The federal government has agreed to help coronavirus-hit Victoria build a quarantine facility but appears to have no intention of heeding Queensland’s request for a similar site.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk insists her plan for a 1000-bed facility near Toowoomba is not dead, however the sunshine state’s proposal isn’t up to federal expectations.
The plan for the site near Wellcamp airport does not meet the requirement of proximity to an international airport, nor is it close to existing hotel quarantine venues.
The proposed site, about 150km from Brisbane, is also considered to be too far from a tertiary hospital.
It is understood the federal government first became aware of a proposal for the Wellcamp location on Friday, having not heard anything else on the matter since early March.
This is at odds with Ms Palaszczuk who has told reporters: “We’ve actually been speaking very regularly with Commonwealth officials. There’s a lot of negotiation still happening.”
At a Queensland Labor conference on Saturday, she called directly on the prime minister.
“A regional quarantine centre could be built right now with planes landing next door if only Scott Morrison could answer a simple question: Do you support it or not?”
“Our Quarantine Centre would help stranded Australians get back from overseas, allow Pacific Island labour to help our farmers and give our universities a small cohort of students who also support our tourism and hospitality industries.
“Victoria is OK. Why not Queensland?”
Mr Morrison confirmed on Friday the Commonwealth would meet the capital costs for a 500-bed facility in outer Melbourne, while Victoria would cover operational costs.
It was “a very good proposal”, he said.
The federal government is understood to favour Avalon as the ideal location for the facility because the Victorian government’s preferred Mickleham site already has an animal quarantine facility on it.
Queensland needs the federal government’s support for its quarantine camp because it would have to allow international flights to land at Wellcamp Airport.
The state hasn’t proposed any other similar facilities near existing international airports in Brisbane, the Gold Coast or Cairns.
It’s proposal is believed to have been scant on detail compared to an 80-page comprehensive document from Victoria.
Meanwhile, Australians over 40 will have access to coronavirus vaccines from next week as the nation ramps up its behind-schedule rollout.
The federal government has announced the expansion of the immunisation program, bringing it into line with several states including Victoria, which have already widened to over-40s.
Pfizer jabs will be made available to people aged between 40 to 49 from Tuesday.
All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16 and above now have access to vaccines, along with National Disability Insurance Scheme recipients and carers.
Victoria will receive an extra 142,000 Pfizer doses over the next week, responding to soaring demand triggered by an ongoing outbreak.
Melbourne’s second week of lockdown is set to run its course after a new variant emerged in a family infected with the disease.
The Delta strain, which has caused devastation across India and the UK, has been found in Australia for the first time but it is unclear where it came from.
Other cases in the outbreak, which has now reached 70 infections, have been classified as the Kappa variant, which also caused havoc across India.
Australia’s expert medical panel has been asked to detail how to make vaccines mandatory in aged care without putting the sector under strain.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said a balance would need to be struck, given that some people may decide to leave the industry if vaccines were mandatory.