West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has come under fire for suggesting returning overseas travellers should quarantine alongside detainees at Christmas Island.
Mr McGowan has called on the Commonwealth to use defence bases or detention centres at Christmas Island and Yongah Hill as quarantine centres, arguing WA is almost at capacity for the number of people it can safely keep in hotels.
Almost 2000 people are being held in COVID-19 hotel quarantine in Perth.
“We saw in Victoria, when you overload your hotels, you can have very, very adverse consequences,” Mr McGowan said on Tuesday.
“That’s why we’d like the Commonwealth to use some of their facilities and we’re more than happy to work with them.
“They could literally take thousands of people into those if they wanted to and I think that would be a good back-up to what the state is doing.”
Christmas Island is currently housing convicted criminals and people whose visas were revoked but couldn’t be deported because of a lack of flights.
“It’s part of Australia,” Mr McGowan said when asked if he would be comfortable with using the facility.
“It’s two weeks. You stay in a room for two weeks. It’s just the price you pay to come back to Australia in these difficult times and I think overwhelmingly, people understand that.
“There are some people there but as I understand it, it’s a big facility.”
Opposition health spokesman Zak Kirkup said the premier needed to show more compassion for Australians stranded overseas.
“Is the premier seriously suggesting that West Aussies stranded overseas who are desperate to return home should be isolated behind razor wire alongside some of the world’s worst criminals when they could do it in the comfort of a hotel room here in Perth?,” he said.
WA has a cap of 525 returned overseas passengers a week – second only to NSW – but its numbers are also being inflated by people arriving from Victoria to take up jobs in WA.
Under WA’s strict quarantine laws, anyone arriving from Victoria must spend 14 days in hotel quarantine. People from other states are allowed to self-isolate at home.
More than 25,000 Australians are stranded overseas due to the closure of international borders.
Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram on Tuesday said a proposed federal quarantine facility was not possible.
“Quarantine facilities can’t be run without medical professionals on the ground,” Mr Outram told ABC radio.
“At the moment the AUSMAT (Australian Medical Assistance Teams) capability, I imagine, would be pretty stretched because of the need for the states and territories to be running their own health services, plus other things going on around the pandemic.”
WA recorded no new cases on Tuesday. Four remain active.