Australia news live: health officials say hotel quarantine ‘fit for purpose’; Port Arthur massacre commemorated | Australia news

Well hello there, it’s Wednesday, which means we’re nearly halfway done, guys. Well done!

It’s Matilda Boseley here, by the way, bringing you all the most important updates this hump day.

To start with, why don’t we have a chat about federal government-run quarantine facilities, or, well, the lack thereof.

Yesterday chief medical officer Paul Kelly and health department boss Brendan Murphy fronted the Senate’s coronavirus response committee in Canberra.

A number of states and the Australian Medical Association have united to call for the commonwealth to transform out-of-use military bases or asylum seeker detention centres into new quarantine facilities as the country racks up infection control breaches in hotel facilities.

But when asked about the prospect, Kelly said the hotels were “fit for purpose”:


In general terms, it has been very successful and very safe.

Murphy said there were no plans to invest in purpose-built facilities and that health officials had examined options including Christmas Island and defence bases but none were physically suitable.

Christmas Island has previously been used to quarantine repatriated Australians from Wuhan.

Even if a new facility were built Australia “would not have the public health workforce” to operate it, Murphy said.

Kelly said the facilities were being continually improved but were broadly achieving good outcomes.

He conceded that it was impossible to fully prevent the virus from spreading within hotels but did not seem to believe this was a deal-breaker:


We expect that there will be transmission in quarantine … The important thing is that it doesn’t transmit outside of quarantine and if it does, that it’s picked up quickly.

So we will keep an eye out for reactions today from Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and the AMA, who have been the most vocal critics of the state-based hotel system.

Today also marks 25 years since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

At the time, the attack was considered the world’s worst mass shooting, with 35 people killed and 23 injured at the popular tourist site on the Tasman Peninsula.

It remains Australia’s most deadly massacre.

It was this massacre that prompted an overhaul of Australia’s attitude towards gun control under the then-prime minister, John Howard.

Laws were brought in banning rapid-fire guns from civilian ownership, tightening requirements for firearms licensing, registration and safe storage, and establishing a government buyback of semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns.

More than 650,000 weapons were destroyed, potentially almost halving the number of gun-owning households.

The gunman is serving 35 life sentences and more than 1,000 additional years’ jail without parole over the shooting.

There will be a commemoration service held at Port Arthur today.

With that, why don’t we jump into the day.

If there’s something you reckon I’ve missed or think should be in the blog but isn’t, shoot me a message on Twitter @MatildaBoseley or email me at matilda.boseley@theguardian.com.

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