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Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has capped off a somewhat controversial week with an appearance on ABC's Q&A on Thursday night where she issued a bleak warning about Australia's inability to contain the Delta coronavirus strain.
"I’m telling you we can’t contain this virus," she told the program.
Aside from making a modest upgrade to the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory, the federal government has shirked its constitutional responsibility for quarantine, offloading it to the states where imperfect hotel programs have been used.
Ms Palaszczuk claimed the system meant there was no way to contain the more infectious coronavirus variant.
As a result, she is calling for a reduction in the number of international arrivals coming into the country.
Queensland man Grant Bartlett, who is among the more than 30,000 Aussies still stranded overseas, questioned the premier's mentality in a pointed question on the show.
"As a Queenslander stuck overseas myself, do you really feel the right response is to slam the gate shut on Queenslanders desperately trying to return home because of failures of your government to run effective Covid secure quarantine facilities?" he asked.
Ms Palaszczuk reiterated that quarantine was a federal government responsibility and that she has been advocating for more regional facilities, arguing breaches have happened in different states.
"It’s not unique to Queensland," she said. "It’s in New South Wales. It’s in Victoria. It’s in Western Australia. And it’s happened in South Australia.
— QandA (@QandA) July 1, 2021
"I’m telling you we can’t contain this virus... It is going to be more and more difficult to contain.
"I’ve got nurses, I’ve got police, I’ve got a whole range of people looking after people in hotel quarantine and our resources are stretched," the premier complained.
Cap on arrivals could be reduced
After months of resisting calls to manage purpose-built quarantine facilities, the Morrison government this month agreed to build a 1000 bed quarantine facility north of Melbourne at a site in Mickleham.
At the earliest, it will be ready about two years into the pandemic and won't mean the end of hotel quarantine for Victoria.
Premiers need to stop blaming overseas arrivals people have a right to come here. Blame the Federal Government and the lack of proper quarantine facilities and the terrible vaccine rollout.
— Cameron Kusher (@cmkusher) June 29, 2021
The Queensland premier along with her Labor counterpart in Victoria, Dan Andrews, will push the Commonwealth to reduce the caps on international arrivals at a National Cabinet meeting today. The WA premier Mark McGowan also backs the move.
Of the 6070 weekly cap on arrivals (excluding flight from NZ), NSW currently does the heavy lifting on hotel quarantine taking more three times the amount compared to Brisbane and Melbourne.
According to Nine News, the prime minister appears likely to heed the call from the states to reduce arrivals from overseas.
While strong border measures have proved electorally popular, the prospect of even fewer Aussies being allowed to return home has drawn fierce criticism from many online as Australia's bungled vaccine program has helped fuel increasingly insular politics.
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