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Labor leader Anthony Albanese has said the government must immediately build new federal quarantine facilities, saying the country can not afford to keep plunging into lockdowns.
Following the commonwealth’s decision last week to push ahead with federal support for a new purpose-built quarantine facility in Victoria, Albanese said more needed to be built in other states before the next federal election.
“This needs to be fixed now, not wait until after the next federal election which will occur perhaps as late as May of next year,” he told Sky News.
“We can’t afford to keep having these lockdowns.”
The government has so far resisted a Queensland proposal for a new quarantine centre in Toowoomba, while the New South Wales government has flagged the possibility of a new quarantine facility in its state – to be “owned and operated by the commonwealth”.
The federal government will spend $200m on construction of the new facility to be located either at Avalon or Mickleham, but the Victorian government will fund the operating costs.
On Saturday, the Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told the party’s state conference that what the government was proposing was a “no-brainer” that would help provide safety and certainty.
“We are not proposing construction of an international space station,” she said.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has been critical of the Queensland proposal, saying the government had received scant detail until late last week, and raising concerns about its suitability given its distance from Brisbane.
Further proposals may yet be considered by the government, but they must comply with new criteria: being close to an international airport that regularly accepts international commercial flights; within an hour’s drive of a tertiary hospital; commonwealth-owned; and in addition to the existing hotel quarantine system.
Albanese said the government should have acted last year.
“That was the best time to do this, the best next time is right now.”
The opposition’s deputy leader, Richard Marles, said the latest Victorian lockdown was the result of the government’s failure on quarantine.
“All roads lead back to a failure in managing quarantine in this country. Hotel quarantine, which was meant to be a stop-gap measure … these are facilities which are not fit for purpose, where you have a single ventilation system in one building which is leading to people contracting the disease in those hotels and leading to the outbreaks that we have then experienced,” Marles told the ABC’s Insiders program.
“That’s the issue and that’s the issue that is facing Victoria now, and that is fundamentally a failure of Scott Morrison and his government.”
On Sunday, the Victorian government announced that two new locally acquired Covid cases had been detected overnight from almost 30,000 tests, along with six others in hotel quarantine, taking the total number of active infections in the state to 85.
Greater Melbourne is now in its second week of lockdown, as authorities try to determine the source of the state’s highly contagious Delta strain cluster, believed to have come from another hotel quarantine leak.
It would be the 22nd leak from hotel quarantine since the system was put in place last year.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Albanese says Australia can’t afford more lockdowns and new Covid quarantine facilities needed now | Health