The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tony Smith, spoke with the President of the Senate, Scott Ryan, on Sunday night and decided none of the people on the flight should come to Parliament until further notice.
Late on Sunday, the ACT Deputy Chief Health Officer Vanessa Johnston confirmed that those on the flight would have to quarantine until 5pm on Friday.
“In line with the WA government’s own lockdown, we are saying that anyone who has been to one of these regions since January 25 should quarantine until 9pm on Friday, February 5, even after they have received their test results,” Dr Johnston said.
“This advice also applies to the passengers from a Qantas flight that landed in Canberra.”
That means the MPs on the Qantas flight returning from Perth will be prevented from attending Parliament for several days and may be subject to further advice from the ACT government.
The events throw a wildcard into preparations for Parliament to meet on Tuesday for the first sitting of the year, with the Morrison government holding power by only two seats, which means the absence of any MPs could tip the balance on the floor of the lower house.
The top officials from each chamber of Parliament – the serjeant-at-arms from the House of Representatives and the usher of the black rod from the Senate – were sent to Canberra airport to meet the flight and convey the message.
It came soon after Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan placed metropolitan Perth and the WA regions of Peel and South-West into a five-day lockdown until Friday.
Mr McGowan revealed a male security guard in his 20s tested positive for COVID-19 after working at a quarantine hotel.
He said the guard had worked on the same floor as a person who tested positive for the UK variant of COVID-19, and the guard called in sick on January 28 after working 12-hour shifts the previous two days.
There was a risk, Mr McGowan said, that the UK variant could have entered the community.
Airline staff were interviewing the passenger who realised mid-flight they had visited one of the exposure sites. The flight took off several hours before Mr McGowan announced the snap lockdown.
News of a COVID-19 case in WA threw the travel plans of thousands into doubt.
Queensland responded by declaring Perth a hotspot, and in a statement its Health Department advised that anyone arriving from the three regions from 6pm on Sunday would be required to go into 14 days’ mandatory hotel quarantine.
WA residents were on Sunday strongly advised not to travel interstate, and Mr McGowan said other Australians should reconsider their need to travel to the state.
Victorian public health officials held snap talks to determine how to act in response to the Perth lockdown.
It came as Victoria recorded its 25th day in a row with no evidence of locally acquired cases of coronavirus, but follow-up tests are being undertaken by health experts on one uncertain test result.
Also on Sunday, the Morrison government officially resumed Australia’s travel bubble with New Zealand after a six-day suspension, allowing New Zealanders to travel to Australia without quarantining.
The decision not to extend the suspension beyond Sunday was based on advice from acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd after a meeting of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Paul is a Victorian political reporter for The Age.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.