Just when you thought you’d never have to hear the words ‘hotel quarantine’ again, the program is once again making headlines, with revenue NSW chasing $58.6 million in unpaid bills, while some Queenslanders remain in payment limbo.
Revenue NSW has revealed state residents owe around $32.1 million in unpaid bills for their hotel isolation period and interstate visitors who reentered the country in NSW owe $26.5 million.
And now, thousands are threatening to take legal action to avoid paying for the public health measure, according to 9 News.
The state began charging people for their mandatory hotel quarantine stays in July 2020, billing them $3,000 plus an additional $1,000 for each additional adult and $500 for each child over three.
Everyone who entered Australia from overseas from March 2020 to November 2021 was required to spend 14 days in a state-managed quarantine hotel.
During that period, the state government issued $322.5 million in hotel quarantine invoices, with $263.9 million having been resolved, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Revenue NSW has sent out debt recovery orders for the 63,354 remaining invoices, while $7.4 million is being chipped away at through payment plans.
Professor Kim Rubenstein at the University of Canberra told the Sydney Morning Herald that it remains uncertain whether the government can legally charge citizens for the service.
“There could be a constitutional question as to whether it’s a valid charge on Australians to re-enter the country, given they were forced to go into quarantine,” Rubenstein said.
Meanwhile, many Queenslanders who underwent hotel quarantine and applied for a fee waiver continue to be plagued by delays, according to the Courier Mail.
Queensland issued 76,884 invoices for its hotel quarantine program, more than 19,800 of which have had fee waivers submitted.
However, only 4,623 of these waivers have been fully or partially approved causing stress and uncertainty to those who are still waiting for approval.
Emily Bengree told the Courier Mail she has received “radio silence” on her application, after waiting five months for her initial invoice.
Bengree, who was 28 weeks pregnant during her quarantine period, said the stress and frustration she experienced may have been the cause of “stress-related fainting” after she left quarantine.
“It was just this niggle in the back of my head every day. I often thought this added to my stress-related fainting after exiting quarantine,” she said.
Adults who were quarantined in Queensland were billed $3,220 for one adult.