The federal government should prioritise the construction of dedicated national quarantine facilities to support repatriation flights through the COVID-19 pandemic, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr says.
Mr Barr says the federal budget, to be delivered on Tuesday, should deliver funding for quarantine facilities and a domestic mRNA vaccine manufacturing site.
"Additional quarantine capacity will provide opportunities to consider the return of international students to Australia, which continues to be a significant challenge for universities based in the ACT," Mr Barr said.
The ACT government last month ruled out taking more repatriation flights, finding its program was too expensive for the benefit it provided. The territory is currently reimbursing other states for hosting returning ACT citizens.
Mr Barr said an increase in domestic travel would put further pressure on the expensive hotel quarantine system.
"We have also seen that the workforce requirements for repatriation from high risk countries are more significant and the risk of the virus spreading from quarantine is elevated," he said.
Mr Barr also called on the Commonwealth to make sure there were no cuts or decentralisation of the federal public service.
"It has been clear throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that the public service plays a critical role for the nation. Families within the Australian Pubic Service should not have to suffer from either job losses or relocation for political purposes," he said.
Mr Barr welcomed additional support for the National Capital Authority's upgrade of Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, and restoration work at Old Parliament House.
"We strongly urge that there are no further efficiency dividends placed on the national cultural institutions," he said.
But the ACT government was disappointed the Commonwealth did not extend funding to cover free pre-school for three-year-olds, as it meant the territory would need to fund the service itself, Mr Barr said.
"The Commonwealth was prepared to provide additional investment in early childhood education and care, and it's frustrating that this path was not considered given the clear evidence of the benefits that the universal access scheme provides to young children," he said.
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