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Estimates: Question on international flight caps and hotel quarantine resourcing

During the parliamentary estimates hearings on 7 December 2020, I asked the Premier if the government was willing to increase the state's capacity for Queenslanders returning home for the holidays.

You can read the answer below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: Despite increases in the number of hotel quarantine places in October and again in November there are still a lot of Queensland residents stranded overseas and waiting for flights home. Those flights ultimately depend on hotel quarantine places being available and on flight caps for Queensland airports that are decided at national cabinet level by the Premier and other leaders of government.

CHAIR: Is there a question, member for Maiwar?

Mr BERKMAN: There is indeed. Given that we have a very capable health department, plenty of people wanting work and plenty of empty hotels, will the Premier commit to expanding hotel quarantine to get those Queenslanders home for Christmas?

Ms PALASZCZUK: We have said very clearly that we have to watch very carefully how many people we can take into our hotels. I think the member would be aware that we cannot stretch our resources. We have written to the Prime Minister to increase our caps, but we have to keep our caps within what our resources can cope with.

This is a really important issue. I think you would be aware that any breach of hotel quarantine could be catastrophic. We have seen what happened with breaches in Victoria. In terms of international arrivals to Queensland, we wrote to the Prime Minister about that. It was 1,000 per week until 31 January 2021. Then we agreed to receive an additional 300 Australians per week above our international air passenger cap to assistant the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade registered vulnerable people to return home. We are working with Health and the Queensland Police Service on this. From memory, today we had three cases in hotel quarantine. We are seeing that consistently over a number of days. You cannot stretch hotels to do quarantine if there are going to be issues arising. What we have said we can do we will do.

We noticed that the arrivals were not meeting the allocation. We are starting to see that now. Initially the planes were not coming in to furnish the cap that we had. Of course, there are other reasons. Sometimes the charters flights will go into Sydney and will not come into places like, for example, Cairns.

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