Thursday, 4 February 2021
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Western Australia
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, Senator Reynolds. In response to the Western Australian government's decision to protect its citizens against a deadly COVID-19 strain by instituting a five-day lockdown, the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Dutton, attacked Premier McGowan, saying that the decision was 'not a realistic approach', 'politically motivated' and would 'send businesses broke'. Is this the position of the Morrison government?
I'm nearly speechless. Alright. I do have a supplementary question. Premier McGowan has pointed out that the federal government have abdicated their responsibility for federal quarantine, saying:
… it has fallen to the states to perform the role that Mr Dutton should be performing under the Constitution.
Minister, isn't Premier McGowan right?
I thank Senator Sterle for that question. I think there are some misunderstandings on both sides of the rabbit-proof fence on this issue. The ABF has legislative responsibilities for the Customs Act and the Migration Act to clear people travelling from overseas. From that point, the responsibility for passengers passes to states and territories for quarantine and onward domestic travel as relevant. National cabinet, including Premier McGowan, agreed to create hotel quarantine programs from 27 March. All first ministers, including Premier McGowan, agreed to this. This should come as no surprise given this arrangement has been agreed by the WA state government since 27 March.
Western Australia has taken in more than their fair share of stranded Australians returning home. Why are Mr Morrison's ministers from the eastern states attacking the hard work of West Australians in stepping up when his government has stepped away?
I thank Senator Sterle for that question. He couldn't even keep a straight face when he was asking that question, and he's still laughing at the hypocrisy of that question. On 27 March all first ministers agreed to these quarantine hotel arrangements.
Senator Sterle interjecting—
Nobody believes you, Senator Sterle. But in all seriousness, the state government agreed to these arrangements in March. The government has looked very seriously at this issue. Hotels remain the best possible place for quarantine, because people have individual rooms, people have their own facilities and that is where the health support and all of the other wraparound support is located, so it is very clearly the right place to be.