Former Bank SA boss Nick Reade fronted the budget and finance committee for the first time since starting as chief executive of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and chair of the transition committee, earlier this year.
He was asked a series of questions about discussions around building purpose-built quarantine facilities.
“The Transition Committee’s role is not to decide on quarantine,” he said.
“If there were issues regarding restrictions, yes that would be our role, but not quarantine.”
Budget and finance committee chair Labor MLC Kyam Maher asked Reade if he had spoken with the Premier or any other ministers about establishing a purpose-built quarantine facility in South Australia.
Reade said he had not.
“We’ve talked generally about quarantine and how we are consistently monitoring the effectiveness of our current quarantine and making changes as required,” he said.
“But no, I haven’t been aware of any new conversations around a new facility, no. Other than of course the ones we’ve got for seasonal workers and the pilot program for international students.”
It comes as the federal government is under mounting pressure to find alternatives to hotel quarantine.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says hotels can no longer be used once international borders reopen.
She has reiterated calls for the Commonwealth to build and run dedicated quarantine hubs in her state.
Victoria received the nod for a purpose-built facility last week, with the federal government to pay for construction and the state to cover ongoing costs.
Queensland remains out in the cold over its plan to construct a 1000-bed centre near Toowoomba.
Maher further asked Reade if he was aware of the Prime Minister’s statement last week “regarding the possibility of the Commonwealth providing support and funding to states for purpose-built quarantine facilities”.
Reade replied: “Broadly, yes.”
Maher: “And that hasn’t prompted any discussion with the Premier about purpose-built quarantine facilities – the fact that the Commonwealth is offering to partner with states?”
Maher: “None at all?”
Reade: “Not with me. Quarantine is not a responsibility of the Department of Premier and Cabinet. It’s a responsibility for Health.”
Maher asked if that meant the transition committee “doesn’t discuss quarantine facilities?”
“Not at great length because it’s not our role,” Reade said.
“Our role is to look at restrictions and to ease them if required. That’s it.”
Maher: “Just to be very clear, the Premier or his office has not once raised with you the possibility of the state investing with the Commonwealth in purpose-built quarantine facilities?”
Reade replied: “That’s correct.”
Reade told the committee he was not aware of proposals in other states other than Victoria.
“As I’ve said, quarantine is not my responsibility,” he said.
“It’s the responsibility of SA Health.”
Reade wouldn’t give his opinion on the merits or otherwise of a purpose-built quarantine facility in SA.
“It’s really a question for Health,” he said.
“They’re responsible for quarantine.
“As I’ve explained, the head of the transition committee’s role is not to make decisions on quarantine.
“My role as chair of the transition committee is to make sure that the committee assesses restrictions and as required reduces them.
“The committee is not even responsible for adding restrictions – that’s the job of the state coordinator taking input from the control agency which is SA Health.”
Maher: “Is it your evidence that the quarantine system, the medi-hotel system, the Parafield Airport quarantine (proposal) has nothing to do with the COVID-19 transition committee of the state government?”
Reade: “The transition committee’s role is not to decide on quarantine. If there were issues regarding restrictions, yes that would be our role, but not quarantine.”
Budget and finance parliamentary committee member SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo said he was “astounded” at some of Reade’s “blank responses”.
“You’re actually in charge of the biggest government department and responsible to the Premier,” he said.
“Some of the responses I’ve found extraordinary.”
– with AAP
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