I rise tonight to place on the record my deep concern and even regret at the Queensland Labor government’s idea of placing a regional quarantine camp in Toowoomba, in my electorate of Groom. The Premier floated this idea at a press conference on 22 January 2021, in what now seems a desperate attempt to find a solution to her regional quarantine plans. She originally proposed to use remote mining camps. That plan came undone and has been unravelling ever since. The Premier proposed two sites, Gladstone and Toowoomba, with no detail. This caused significant community anxiety, fear and concern.
As we know, the Gladstone proposal was quickly rejected by the community and local leaders, particularly the Labor mayor of Gladstone. I’m pointing out that this is not a political rejection; this is one based on health and safety grounds—a Labor mayor rejecting a Labor premier. In Toowoomba we kept an open mind. Of course, without details, community concern rose. That was reflected through the calls to my office, the many emails we received and the people who came up to me on the street to express their concerns, all talking about the quarantine camp. This was on 22 January, and, every day since, anxiety, fear and concern have risen in our community. But it’s not only from the residents. We’re now hearing from business leaders, and, most importantly, health leaders in our region have raised their concerns about this proposal and the lack of consultation from the state government.
Don’t get me wrong. If you want to build this facility—to do it well and to do it quickly—the Wagners will get you there. But it was the Premier who asked for the Wagners to provide the government with construction detail, and they’ve done that. As John Wagner himself said yesterday, the detail was still lacking from the state, four weeks on. He says in The Chronicle:
Other details were yet to be worked out, including how Queensland Health would treat and transport people—
That’s a reasonably important detail for a quarantine facility—
We will build it and maintain it, do the food and beverage, Queensland will be involved in how the health side
of things works.
So the state government will be responsible for the delivery and management of the day-to-day operations of the facility, and the state Labor government will be responsible for the security and policing facility. But four
weeks on we have no details of any of that. I was alarmed at media reports today. The headline in The Courier Mail reads, ‘Queensland’s quarantine camp plan lacks crucial detail’. This sends shivers down my spine, as I’m sure it does for many people in the Toowoomba region. I’ll get to that later on. The report goes on to state, ‘The Queensland plan was not a formal proposal but mostly a series of dot points that failed to provide or develop critical health, security and safety information.’ Four weeks on and we have dot points. As I said, there’s a lack of detail on how Queensland Health would treat and transport people. Perhaps it’s just the engineer in me that likes to see detail on these things, but I find it extraordinary that we are this far along in the process and we have no detail on these issues.
I’ve had no response to letters I sent to the Premier on 25 January and 9 February, requesting more detail. Premier Palaszczuk’s dot-point plan lacks detail and is insufficient. The community does not support it, and that’s been demonstrated through a series of online polls. The Chronicle poll, particularly, showed 1,500 people against it and 100 people for it. I think that’s a fair demonstration of the community’s feelings. I again call on her to provide an operational plan and details on health and policing. I urge her, as I urged in each of my letters, to come to Toowoomba, speak to the people there and explain her quarantine camp concept in detail.
I have a very small selection of the correspondence I’ve received during this process. I have an email from Glen and Maxine on 7 February. They write to express the great deal of concern that this proposal has raised with them, and they wonder what would happen if an outbreak occurred at this facility. They ask me: ‘Would you please voice our concerns at a federal level?’ Glen and Maxine, I happily will voice your concerns. Rod—I’m saving their last names—wrote on 8 February. He’s 77 years old and points out that Toowoomba has a significant elderly population. We have a university. We have schools. A lot of western Queensland depends upon it. James writes on 16 February that he would like to register his opposition to the plan and points out that he feels it’s only a matter of time before a mistake is made and COVID is out in our community. James, I hope that’s not the case. I could go on, but time will stop me.
I say again: Premier Palaszczuk, come to Toowoomba, talk to us and explain your plan. Talk to the people of Toowoomba and explain what it is you want to do. (Time expired)