The WA Premier has revealed the extent of his anger at the Federal Government forcing states to accept more Australians stranded overseas after securing a compromise through a “pretty robust conversation”.
Mark McGowan was outraged when he heard about the plan through a journalist on Wednesday, saying the Commonwealth was “bossing people around … basically saying they’re just going to fly people in and dump them on our doorstep”.
At a National Cabinet meeting on Friday, the Labor leader managed to convince Prime Minister Scott Morrison to amend the proposal, which gives WA a three-and-a-half week ramp-up to more international arrivals “instead of one”.
“Recklessly doubling the number of arrivals into Western Australia overnight is not the way we should be approaching this issue, especially when we are dealing with a deadly virus and we do not have hotel quarantine capability to deal with it overnight,” Mr McGowan told reporters.
The state has agreed to take an extra 200 repatriated Aussies per week from September 28 and a further 300 per week from October 12 on the condition it gets ADF support to police hotel quarantine.
That will lift WA’s total intake to 1025 per week.
A clearly still miffed Mr McGowan said the state was already taking Australia’s second highest number of arrivals from overseas and had negotiated the extended timetable and military assistance to keep citizens safe after more than five months with no community transmission.
He said he did not want a repeat of Melbourne’s hotel quarantine debacle.
“It’s not to be heartless, it’s not to be cruel,” Mr McGowan said.
“The fundamental thing here is the hotel quarantine arrangements need to be secure, they need to be absolutely watertight so that we keep West Australians safe.”
He said the extra numbers would require the use of two more hotels on top of the eight being used now, and regrettably some elective surgery may need to be delayed to redeploy health workers to the venues.
Rottnest Island, which has previously held quarantined cruise ship passengers, would not be needed and the Federal Government had refused to use Christmas Island.
“The Commonwealth is just not keen,” Mr McGowan said.
After the feisty talks, “we’re back on track and working cooperatively”, he said.
“Obviously earlier this week I was pretty unhappy about the way things were handled but today the Commonwealth was agreeable to what we asked for so we’re all sweetness and light.”
With just three active cases in WA, music festivals and other events for more than 500 people can now go ahead if their COVID-19 event plan is approved.