Cough up Queensland: NSW gets stiffed for $30m
NSW authorities have been blindsided by Queensland's sudden refusal to pay its $30 million quarantine bill for putting up thousands of returned travellers in Sydney hotels.
Despite an agreement reached last year by the board of the nation's treasurers that each state would foot the invoice for their own residents, Queensland yesterday said it would welch on the deal.
It comes as The Daily Telegraph can exclusively reveal the NSW government will today announce a multi-billion dollar improvement to the state's economic forecast, shaving $2 billion off the projected deficit, thanks to the state's ability to avoid widespread lockdowns.
Still, NSW is counting on a combined $86 million owed by other states to cover hotel quarantine between March and September last year, before the cost was borne by the individual.
"They need to do the decent thing and pay up," Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Bizarrely, Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles cited a beef with the federal government - not NSW - for his reason for withholding the money, saying he would not pay the bill until Scott Morrison approved a quarantine hub at Toowoomba.
"That's a lame excuse for not paying up what they owe the citizens of NSW," Ms Berejiklian said.
"Queensland's quarantine hub issue is with the federal government, while this is a direct debt they owe to the people of NSW and they need to do the decent thing and pay up."
Mr Miles tabled the NSW invoice to Queensland parliament yesterday. It advises that NSW quarantined 7112 Queenslanders and 4991 people with no address who have been split in cost across all states proportionally.
"Scott Morrison is like a school bully telling us we have to give our lunch money to NSW," Mr Miles said. "We will not be paying that bill, not while the Commonwealth refuses to endorse out plan for a national quarantine centre."
GET BACK ON THE DANCEFLOOR
Dust off your dancing shoes and warm up those vocal chords - people will be able to hit the dance floor at weddings and sing indoors in a major easing of COVID-19 restrictions in NSW.
From midnight tomorrow, residents will also be able to have 50 people in their homes, up from 30, and limits on gym classes will lift to 50 people.
And if there are zero locally acquired cases recorded over the next three weeks, bar patrons will be allowed to drink while standing and attendance caps on weddings and funerals will be lifted.
It came as the state recorded its 38th straight day of no local coronavirus cases.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said restrictions were being eased "with caution".
"NSW is in a very good position but we know that is very volatile," Ms Berejiklian said. "We have to be as vigilant as ever. We have to make sure we do not become complacent, that we stick to the COVID restrictions and rules to make sure that all of us stay protected."
Thirty people at a time will be able to dance at weddings from tomorrow but Ms Berejiklian confirmed dancing at other indoor venues was still banned. In other changes cinemas will revert to 100 per cent capacity while indoor choirs of up to 30 people will be allowed.
Congregants at places of worship will be allowed to sing if wearing face masks, subject to the 4sqm rule.
NEW ZEALAND VISITORS MUST ENTER QUARANTINE
Auckland is now a hotspot and all New Zealand arrivals since February 20 must self-isolate following three new community cases there, according to NSW Health.
Plans to ramp up tracing and testing for arriving passengers from New Zealand were announced by NSW Health on Wednesday night following three new cases of community transmission in Auckland on Tuesday.
A statement from NSW Health announced Auckland would now be treated "as a hotspot" from Thursday.
It confirmed officials were contacting all arrivals since Feb 20 to check if they had been to any of the venues the three cases went to.
"A notice is now in effect specifying Auckland as a hotspot. This requires people arriving in NSW from New Zealand who have been in Auckland, including the airport, to enter hotel quarantine for 14 days. Alternatively, they may choose to depart Australia," the NSW Health statement read.
"As a precaution, people who have arrived since Saturday 20 February are also being asked if they are well and are being asked to get tested for COVID-19 and isolate until they get a negative result, or for 14 days if they attended one of the venues."
Auckland's hotspot status will come into effect from 12:01am on Thursday.
NSw Health said the department would "continue to monitor" the situation.
Originally published as Cough up Queensland: NSW gets stiffed for $30m