The Australian Commonwealth government and the Victorian state government have reached an agreement on a stand-alone quarantine facility, with the site yet to be confirmed.
Victoria’s stand-alone virus quarantine facility will go ahead although the state and federal governments are yet to agree on where it will be built.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra the Commonwealth will pay for the facility but the Victorian government would run the facility and cover the operational expenses.
“This will both assist [the Victorian government] in the risk management of various groups they’re providing for in their quarantine system as well as providing additional capacity for the quarantine system in Victoria,” Morrison said.
Morrison said he was “very pleased” with the Victorian government’s proposal for the facility, which in contrast to his comments about a similar proposal from the Queensland government, which he indicated had repeatedly said lacked crucial detail and proposes to replace rather than supplement hotel quarantine in the state.
Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed on Friday he has signed a memorandum of understanding with Morrison.
“I am very, very pleased that today we have an agreement, we are going to get cracking and deliver this facility,” Merlino told reporters.
But a site for the facility still hasn’t been decided, with a site at Mickleham, north of Melbourne, the state’s first option, while the federal government appears to favour Avalon Airport near Geelong.
“Our preference is Mickleham, we are very happy to have it at the Avalon site as well, it will work equally well there,” Merlino said.
He added now the proposal has Commonwealth approval, the Victorian government will now try to have the facility built more quickly than the current timeline.
When Victoria first proposed the facility in late April, the final call on construction was to be made in September, with the hope that it would be ready by the end of the year.
Site investigations have been carried out at both locations.
On Thursday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg strongly suggested Avalon was the federal government’s preferred option.
Victoria wanted the Commonwealth to fund and build the 500-bed facility at a cost of $200 million.
The centre would operate “over and above” the current hotel quarantine system.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton told channel nine on Friday that not even a dedicated quarantine facility could prevent the problems that have emerged in hotel quarantine.
“I think where you’ve got human beings involved, there is a potential for breach and that’s why there’s not a fundamental problem at all with the hotel quarantine,” he said.
A leak from the hotel quarantine system in South Australia caused Victoria’s current outbreak and snap lockdown, the state’s fourth.
AAP contributed to this article.