HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.40 pm]: Earlier this week, I rose to express my distress and anger at the way in which the quarantine arrangement, as well as the caps on the hard border, have been implemented in Western Australia. To reiterate, as I tried to make very clear at that point, the Greens are supportive of the principle of the hard border and of the need to have a 14-day quarantine for everyone who is arriving into the state. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar and I am not interested in being misrepresented in that way. Having said that, the way it is being implemented in this state at the moment is appalling. There is huge room for improvement and we need to look at improving it. At the time, I made it very clear that I had a case example that I wanted to illustrate. I am very familiar with this case example because it is someone who is a very dear and precious friend of mine. I also know her family, so I know their personal circumstances really well and know exactly what the situation has been like for them, particularly for the past two weeks, but also in the time leading up to that. I thought it was very interesting that WAtoday published an article today titled “Perth family, including infant, ‘stranded at London airport for days’” and elements of that were remarkably similar to what occurred to my friend, and what has occurred to far too many Western Australians. It commences —
A Perth mother of three—including an infant—says she and her family have been stranded at London’s Heathrow airport for three days after being bumped off flights in favour of business class travellers due to Australia’s caps on international arrivals.
She talked about how she was seeing people booking business class tickets being able to get on ahead of her even though she had already booked her tickets, pointing out that she booked their flights before the international arrivals caps were introduced.
That is exactly what happened to my friend. They had been trying to get back to Western Australia for a very long time. They managed to eventually book their flights, before the payment for compulsory quarantine arrangements came into place and before the caps were announced, yet this family found themselves absolutely trapped with the whole situation. They have had problems from the beginning until now. I look at the clock and I note that they are finally due to get out from quarantine in 11 minutes. I cannot wait to see them. Of the entry process, they report that the website is confusing and contains no information specifically for Australian citizens who are returning from overseas. The G2G PASS has no category for returning residents or citizens, meaning they had a choice of applying either on compassionate grounds or other, with no clarity about which one was appropriate for their circumstances. No information was available about what supporting documentation those people who were assessing the applications required, which means that most people are being rejected the first time, which is creating unnecessary stress, because people are not being told what they are supposed to provide. The G2G PASS and the WA entry email application both ask for flight details, which suggests that a flight needs to be booked before applying and gives the false impression that the state government is actually liaising with the airport, and a false assurance that if applicants have a pass and a ticket, they will be able to get home. They only realised that was not the case when they turned up at the airport and discovered that they had been bumped from their flight. Although the entry caps and therefore those who get on a flight are under federal government control, the lack of compassion and basic unwillingness of Labor government MPs to respond to multiple emails and social media messages after they were bumped from their flight and found themselves homeless at the airport only made the situation worse. That was absolutely devastating.
It is worse for people when they are aware that a few high-profile cases have been allowed to home quarantine, but no guidance has been given to regular Western Australians as to how they can go about doing that. The Minister for Health’s office said that they can make an application, but there was no opportunity to do so. The police who issued the entry pass said that they would be assessed by a health person on arrival. The pass actually says that medical staff would liaise with them on their arrival into Western Australia, and that arrivals are to have any medical documentation outlining their medical condition with them to assist with the assessment. That was not the case. They had to begin the process of applying for home quarantine as a change of direction request after arriving. They arrived on Thursday evening two weeks ago and it took until late Friday to even get in touch with someone from the health minister’s office. They were told that they should have called the triage nurse on arrival. However, the arrival documentation suggested that that was only for emergencies. It took until Sunday to speak to someone from the WA Department of Health, who asked for supporting evidence that was different from what they had brought with them, because there was no guidance about what was needed. By day nine of quarantine they still had not had any response.
Their original application included information about my friend’s husband, who has a disability and lives with post-traumatic stress disorder, but that was never passed on to anyone. When they arrived at the airport, my friend’s husband was in a wheelchair that had been organised by Qatar Airways, yet they were given no assistance beyond the airport or anything like that. It was quite clear that he had special needs related to his obvious disability, yet on arrival at the hotel they had to ask for some sort of trolley because it was basically just my friend and her 15-year-old daughter who were left to manage all the luggage without any assistance at all. They were not allocated or even asked about a room that had facilities for the disabled, or whether anything was required. The room that was eventually allocated had no bath, nowhere comfortable to sit, no balcony and they were unable to open the windows. Those are three things that are medically required because her husband is on the maximum dose of painkillers. They were not even offered any facilities to assist with showering until many days later, and by the time it did arrive, it turned out to be a toilet seat. Even when, finally, a more “comfortable” chair was provided, it was a high-backed chair with padded arms, so it could not be used in any meaningful way. Instead, the onsite GP suggested that her husband take muscle relaxants and sleeping pills as a more useful short-term solution. Even then, the husband was not allowed to administer them himself, despite the fact that he is used to having to take a whole range of restricted drugs. The medication regime was absolutely inconsistent in terms of how it arrived. Some days, no medication at all arrived. In the first three days, the husband was asked to describe his PTSD symptoms and management strategies to three different people, which triggered flashbacks. That is not uncommon. It was completely pointless, because in the end nothing was done about it anyway. Nothing was ever done to ensure that there was a more appropriate room.
There is a problem with people who turn up with children. On arrival, a couple with a 15-year-old young woman were offered simply a family room with two double beds. They had no real choice to ensure that they had something that was appropriate to share with a teenage girl for a fortnight. Previously, there were assurances that families would be allocated more appropriate facilities, but that did not happen. The daughter, who suffers from anxiety, ended up having a whole range of problems, particularly following what had happened with the cancelling of the flight.
The other problem is that they still do not know exactly how much their quarantine is going to cost. They have been told that it is compulsory for them to pay for the food. I have spoken about the poor quality food that is being provided and the fact that they had to rely wholly on care packages, which were threatened to be searched. They had to ensure that they got a microwave because the food that was arriving was cold and inadequate. No options were provided. They are not going to get any exemption for that bill.
There have been inconsistencies in the reporting about COVID and there has been a huge range of problems and a lack of clarity about how exemptions from the quarantine fees will be handled. They are just about to come out, and I cannot wait. This is just the beginning, because now we will have to go through the exemption process, because they should never have to pay these fees.