‘Not children to boss around’: Blindsided WA Premier slams new flight cap plan

WA Premier Mark McGowan says he and other state leaders are not children for the federal government to “boss around” after he was blindsided by the new flight cap plan.

Letters were sent to premiers about increasing hotel quarantine capacities so more Australians stranded overseas could return home, but Mr McGowan first learnt about it at a press conference on Wednesday.

The plan is expected to be discussed when National Cabinet meets on Friday, but the Commonwealth has already stated the number of people allowed into Australia each week will increase by 2000, including an additional 500 to WA.

“We are not children for them to boss around,” Mr McGowan told reporters on Thursday.

“We are important parts of the Australian federation and they need to work with us to come up with solutions to these problems.”

WA Premier Mark McGowan says the state will need Commonwealth support to accommodate more returned travellers in quarantine. Picture: Jackson FlindellSource:The West Australian

WA currently has more than 1900 people in hotel quarantine, with about 525 people arriving into the state on flights every week.

Mr McGowan said he got along well with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and wanted to work cooperatively with the Commonwealth, but he was not happy with how the issue was playing out.

He said there was a period earlier this year when the Commonwealth worked “hand in glove” with state and territory leaders at National Cabinet.

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“Those few months … where it was very cooperative … was a terrific time in Australian government,” he said.

“Yesterday, I was advised by the press that the Commonwealth government wanted to double the number of people coming here internationally and just expected WA to have it under control within a 10-day period or so.

“To just write a letter and release it to the press before you even tell the premier of the state that’s expected to take 500 additional people is not the way to conduct government.”

Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth was previously used to quarantine travellers.Source:Supplied

Mr McGowan said Police Commissioner Chris Dawson had been in discussions about Australian Defence Force assistance.

“Any assistance they provide us should be ongoing. It should not be for a week or two,” the premier said.

“We will need significant Commonwealth support.”

The premier previously suggested the federal government use some of its facilities to accommodate people, including Christmas Island, but that idea was rejected.

On Wednesday, Mr McGowan flagged possibly using popular holiday spot Rottnest Island again to quarantine returning travellers, but on Thursday he appeared to backdown from the idea.

“It’s unlikely but we’ve got to be prepared,” he said.

“I can’t rule anything in or anything out if extreme things occur, but I think it’s unlikely.”

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