By Colin MacGillivray
MEMBER for McEwen Rob Mitchell has accused the Federal Government of a lack of urgency in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic after it took until last week to confirm a quarantine facility would be built at Mickleham.
Mickleham had been mooted as a possible location for a quarantine centre, along with a site near Avalon, south-west of Melbourne.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week confirmed the 1000-bed centre would be built at Mickleham next to an existing quarantine facility for plants and animals on Donnybrook Road, near the Hume Freeway.
The State Government had requested a federal quarantine facility for returned travellers for several months, and Mr Mitchell said the Federal Government had wasted too much time selecting a site.
Mr Morrison said he expected the first stages of the facility to be completed before the end of the year.
“I have asked my officials to prioritise this project and I want to see that all efforts are made to deliver the first stages of the facility by the end of 2021,” he said.
“A facility with a 1000-bed capacity will increase the number of Australians that can return to Australia and provide options to assist in our economic recovery by enabling arrivals of international students, skilled migrants and other economic intakes into the medium term.”
But Mr Mitchell said the deadline was not soon enough.
“Are we going to go into next year still having most people unvaccinated and still having no quarantine and economic issues because they’ve failed to address it for so long?” he said.
“[The Federal Government] had two jobs: get vaccines in people’s arms and get quarantine done properly, and they’ve done nothing on either of them.
“Less than four per cent of our population has been fully vaccinated 18 months after the start of the pandemic.
“If the vaccine rollout was on track and we had more people vaccinated, the need for a quarantine facility might not be as urgent, but you’re still going to need it if you’re going to open up the borders to visitors and tourism.”
Mr Mitchell said Australia was lagging behind many global leaders when it came to combatting the pandemic.
“[The government] has consistently taken an approach where they hope the pandemic just goes away,” he said.
“We see the United States, Canada and Europe all opening up for tourism and business, and Australia is going to be left languishing because the Prime Minister has absolutely failed to get the vaccination and quarantine programs happening.
“They keep saying they’re coming, but they’re not here, and if they don’t come until November or December, that’s not going to be enough.
“We’re now going into winter with less than four per cent of the population fully vaccinated, and the delta strain becoming more prevalent.”
The offices of state Member for Yuroke Rose Spence and federal Member for Calwell Maria Vamvakinou did not reply to the Review’s requests for comment before deadline.