August 25, 2021
Preliminary earthwork has already begun at the site of Queensland’s new quarantine facility near Wellcamp Airport.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Thursday morning that a 500-bed facility – which would be expanded to 1000 beds by next March – would be built on the greenfield site in a joint State Government – Wagner Corporation project.
The announcement follows repeated refusals by the Federal Government to back the Wellcamp concept, opting instead to support a proposed facility at Pinkenba, near Brisbane, built on Defence Force land.
Premier Palaszczuk said Wagner Corporation expected the first stage of the Wellcamp facility to be delivered for use by the end of 2021.
The Pinkenba facility was due for completion in mid-2022.
The State Government has entered into a 12-month lease arrangement with Wagners over the new facility, with options to extend this for up to three years,
However, details of the financial arrangement between the State Government and the Wagners are commercial-in-confidence.
The Premier said it was clear there was an urgent need for more fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities throughout Australia.
“As Australia contends with the dangerous Delta variant, Queensland must have alternatives to hotel quarantine that offer enhanced public safety,” she said.
Wagner Corporation will build the facility, with the State Government running it.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the State Government had been calling for a dedicated regional quarantine facility to be built in Queensland since January.
“Following countless leaks from the nation’s hotel quarantine system, it’s clear there is an urgent need for alternative facilities in Australia,” Mr Miles said.
“We need a facility like this urgently, and the Wellcamp proposal will be ready months before any other proposed facility in Queensland.
“This facility will help Queensland to continue to open up and avoid expensive lockdowns.”
The announcement, made on site at Wellcamp, follows the news this week that Queensland was “pausing” interstate arrivals for a fortnight because of a lack of space in quarantine hotels – a point emphasised by Health Minister Yvette D’Ath at the media conference.
She said if the Wellcamp facility been built earlier, arrivals may not have had to be paused.
“If this had been built months ago when we first asked the Commonwealth to partner with us and the Wagners, we potentially may not have had to make the very difficult decision that we made yesterday,” the Minister said.
The State Government will still continue to support the Federal Government’s Pinkenba proposal.
“With more than one facility in Queensland, we will be greatly reducing our reliance on hotel quarantine,” Minister D’Ath said.
“That means a lower risk of COVID spreading from facilities that were never designed for secured quarantining.”
The news Queensland had decided to go-it-alone with a dedicated quarantine facility may have been unexpected in some quarters.
Does the Prime Minister know about this? a reporter asked at the media conference.
“He does now,” the Premier replied.
The PM’s response, as reported by the ABC, was the Queensland Government had been “at liberty” to build the facility for months, even though it did not meet the Federal Government’s criteria for funding.
- Editorial: What Wellcamp Means To Us