NZ Election 2020: Risk of new COVID-19 outbreak if private isolation facilities allowed under National - former Labour Party president Mike Williams

New Zealand risks being the next Victoria if National wins the election and lets private operators run quarantine facilities, a former Labour Party president has claimed.

Border spokesperson Gerry Brownlee will unveil National's plan later on Tuesday morning. It's expected to include allowing private accommodation providers to host arrivals from overseas under standards set by its proposed Border Protection Agency.

The current facilities, run by the state, have a capacity of about 7300. National's reported policy will ease the pressure on the taxpayer by allowing others to offer beds - and even let in foreigners willing to pay top-dollar for more luxurious accommodation (similar to an ACT Party policy announced on Monday night). 

Mike Williams, who was president of the Labour Party during the Helen Clark years, told The AM Show on Tuesday it wouldn't end well.

"That's exactly what caused the disaster in Victoria - bringing private enterprise to look after people coming into the country."

Unlike other Australian states which used police officers and soldiers, Victoria contracted private security guards to enforce isolation. It was, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported, a "debacle". Contractors barely enforced rules, allowing guests to visit each other and in some cases even having sex with them. 

Security guards told Australian media they'd also been assigned to facilities without proper training or protective equipment. 

The result was a second wave of COVID-19 focused on Victoria, bigger than the entire country's first wave in March and April. 

"That's their fresh idea of the day - it's just loopy," said Williams.

Sherson and Williams.
Sherson and Williams. Photo credit: The AM Show

Trish Sherson, a former ACT Party staffer appearing on The AM Show with Williams, was also sceptical - saying there just aren't enough nurses and soldiers, assuming National doesn't make the same mistake as Victoria and go with private security contractors. 

"Frontline resources are so stretched. Even if you have luxury quarantine, you've still got to have the military there and nurses and doctors, and that's where the real pinch-point is. We just haven't got enough of them."

New Zealand ditched using private security at isolation facilities in August, after a few high-profile escapes and a data leak from a contractor. Any security staff posted at isolation facilities are now directly employed by the Government. 

Kiwis soldiers at isolation facilities don't have any more powers under the law than private guards, but Defence Minister Ron Mark said in August their presence makes people more likely to comply. 

Australia has had 851 deaths from COVID-19, almost all - 763 - coming during Victoria's second wave. New Zealand has had 25 deaths, three from our second outbreak.