By HARRY CLARKE
RETURNED international travellers could be quarantined at purpose-built camps outside Toowoomba within six weeks of the government approving their construction.
Billionaire local businessman John Wagner was joined by Queensland deputy premier Steven Miles and treasurer Cameron Dick today at the Wagner-owned Wellcamp Airport and Business Park, advocating the construction of a remote quarantine facility as a permanent alternative for hotel quarantine.
The camp site, a four-minute bus ride from the Wagners’ international Wellcamp Airport, would ultimately house 1000 overseas returnees and 300 full-time staff, taking up to 14 weeks to construct completely.
But Mr Wagner said his company could have the first 400-500 rooms functional within only six weeks of federal and state government approval.
“We will build it, maintain it, do the food and beverage, and Queensland Health will be involved in how the health side of things works,” Mr Wagner said.
“Every room will have its own air conditioner system. There’d be no corridors for people to transmit (coronavirus). Every worker at this facility will be vaccinated, otherwise they won’t be able to come onsite.
“So the risk of community transmission, with the vaccination being rolled out, is extremely low.”
Mr Wagner also stressed that the facility would be “self-funding”, meaning guests would reimburse the government for accomodation costs in a way similar to current hotel quarantine arrangements.
But he said the cost of building the camp was “commercial in confidence”.
“We are not asking any level of government for any funding of this project,” Mr Wagner said. “It’s a user pays facility, so it’s self funding.”
The proposal would need approval from the federal government, which recently rejected a proposal to quarantine return travellers in existing resource industry camp facilities around Gladstone.
And the Toowoomba facility has been met with resistance from other renowned local business identities. Builder and philanthropist Clive Berghofer has already advertised his concern for Toowoomba’s safety and reputation in local media.
Mr Miles, who with Mr Dick was attending the sod-turning of new a trade distribution centre and recycling facility at Wellcamp, said the government supported the Wagner quarantine camp proposal.
“We’ve put this forward as a proposal to avoid having to shut down whole cities for four or fives days as we’ve seen in Perth and Brisbane and Melbourne,” Mr Miles said.
“Scott Morrison really needs to consider how many times he wants to see that happen before we put in place a more effective quarantine regimes.
“There are two big advantages (with the Wagner proposal). You can properly ventilate the spaces around the accommodation – you don’t have the hallway or corridor effect that we’ve seen in the recent outbreaks.
“Also the ability to have a secure, stable work force, just allowing people to work full time in the one location also reduces the risk.”