Gladys Berejiklian blasts Queensland over ‘lame excuse’ to dodge $30 million bill

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has fired up at the Queensland Government over the states sudden refusal to pay NSW for covering the cost of hotel quarantine for thousands of returned travellers.Last year, all states and territories had agreed to cover the cost of their citizens who underwent hotel quarantine in different states during the period when program isolation was being covered by the government.
During that period, NSW quarantined 7112 Queensland residents and a further 4991 who didn’t have an Australian address recorded, the cost of which has been split across all states and territories.
Quarantining the Queenslanders set NSW back $30 million, a bill Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles now claims his state will not be paying.
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He tabled the invoice in Queensland parliament yesterday, revealing the bizarre reason behind the sudden decision to try to skip out on the payment, which appears to have nothing to do with NSW.
Mr Miles claimed Queensland would not pay the $30 million owed by his state until the Federal Government agrees to allow a national quarantine hub to be built in Toowoomba, 125 west of Brisbane.
To drive his point home, Mr Miles posted a video to Facebook of him tearing up the invoice for the quarantine costs.
“Scott Morrison has given the go-ahead for NSW to send Queensland taxpayers a $30 million bill for their quarantine program, even though it’s 100 per cent a federal responsibility,” he said.
“He’s like a school bully telling us we have to give our lunch money to NSW.
“We’re not going to pay this bill, not while the Commonwealth refuses to endorse our plan for a national quarantine centre.”
The move has infuriated Ms Berejiklian, who blasted Mr Miles’ “lame excuse” for the Queensland Government not paying what they owe to NSW.
“Queensland’s quarantine hub issue is with the Federal Government, while this is a direct debt they owe to the people of NSW and they need to do the decent thing and pay up,” she said.
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said it was “disappointing” to see Queensland backing out on the agreement, adding NSW acted in “good faith” by taking on Queenslanders returning to the country.
“Acting in the national interest, NSW has taken many more overseas arrivals than any other state,” he said.
“With that has come greater cost and an increased risk to our quarantine staff, health workers and citizens.
“I’m confident the tens of thousands of people who have been able to return to Australia through Sydney would be left shaking their heads at this political stunt.”
Queensland’s issue with the $30 million quarantine bill follows news that Brisbane is at the top of the list to host the 2032 Olympic Games, a feat that would cost the state government billions.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said while the decision is not final, the executive board agreed unanimously with the recommendation to open exclusive talks with Brisbane about hosting the Games in 2032, praising Brisbane’s “very advanced” bid plan.
“We’re very excited by this development. It puts Queensland in the box seat and I know that every level of Government is absolutely united in working together to make this happen,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Thursday.
“And I’m very pleased that we’ll be working with the mayors and the Federal Government to ensure that we get the funding to make this a reality.”
Ms Palaszczuk said the chance to host the Olympic Games gives “hope and opportunity” as Queensland continues to recover economically from COVID-19.
“It gives every single one of us hope that it puts Brisbane firmly on that international map, and we can actually give hope to our young students right across the nation that they could compete in an Olympics here in Queensland in 2032.”