Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

Revealed: How ‘non-consular’ quarantine fiasco unfolded

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says it was a New South Wales exemption that allowed a man to leave Sydney to travel to Queensland on the basis he was a consular official.

Mrs Palaszczuk was responding to revelations a man who avoided mandatory hotel quarantine on returning to Queensland after saying he was a consular official was a private security contractor.

The man, who tested positive to coronavirus, returned from Sydney after flying in from Afghanistan, where he was employed by a private security firm where he was based at the Australian Embassy.

He is serving the remainder of his quarantine period in self-isolation at his home in Toowoomba.

Sources have told The Courier-Mail he was allegedly listed as a consular official on a border declaration pass to travel into the state.

Ms Palaszczuk today said she understood there was "a letter provided on DFAT letterhead, that letter plus the letter from NSW which granted the exemption, has now all gone to the Queensland police," she said.

"I think we are now in a situation where these loopholes need to be closed … it's not too much to be asking people who are returning from overseas to do the mandatory quarantine.

"There's a lot of virus happening overseas … and this is about keeping Australians safe, keeping Queenslanders safe, so if we can fix a loophole let's have a discussion and see if it can be done."

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said NSW gave the exemption to leave Sydney because that was his port of arrival.

She said she granted the man an exemption to quarantine at home when he got to Queensland.

Dr Young said the loophole she wants closed was to stop people who have a diplomatic passport from being granted a blanket exemption.

"I also want people to quarantine at their port of arrival," she said.

"I don't think we should allow people to get onto a domestic flight and fly interstate because we have 14 people we are trying to contact who were on that plane.

"Two of those people have no contact details, the airline cannot tell me how I can get hold of those two people because there is no requirement for domestic planes to keep contact details.

" … but for domestic, we are struggling today to find two of those 14 people."

She said she has pushed for domestic airlines to be required to keep contact details.

Asked whether exemptions should still be granted for people like entertainers, the Premier said, "I think it should apply to everyone".

Pressed on what this meant for people who requested exemptions on compassionate grounds, Ms Palaszczuk said, "I'm going to leave that to the Chief Health Officer but there are sometimes extenuating circumstances.

"But, you know, I think exemptions need to be closed as much as possible because we've got to keep our community safe."

She said she was quite sure the issue of exemptions would be discussed nationally.

Asked whether it was still safe to grant exemptions on compassionate grounds,

Dr Young said she didn't approve "very many".

"The ones are people with spinal injuries who are a paraplegic and they need a carer so my first response is could that carer quarantine with the person in the hotel and we're working that through so we can get larger rooms.

"So wherever possible, the default is, that people do quarantine in a hotel but sometimes it just isn't possible."