COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Misc. Provisions) Amendment (Quarantine Recovery) Bill no 29 of 2020
Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, while this bill is retrospective, I do not see that as a problem because it has been widely advertised, with the Premier announcing the proposed fees for hotel quarantining on 24 July. Anyone planning to come to Tasmania from 31 July would have been well aware they would be contributing to their hotel accommodation.
It should be noted this is a contribution only to security, food, laundry and anything the hotel quarantine facility may provide during the stay. As the member for Murchison said, there are many things, particularly if you have someone there and you do not know whether they are going to come down with COVID-19 - the extra precautions they must take, and all the laundry and everything being cleaned more than they normally would. I am sure that is an extra cost, more than there would have been, and some of the hotels people are staying at are five star.
Ms Forrest - Not many in Tasmania.
Ms ARMITAGE - No, I will say four star. I digress a little.
I recall an officer telling me a gentleman turned up at one of the hotels and said, 'I can't stay here, I need to stay somewhere else', and he said, 'Unfortunately, if you had come in yesterday, you could have stayed at a better hotel, but today this is where you are staying.'. It is interesting people were not paying at that stage, but were still very fussy about where they were going to stay. It should be noted it is a contribution only and is not the full cost of the hotel. However, in saying that, there is an allowance for financial hardship and also, in exceptional circumstances, for particularly exceptional compassionate circumstances.
The bill gives effect to the National Cabinet agreement of 10 July 2020 where it was agreed to work towards a uniform model for charging for hotel quarantine across the country. It is important to be uniform across the country. The bill notes a daily rate that provides the Government with flexibility. Anyone coming from Victoria or hotspots in New South Wales or other states will need hotel quarantine, but there are cases where Tasmanian residents and others are not included in those hotspots could be in hotel quarantine for a short time before being allowed to quarantine at home or from the outset quarantine at home. I have had a few of those cases myself.
Like other members here, I have been dealing with quite a lot of quarantine cases and gone across the gamut now. I do not think there is anything else I have not learned from different people who are coming in. I had one particular case, as the member for Murchison was saying, of a mother and three teenage children in a hotel accommodation when they could have been quarantining at home. Unfortunately, they were not aware of how to supply extra information to prove they had not been in a hotspot. Until you are aware of it and the information can be sent to you for forwarding on, there is a little misinformation or non-information for people who do not realise that to send extra information in, sometimes you have to cancel the information you have already put in.
Ms Forrest - You have to restart the application every time.
Ms ARMITAGE - And restart the whole application. Absolutely. Many people do not appreciate that. They are looking to find how they can put the extra information in. In the meantime, they are actually in hotel accommodation, which with a couple of teenagers, I believe, was quite challenging for this poor lady. She was most delighted to get out a week early, or go home to quarantine a week early.
I understand that if this bill passes, around 484 invoices for 634 guests will be send out. I also note people can apply for the exemption for financial hardship before, during or after quarantine. It is important there is an opportunity for this, whether it be before, during, or even after they have actually quarantined. I note also the Government can provide payment plans for those who may have difficulty paying these fees, but do not meet the requirements for exemption.
I have had significant involvement with people returning from interstate and needing to quarantine. Without exception people coming from hotspots since 31 July have had no issue whatsoever with paying for their hotel accommodation. In fact, all they wanted to do was simply get back to Tasmania. If they had to pay, they really did not care. I have not had any who actually queried this. I accept the issue mentioned by the member for Murchison and in briefings for people who may need lifesaving treatment in Victoria. It is essential they can be provided with approval in a timely manner, for likely compassionate exemption for the cost of hotel quarantine. It would be an absolutely terrible state of affairs if people forewent necessary treatment because of the cost of returning home. Obviously, to stay in Victoria for long treatments, the cost would be very difficult for many.
Mr President, I accept it is important to discourage non-essential and non-time sensitive travel to and from affected areas and people travelling have a genuine need to travel. I support the bill.