Queensland Hotel quarantine bungle deepens with PM's revelation

Courier Mail 6 August

Scott Morrison says the Palaszczuk Government operated outside nationally agreed arrangements for returning diplomats when it granted a man an exemption from hotel quarantine.

The Prime Minister yesterday weighed into the bungled handling of the case after Queensland unilaterally announced it was ending the right for diplomats and consular staff to quarantine at home instead of a hotel.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has faced mounting criticism after The Courier-Mail revealed officials provided an exemption to a man who claimed he was a consular official but was in fact a private security contractor working at the Australian Embassy in Afghanistan.

Last Friday the man caught a packed Jetstar flight from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast before driving to his home in Toowoomba. He subsequently tested positive for coronavirus and officials believe he was infectious on the flight, sparking a health alert.

It’s understood the man failed to follow directives from his employer about what exemptions he was entitled to access.

The Queensland Government insists the man did “everything right” but sent three documents attached to his exemption application to police for investigation.

Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said investigators had “no concerns” about the man’s actions.

But Mr Morrison said genuine diplomats were never expected to be allowed to catch commercial domestic flights to return home for self-quarantine.

“The arrangement was, those diplomats who were returning into Australia, where they could go directly into a private vehicle, and they were going to Canberra, and transfer immediately and commit to self-isolation in their residence,” he told 2GB.

“What happened with this was, Queensland gave an exemption for people to go and get on a plane out to the Sunshine Coast and then go to Toowoomba, that’s got nothing to do with any arrangements that the federal government has.”

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young defended the exemption and said the man did “everything correctly” travelling back to Queensland including wearing a mask.

Fairfax MP Ted O’Brien said it was time the Queensland Government was called out for “spreading misinformation” about the case.

“Misinformation risks unnecessary panic and deflects attention from the things that really need to be addressed,” he said.

“The Queensland Government claimed that the passenger was a consular official – false, that he was travelling on a diplomatic passport – false, and that he was allowed into Queensland after a written request from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade – false.”