Western Australia will consider again using Rottnest Island to house returned travellers amid tension between the state and Commonwealth over quarantine arrangements.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has urged states to take more Australians returning from overseas through expanded hotel quarantine programs.
WA would take an extra 500 international arrivals per week – almost double its current number – under Mr McCormack’s plan.
Premier Mark McGowan says WA is already close to capacity for the number of people it can safely keep in eight hotels across Perth’s CBD.
A frustrated Mr McGowan says it would have been more appropriate to discuss the plan at national cabinet before publicly announcing it.
“We would consider it but we want to have a proper conversation and proper consideration of it,” he said on Wednesday.
“I don’t really like the fact that this has been sprung via a press conference without a discussion with the people required to actually implement it and I would have thought that is very directly outside the spirit of the national cabinet.”
Mr McCormack has written to premiers and chief ministers asking for their support ahead of Friday’s national cabinet meeting.
Almost 2000 people are being held in COVID-19 hotel quarantine in Perth.
WA has a cap of 525 returned overseas passengers a week – second only to NSW – but its numbers are also being inflated by people arriving from Victoria to take up jobs in WA.
Under WA’s strict quarantine laws, anyone arriving from Victoria must spend 14 days in hotel quarantine.
The government will consider using popular tourism spot Rottnest Island to house returned travellers, having done so earlier in the year.
“I don’t exactly want to close down Rottnest just before the school holidays when people have holidays booked,” Mr McGowan said.
“It may take some weeks for us to consider an option around Rottnest and that’s something I’m happy to work with the Commonwealth on.”
Mr McGowan remains adamant the Commonwealth should consider having travellers quarantine at defence bases but appeared to backtrack from Tuesday’s suggestion that the Christmas Island detention centre could be used.
“What I suggested yesterday was some of the Commonwealth facilities that are available but in particular, defence bases,” he said.
Christmas Island is currently housing convicted criminals and people whose visas were revoked but couldn’t be deported because of a lack of flights.
The federal government has said it would not be appropriate to use as a quarantine facility and the suggestion was also panned by WA’s Liberal opposition.