Constituency Questions No 1020
59 Parliament First Session
Asked: 16 February 2021


MRS MCARTHUR — To ask the Minister for Training and Skills (for the Minister for Police and Emergency Services): My question is to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and quarantine organisation. The shocking failings of the hotel quarantine system were revealed again by recent infection control lapses and the latest statewide lockdown. The lockdown will not be the last unless we stop patching up a failed model, nor can we pull our weight in receiving returning Australians and farm workers. We need a long-term, high-capacity solution fit for purpose for the months international quarantine is likely to continue. Avalon Airport is a secure, segregated environment large enough to operate a safe and isolated quarantine facility. It could receive international arrivals, with guests walking to outside cabins on the site, which is 10 kilometres distance from the nearest housing but in easy reach of Melbourne and necessary medical facilities, and using fly-in fly-out staff on shift patterns that could prevent new community infection even where transmission occurs in the facility. So my question for the minister is: will you commit to investigating and implementing this serious quarantine solution immediately?
Answered: 10 March 2021

Mr PEARSON (Essendon—Assistant Treasurer, Minister for Regulatory Reform, Minister for Government Services, Minister for Creative Industries):

The Government has already made changes to strengthen Victoria’s quarantine program in light of the UK strain and recent outbreaks. This includes: the roll-out of N95 masks to all staff working in, or entering, a hotel quarantine Red Zone; creating buffer zones between rooms with large families; and extending the current testing program to include voluntary testing for staff on days they are not at work; and checking for nebulisers at the airport. An independent assessment of all CQV hotel ventilation systems is also underway.

Protective measures will continue to be put in place to keep staff, residents and the community safe.

Experts across jurisdictions are considering how to best guard against the new and changing strains, both in terms of the changes we can make now and in the longer term while we wait for the rollout of the vaccine. This Government is acting on expert advice and ensuring that strict infection, prevention and control protocols remain at the centre of everything we do to stop the spread of the virus.

The Government is examining -Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory, which involves single-storey accommodation and a team of senior government officials is exploring the possibility of a bespoke, purpose-built accommodation hub in Victoria, outside the Melbourne CBD. Work is underway to investigate the suitability of land parcels near Melbourne and Avalon airports.

In examining the viability of alternative models of quarantine, the Victorian Government is committed to identifying the best and safest approach possible, including any new accommodation being used in conjunction with CBD hotel quarantine locations or being stood up as a stand-alone facility.