Victorian Government Fast-Tracks Bill Charging Returnees in Hotel Quarantine

December 8, 2020 Updated: December 8, 2020

The Victorian government has fast-tracked a bill through the legislative assembly of state Parliament that will see hotel quarantine guests pay around $3,000 for a mandatory two-week stay in Melbourne.

A revamped version of the hotel quarantine program is now into its second day, and 235 people have successfully landed in the state capital so far. Overseas returnees have arrived on flights from Colombo, Doha, Hong Kong, Manilla, Singapore, and Tokyo.

The new-look quarantine system is overseen by Police and Emergency Minister Lisa Neville, who said so far the system is running smoothly and there have only been minor issues.

“I’m absolutely confident that this program is robust and is going to deliver what we said it would,” she said.

The government has been preparing the program for five months, according to Neville. However, they only submitted a bill to charge guests for quarantine last week.

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Victoria Police and Emergency minister Lisa Neville during a media conference at Melbourne Airport in Melbourne, Australia on Dec. 7, 2020. (Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Victorian Labour parliamentarians are faced with a tough challenge to have the Public Health and Wellbeing Amendment (Quarantine Fees) Bill 2020 passed with opposition MPs voicing concerns about why it was only being done in Parliament in last week before the summer break.

Shadow Police Minister David Southwick of the Victorian Liberal Party said he was only briefed on the legislation on Dec. 4. He said in a legislative assembly debate on Tuesday that the last-minute and chaotic approach is indicative of the Andrews government.

“At 4.30 (p.m.) on Friday, I got a phone call from the police minister’s chief of staff saying we need to rush through a bill to enable to government to charge for hotel quarantine,” he said.

“The government had five months to sort this out!” Southwick said

An amendment to the bill has been tabled by Southwick and was overturned by a Labor majority vote. His proposal was to waive fees for those who cannot afford it.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews agreed at a national cabinet meeting in early July to implement a fee for guests. A national cabinet update from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office on July 10 summarised a review of the hotel quarantine program for all jurisdictions. It noted: “States and territories are moving toward a model of charging for hotel quarantine.”

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Staff inside the Stamford Hotel, Melbourne, Australia on June 25, 2020. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Victoria has not accepted international flights since the end of June when the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus (novel coronavirus) spread from a returnee to private security guards and into the community. Failures in the system have face ongoing scrutiny and an inquiry led by Jennifer Coates.

The outbreak was the epicentre to 99 percent of Victoria’s CCP virus cases. Response by the Victorian government saw the enforcement of tough lockdown measures.

As of Tuesday, the state has gone 39 days without recording a new COVID-19 infection.

Lisa Neville’s Quarantine Fees bill passed through the legislative at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and now moves to the Upper House for debate before it can have its royal assent.