Queensland’s Health Minister has been caught out in an embarrassing bungle in a spat with the federal government over quarantine for ADF troops returning from Afghanistan.
The row blew up on Wednesday after minister Yvette D’Ath hit out at what she said were “false claims” that Queensland had left Australian troops stranded, as well as the ongoing dispute over vaccine allocations and other criticism aimed at her state.
“Before the Commonwealth gets up and makes public statements, criticising the Queensland government, which seems to be the modus operandi now … that’s all they do, go out and criticise Queensland … then make sure they’ve got the facts,” she said.
Ms D’Ath said criticising the Queensland government was a “great deflection on anything else happening in the country”.
“We’re a little bit sick of the Morison government coming out and attacking us on vaccines, attacking us on ADF personnel,” she said.
The dispute came after claims up to 400 troops sent to aid the eleventh-hour evacuation mission in Afghanistan had been stranded because of delays approving hotel quarantine. But the Queensland government rubbished the claims, saying the return of ADF personnel was never in doubt.
Ms D’Ath said she had tried to call Defence Minister Peter Dutton on Wednesday morning and sent him a text, but had not heard back.
“I‘ve sent a text to Peter Dutton this morning, asking him to call me. I have not heard from him,” Ms D’Ath said, even showing journalists her text message and call log.
In response, Mr Dutton tweeted: “Yvette D’Ath’s comment this morning that she called and or texted me is untrue. I have not had any contact from her.”
But it quickly – and embarrassingly – emerged that Ms D’Ath was texting the wrong number. Once she had the right number, Ms D’Ath was able to speak to Mr Dutton.
She later acknowledged the error on Twitter.
“I can confirm I now have Peter Dutton’s correct number!” she wrote. “The number I was given had an incorrect digit.
“We’ve since spoken and he’s assured me the Commonwealth are comfortable with the approach being taken by Queensland and the ADF to ensure our diggers come home safely.”
Ms D’Ath said the state government had been working with the ADF on special quarantine measures for its personnel.
“The ADF notified us yesterday that they had secured an appropriate hotel and advised that they would submit a management plan today,” she said.
The Defence Force has indicated up to 400 personnel will arrive by the end of the week. They will not be included in Queensland’s international arrivals cap.
Ms D’Ath said the alternative arrangements would involve soldiers being able to move around “more freely” within a quarantine environment.
She said reports that the soldiers’ return to Queensland had been delayed were inaccurate.
“It’s distressing that these false claims are being put out there. It’s distressing for the ADF, it’s distressing for their families, and it’s distressing for health and the government,” she said.
Queensland has no new virus cases on Wednesday.
In other changes, visitors will again be welcome in hospitals and aged care facilities in the Logan local government areas. Ms D’Ath said good testing numbers and close contacts in home quarantine gave health authorities the confidence to relax restrictions.