The Opposition CLP leader has called on the Gunner Government to make the true per person cost to taxpayers for COVID-19 quarantine public, and explain why they have decided to keep the cost at $2,500 for adults not the estimated cost of $3,300.
On August 10, Chief Minister Michael Gunner first publicly stated the cost to the Government of mandatory two-week quarantine, a figure he put at between $3,300 to $3,400 per person – more than the $2500 charged for adults.
Speaking on ABC Darwin radio, he said the $2,500 figure was an arbitrary estimate they came up with in April before knowing the actual cost and suggested the rate could change. The $2,500 figure is the cost for the first adult, with $5,000 for a family group of two or more. There is also a low income rate of $1,250 per person or $2,500 per family of two or more. If a minor quarantines, they must have an adult quarantine with them at a cost of $2,500 in total. Previously some minors could quarantine without an adult.
Again on ABC Darwin radio on Monday morning the issue of the discrepancy of cost versus what was charged was raised but Mr Gunner made no mention of any change.
Follow up questions to Mr Gunner’s office about what was the true cost per person and whether the Government was considering charging the true cost went unanswered. Mr Gunner’s office also did not answer how many people had been through quarantine in the NT since the COVID-19 pandemic began in Australia, and the Government does not have that information on it coronavirus website.
Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said a CLP Government would do everything possible to ensure that Territorians did not lose out under the quarantine arrangements.
“The Chief Minister must explain to Territorians the true costs and why he has decided to keep the fee at $2,500,” she said.
On August 10, the extra cost to the taxpayer from the shortfall in quarantine charges was not stated. But a very rudimentary calculation of an outstanding cost of $850 per person for the 3,080 people who had been in quarantine came to about $2.6 million. However that calculation does not take into consideration the amount of people who paid the subsidised rate.
The Government has people quarantine in Howard Springs in the old Inpex workers’ camp, and have taken over the Mercure Alice Springs Resort and re-named it the Ross Facility, for quarantine as well. Media reports state there were formally people in Aurora Alice Springs Hotel. Before Howard Springs was used the Government had people quarantine in Darwin hotels.
The Government has not specified if the cost of $3,300 to $3,400 estimated costs included how much it cost to keep those people in hotels or relates to the Howard Springs and Alice Springs dedicated facilities.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article carried the headline ‘CLP calls on Government to charge full cost of quarantine’, which was not an accurate reflection of Ms Finocchiaro’s comments. The NT Independent apologises for the error.