcamp facility was over $200million.
“Every day they come up with a new excuse about how useful this facility is because they never planned it properly,” Mr Bleijie said.
“Is the government really suggesting that when the cruise ships arrive they will not use this facility [Pinkenba] for a cruise terminal which is just down the road?
“They’re going to bus them to Wellcamp – a facility in Toowoomba?”
Mr Bleijie said the state government still pays for hotel quarantines as part of contractual agreements with hotels, although they are no longer in use.
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