'Made a mistake': Premier's spray over Covid-19 response

Australian Associated Press
·4-min read

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan is standing firm that Covid-19 quarantine is a Commonwealth responsibility, despite Defence Minister Peter Dutton's insistence to the contrary.

Mr McGowan wants the federal government to open air bases and Christmas Island to assist quarantining overseas travellers, saying state hotels can't cope.

But Mr Dutton disagrees, saying such facilities are "not fit for purpose".

He added that premiers agreed last year, based on medical advice, how to conduct the hotel quarantine scheme.

Mark McGowan has come under fire for a
Mark McGowan has come under fire for a "mistake" that led to the current outbreak. Source: AAP

"Mark McGowan has made a mistake," he told ABC's Insiders program about the WA government's use of a Perth Mercure Hotel where the virus spread among quarantining guests.

"Nobody is being critical of him for that. He doesn't need to be defensive. He doesn't want to be the next Dan Andrews where they had significant problems," he added, referring to Victoria's long lockdown last year.

Mr McGowan hit back, saying it was "a bit rich" of the federal government to be critical of his state's quarantining procedure.

"It's a bit rich of them now to blame us when we're doing their job," he said.

He argued it was the Commonwealth's responsibility under section 51 of the Constitution, also reminding reporters that Christmas Island was used in March and April last year for people returning from Japan and China.

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The Commonwealth agreed to his request to halve the number of returned travellers to 512 per week for a least a month until May 31, he added.

"If the Commonwealth is unable to assist with proper quarantine facilities, I am reluctant to return to the full 1025 per week cap," Mr McGowan said.

"That weekly number of returning residents is not something that can continue long term without proper Commonwealth quarantine facilities being used."

He had a further spray at the federal government's Covid-19 border management.

Cases that sparked the lockdown were linked to the Mercure hotel in Perth. Source: AAP
Cases that sparked the lockdown were linked to the Mercure hotel in Perth. Source: AAP

"Many of the people who are Covid positive are people who left Australia recently and went to Covid-laden countries, I'm just not copping that," Mr McGowan said.

"That people recently went to India and come back Covid positive, and then we have incidents like this occur, and then somehow the Commonwealth says that's OK. It's not OK.

"If you want to go overseas, it should be for only the most extraordinary of reasons at this point in time. Not to go overseas for a wedding. Even to go overseas for a funeral. We have to be a lot tougher in relation to letting people out of Australia."

Metropolitan Perth and the neighbouring Peel region are in a three-day lockdown after Covid-19 cases linked to the Perth Mercure Hotel.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said Mr McGowan had made a mistake with his handling of hotel quarantining. Source: AAP
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said Mr McGowan had made a mistake with his handling of hotel quarantining. Source: AAP

There were no new locally acquired cases reported in WA on Sunday, but two new infections were recorded among returned travellers in quarantine.

More potential exposure sites have been added to WA community warning list.

Mr McGowan expects to give further details on Monday about the lifting of his state's lockdown, which is due to end at midnight.

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese warned unless the government gets the vaccine rollout right, there will be further lockdowns.

"We really need the government to get its act together to make sure that, particularly those who are vulnerable, get the vaccine they need," he told reporters after attending an Anzac ceremony in Sydney on Sunday.

The nation reported no new locally acquired Covid-19 cases on Sunday, although there were 10 new infections among returned overseas travellers already in quarantine.

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