HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [9.48 pm]: I rise tonight because I really have to make some comments about the way that WA is enacting the hard border policy, particularly the 14-day quarantine arrangements. I want to be very clear from the outset—I am not interested in being misrepresented in this regard—that the Greens, and I in particular, continue to be supportive of the hard border and the need for a compulsory 14-day quarantine arrangement. We have been consistent in that position and that has not changed, so my comments are not to be misinterpreted as somehow wanting to see a deviation from that because we recognise that the public health advice at the moment indicates that that is the best way to deal with COVID-19. But having said that, the way it is being enacted in Western Australia is absolutely shameful and it needs to be done better—and we can do better. I urge the government and all the government departments that have been entrusted with the responsibility to enact those measures to do it better. It is not good enough.
We are really concerned that the hard border is being policed at the expense of due process. It seems to lack any fairness, natural justice and transparency and, frankly, a lot of the stories that I am hearing are inhumane and unacceptable, including to people whom I care about. Many more horror stories about how it is being enacted are coming through. If members have not been hearing the stories, I urge them to start making contact online with those people and find out what is happening with them, particularly those who have been trapped overseas and in other states and cannot get back. At the moment, tens of thousands of Western Australians are desperate to get back home and many are being denied entry for, frankly, absolutely spurious reasons. Other people are being granted entry for absolutely unknown reasons. Sometimes it is because they are high-profile donors, and there has been quite a lot of publicity about that; or because they happen to know the right people. Some decisions are being reversed, but only once the media gets involved. The way these decisions are being made is absolutely arbitrary. I do not have any confidence in how these decisions are being made. Many people who are stuck overseas as a result of these decisions are facing significant financial hardship before being able to secure one of the very limited airline seats to get back home. People are facing extraordinary mental stress and financial hardship. They are living with a hideous and constant uncertainty about what will happen to them.
I have been appalled by the significant price gouging by airlines and by flights being cancelled over and again. When people finally manage to secure a flight and get back, they are then faced with the additional financial burden of two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine. The way that quarantine is starting to roll out here in Western Australia is proving to be highly problematic. People are being forced to pay exorbitant prices for food—even when the food proves to be entirely unsuitable. People are being charged $65 a day. Members should bear in mind that people were being told that it would be $60 a day. I have seen photos of some of the food that is being provided and it is wholly inadequate. We are talking about $20 to $25 worth of food a day that people are being charged $65 a day for, and it looks inedible. I would not be able to eat it. There is a lack of options, and dietary needs are not being met. Vegetarians have very few options and vegans have none! God forbid if someone is diabetic, has gluten intolerance or any of a range of other issues—or they just want to have some fresh fruit and vegetables as part of a basic diet.
Certain hotels here in Perth seem to be worse than others. I particularly want to note the Novotel hotels and the Hyatt Regency Perth. Lift your game! I am seeing the stuff that is coming through and I am talking about price gouging here. It is up to the government to do something about this because it has contracted these hotels and it needs to sort this out. It has to tell the hotels that it is not okay to take advantage of people who have come back and have no choice other than to be in quarantine and who are being left in utterly substandard arrangements.
There are other problems. No accommodations are being made for people with disability. At the moment, someone I know is on day 12 of 14 days. They have a disability and have had no accommodation for that at all—absolutely none! It is disgraceful that he is being forced to stay in a hotel and not having even his basic needs met. There are people who smoke who are not able to do that. Guess what! People are allowed to smoke; it is still lawful! There are children who are not able to access their education during those two weeks.
People’s care packages are being searched. Why are people searching care packages? We are not talking about prisoners here; we are talking about Australian citizens. Part of the problem is the lack of consistency across the hotels in how it is being dealt with. I want to remind members that these people are not criminals and that this is not prison. We are talking about citizens who have done nothing wrong. They are being kept in quarantine for health reasons and have a right to fair treatment. They have a right to have their health, mental health and educational needs met while they are there. Quarantine is not prison and is not meant to be, but people here in Western Australia cannot even open a window. They are looking online at people in other states who at least have balconies, or who have been given living rooms, yet people here in Western Australia are being kept in absolutely substandard conditions for 14 days. I remind people that even a prisoner in solitary confinement at Casuarina Prison is allowed outside for an hour a day, yet here our own citizens are being cooped up, being given inadequate food and not being looked after at all. We need to have a better process. We need to look at a proper, humane and consistent process that is not capricious and is not subject to arbitrary determination, whereby people have no idea even how to appeal these processes appropriately. I think one of the first things that we need to look at here in Western Australia, because we are likely to be living with this regime for quite some time, is some sort of case management system, under which people are allocated one point of contact, maybe one particular official, to help them get through all the parts of the process. That would mean there would be someone who could help them to navigate those components that are a federal concern and those that are a state concern; deal with airlines; deal with quarantine; and also include somewhere for people to go if they find that, having had no say in where they are to be allocated, they unfortunately end up in a particular hotel that is not meeting their needs because they have mental health issues or disability, or because it is just inappropriate for a whole range of reasons, even something as simple as not being able to meet their basic dietary needs.
To be very clear, the Greens recognise that the hard border has its place and has a role to play, but that does not mean that we cannot do it better, and it does not mean that we get out of being fair and compassionate. We simply cannot accept what is happening.
I have a matter here that I am going to take up at a future point, because I am about to run out of time. I want to talk about one person’s journey—what happened to this family and how appalling it was—as a case example of just how badly we are doing it here in Western Australia. I can tell members that this family has been trying to get back to Western Australia for months and months and months. The Premier said as recently as last week that he has limited sympathy for Western Australians who are stuck overseas because he says that they should have come home sooner. I have one thing to say. These people have been trying to get back for months. They have been trying to get back and they have been unable to get back, and now that they are here, they are being treated like absolute garbage. They are in conditions that are worse than prison, and I am speaking as someone who regularly used to go into the prisons, so I can make the comparison. The difference is that these people are also going to be walking away with thousands of dollars’ worth of debt. The amount of uncertainty around this is absolutely disgraceful. Members, we are going to be dealing with this for quite some time. Maybe people do not care, but I do. I have been absolutely enraged to the point of tears over the course of the last fortnight, particularly trying to assist my friend. We are going to have to lift our game.