By HARRY CLARKE
THE amount of taxpayer money to be spent establishing coronavirus quarantine west of Toowoomba remains a secret, but the Caller can exclusively reveal the company building the controversial facility not does expect to cover construction costs from the state government’s management lease alone.
Despite significant public interest in how much public money will go towards the Covid quarantine facility at Wellcamp, questions about the commercial deal reached between the Palaszczuk Government and the Wagner Corporation have repeatedly been dismissed.
Both parties said the arrangement was “commercial in confidence”.
While deals of this nature aren’t unheard of, some experts are stunned the government isn’t disclosing the taxpayer cost of such a controversial project.
“It’s obvious that there is so much politics involved in this,” said Gene Tunny, director of Adept Economics.
“When the Queensland auditor generals eventually look at this, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll say the full cost of this should have been disclosed.”
Wagner Corporation chairman John Wagner has said the capital cost his company will pay to build the facility will be about one third of Victoria’s $200 million quarantine camp, which is being mostly funded by the Commonwealth.
Amid speculation about how much the Wagners would then be paid by the government to lease the facility for 12 months, Mr Wagner told the Caller their income wouldn’t be enough pay off the estimated building cost of roughly $66 million, even if the lease is extended for longer.
“No way – that won’t happen,” Mr Wager said.
“But we have an alternate use for the facility, so I’m not overly worried about that.”
The Palaszczuk Government last year announced it would give the Wagners $40 million to help build the company’s Wellcamp Entertainment Precinct adjacent to their commercial airport and industrial park.
That project, costing a total of $175 million and described by the government last year as “Queensland’s largest entertainment precinct”, will include state of the art motorsport motorsport facilities and a 40-000 person performing arts venue.
It’s been touted as a potential western hub of Olympic sports when Queensland hosts the games in 2032.
As freight and passenger flights, industrial development and motorsport activity increase at Wellcamp in years to come, it’s clear the Wagners’ quarantine camp can be recycled for any number of uses.
While not expecting to profit from leasing the facility to the state government for quarantine purposes, the Wagners appear confident of reaping a return over a longer period.
As well as how much Queenslanders will pay to lease the facility, questions also remain about how many millions it will cost to operate, and how much the government expects to claw back from people paying to stay under quarantine.
An adult staying in a single room is slugged $3,220 by the government for two weeks accomodation. The rate was increased by 15 percent on July 1.