With thousands of Australians still stuck overseas and no firm end in sight to the international border closure, the federal government is kickstarting plans to build more specific COVID quarantine centres.

With thousands of Australians still stuck overseas and no firm end in sight to the international border closure, the federal government is kickstarting plans to build more specific COVID quarantine centres to try and speed up bringing people home.
In letters to three state premiers, the Prime Minister has suggested locations for two new facilities and locked in a site in Victoria for a third.
While federal ministers say conversations about other facilities have been had at National Cabinet for weeks, the government’s proactive suggestions of places they could be is a shift in its approach toward quarantining arrivals.
It also signals quarantine could be around for longer than many had hoped or anticipated.
Here’s what we know about the plans so far.
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What’s the government proposing?
The Prime Minister has written letters to the premiers of Western Australia and Queensland, saying the Commonwealth is keen to partner with the state governments on new facilities in each state.
It goes a bit further than that and suggests locations for each facility, based on research and advice from the Department of Finance.
In Queensland, it’s suggested the facility be at a defence barracks in Pinkenba.
In WA, suggests a section of land owned by the Department of Infrastructure at either Perth or Jandakot airport in the city’s southern suburbs.
Scott Morrison has written to the premiers of WA and Queensland about the facilities.(ABC News: David Weber
“As I have indicated publicly, the Commonwealth is willing to consider a partnership on any proposals that meet the key assessment criteria,” Mr Morrison said.
The key criteria are that the site has to include access to an international airport and be close to a major hospital.
The government’s also given the green light to Victoria for a facility it proposed to be built at Mickleham in the city’s north. 
Importantly, the Victorian proposal will not just house returning Australians but also international students and skilled migrants.
Both the Queensland and WA facilities are expected to have 1,000 beds.
Why is it pitching these facilities?
In short, with international passenger caps still in place, the government wants to provide extra quarantine spots.
“It remains the priority of my government to ensure that more Australians who are overseas can safely return home,” Mr Morrison said in his letter to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
The new facilities would operate in the same way that Howard Springs does and mean the government could organise more repatriation flights from overseas, knowing they had dedicated quarantine spots not affected by changing passenger caps.
On top of that, the government is planning on designing these facilities so they can be used “beyond the COVID-19 pandemic”.
While Mr Morrison didn’t specify it in his letters, the Victorian proposal has an emphasis on open air around self-contained cabins to reduce the transmission risk, and the state government had suggested travellers from high-risk countries could be quarantined there as a priority.
Did the states want these?
Yes and no let’s go through state by state.
The Queensland government has welcomed the news that the government is keen to set up a facility there, but had urged them to go with its proposal for a facility at Toowoomba’s Wellcamp airport, saying it would be cheaper and quicker to set up.
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In WA, Premier Mark McGowan has previously suggested repurposing Commonwealth sites like Christmas Island to be used as dedicated quarantine hubs, but said building new facilities would take years and that he hoped by then vaccinations would mean the pandemic was not the problem it was today.
He is expected to speak about the proposal this afternoon.
Victoria welcomed the federal government’s approval of the Mickleham site.
What does this mean for hotel quarantine?
Hotel quarantine isn’t going anywhere.
These facilities will all sit alongside it, and add to the overall capacity to quarantine people coming into Australia.
It’ll hopefully mean that there’s potentially fewer infected travellers and less risk of leakage from hotel quarantine, with people from higher-risk areas housed in the dedicated facilities.
Thousands of people have gone through hotel quarantine since it was introduced last year.(AAP: Jeremy Piper
What will this cost and when will they be ready?
Mr Morrison’s hoping Victoria’s Mickleham facility could be ready before the end of the year, with the plan to start taking travellers once 500 beds are built.
At the moment the suggested price tag is $200 million to build a 500-bed facility and around $700 million if it was scaled up to 3,000 beds.
The federal government’s going to cover most of the building costs, while the state government will cover the daily running costs. A similar set-up would happen in Queensland and WA.
But in terms of when those two states might have their facility is a different story.
Mr Morrison’s letter is the first step in what could be a long process given both sides have to agree to the location and then sort out what the facilities will look like, who’ll build them and how long it’ll take.
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