The move is being widely criticised as a “political stunt” by Annastacia Palaszczuk and her deputy, Steven Miles. Federal MP Peter Dutton slammed the move on Friday morning, questioning the safety of the project and flagging “a lot of local anger” in the Toowoomba region, where the facility will be built.Local Mayor Paul Antonio said he was “surprised” by the announcement, and disappointed important questions about hospital capacity sent to the state government six months ago had still not been answered.But, the group behind the development have told everyone to “calm down” and let them “get on with the job”.The purpose-built facility, modelled on Howard Springs, will have 500 beds online by the end of the year, ramping up to 1000 by March next year. Speaking from Wellcamp Airport on Thursday, Annastacia Palaszczuk said the facility was a “no-brainer”, and after eight months of back-and-forth with the Commonwealth, the State Government had reached an agreement with the Wagner Corporation to go ahead with the project. Ms Palaszczuk said both Scott Morrison and local Mayor Paul Antonio were finding out at the same time as the press pack. Mr Antonio admitted he had been caught off guard, despite months of consultation with locals resulting in dozens of questions demanded from Ms Palaszczuk. “I was surprised we hadn’t been taken on a journey,” he told NCA NewsWire. “This matter came to us in early February, when I bought together the three hospitals and business people, and we had a chat about the possible impact on the community“We sent off a whole series of 22 questions to the Premier and the Prime Minister and both their deputies, and not a single word has come back. Not even an acknowledgment of the fact they’d received the letter.Mr Antonio said the community was feeling overwhelmingly negative about the development. “If they’re going to have something of this nature in this community, can I humbly suggest they take the community on the journey,” he said.“If this had been done appropriately, we might have been able to diffuse negativity. “There’s no question this will mean jobs for the community, but in saying all of that, it would be more appropriate if we were on that journey together.”Federal MP Peter Dutton said it appeared to be a political stunt on the Premier’s behalf, and that “people are over this sort of stuff”. “People want us all to work together, to get out of this lockdown as quickly as possible, get their kids back to school, to see their grandkids again,” Mr Dutton told Today.Mr Antonio said he didn’t think it was “wholly” a political stunt.“But we’re seeing politics play out between the Prime Minister and the Premier,” he said.“At the end of the day, isn’t it about what’s best for the community. Shouldn’t we (the council) have been involved?”Mr Dutton also questioned the efficacy of the facility, given there have been no assurances flights could be redirected to Toowoomba from Brisbane. If needed, Ms Palaszczuk said people needing the facility would be bussed into the city, which Mr Dutton said could pose a risk. In addition, the local hospitals are not equipped to deal with an influx of Covid-positive patients. Ms Palaszczuk said in the case of overflow, people would be transferred either by ambulance or helicopter to Brisbane.“There are a lot of questions the Queensland Premier has to answer,” Mr Dutton said. John Wagner on Friday morning hit back at the “hysteria” that had broken out in the wake of the announcement. “I think everyone needs to take a deep breath, and I’ve got to applaud Annastacia and Steven miles for their government on getting on with the job and trusting the Wagner family to develop and execute this project,” he told Today. In a pointed message to the mayor and locals, Mr Wagner said they needed to understand it is a “great thing for our region”. “(There will be) 400 plus jobs through construction and a lot of ongoing jobs – 3000 meals a day will significantly help our local producers,” he said.
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