A purpose-built quarantine facility will be constructed in Melbourne’s north and will begin taking returned overseas travellers by the end of 2021.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Friday the 1000-bed facility will be constructed on the Commonwealth-owned land in Mickleham in Melbourne’s north, next to an existing quarantine facility for plants and animals.
It will, however, open when the first 500 beds are available.
‘I have asked my officials to prioritise this project and I want to see that all efforts are made to deliver the first stages of the facility by the end of 2021,” Mr Morrison wrote to Acting Premier James Merlino.
“A facility with a 1000-bed capacity will increase the number of Australians that can return to Australia and provide options to assist in our economic recovery by enabling arrivals of international students, skilled migrants and other economic intakes into the medium term.”
The announcement came after Assistant Minister for Regional Development Nola Marino told Parliament earlier this week that the Morrison government had approved the next step in building the hub.
She said the work was “urgent” and should go ahead without being referred to a parliamentary committee on public works, as would otherwise be required.
Mr Morrison thanked Mr Merlino for the state government’s co-operation and partnership in delivering the project.
The state government had committed $15 million to get the project ready for construction.
It had estimated a 500-bed facility would cost $200 million.
Earlier, Mr Morrison ended the stalemate with Queensland over plans for a quarantine hub near Toowoomba, killing off the state government’s proposal for failing to meet “key requirements”.
Instead, he has suggested the Damascus Barracks at Pinkenba, about five minutes’ drive from Brisbane Airport, be considered.
In a letter to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, he said the criteria for selecting a quarantine site included:
- Within an hour’s vehicle transport to a tertiary hospital;
- Within reasonable proximity to an international airport taking regularly scheduled international commercial passenger flights (with limited bus transfer);
- Commonwealth owned, to provide an enduring asset to support increased resilience capability.
On Friday, Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles welcomed the Coalition government’s plan but said much more detail was needed.
“The only detail in the letter is an address,” he said.
“I just note that when Queensland provided a 15-page early proposal we were told that was far too little detail.”
He said Queensland would work with the Commonwealth on the plan.
The Damascus Barracks is mainly used for storage, rather than being a traditional Australian Defence Force operating base.
Under the proposal, the state government would build and operate the hub.