The documents show Queensland Health was approached in late June by an “independent third party”, requesting approval to manage Minogue’s quarantine at a private residence.
The proposal put forward included 24/7 security, logging all arrivals and departures, a COVID-safe plan, a transit plan between the airport and home address, and COVID-19 test results sent to the Gold Coast Public Health Unit.
At the time, Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said some people in the film and TV industry, as well as a number of other groups including consular officials and defence personnel, had been allowed to avoid mandatory hotel stays if they had a suitable place to quarantine.
The initial request for Minogue to quarantine at home was put to Queensland Health on June 23. Details of the third party’s proposal were redacted in the documents.
On July 3, a senior Queensland Health medical adviser recommended Dr Young approve the exemption request for Minogue “as a proof of concept private international quarantine arrangement”.
The adviser’s email to Dr Young noted Queensland Health had been provided “draft documents [redacted] in appeal for an exemption for private quarantine”.
The proposal would “facilitate entry of key individuals travelling internationally for the entertainment, film and sporting industries particularly to the Gold Coast film and entertainment industry”, the email said.
“There is potential to support the re-establishment of a significant industry in Queensland,” the email concluded, citing the successful transfer of Melbourne AFL teams to Queensland.
Minogue was not the only celebrity who made their own quarantine arrangements, with Hollywood actor Tom Hanks allowed to stay in a chosen hotel rather than a designated quarantine hotel when he arrived at the Gold Coast in September.
In an August interview with News Corp, Minogue, who suffers from claustrophobia, said she “took a lot of time to pull the whole thing together” to ensure Queensland Health was satisfied with her request.
“I went by the book, I made sure my priority was keeping everyone safe – everyone,” she said.
Following the media reports that revealed the arrangement, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s office faced a backlash and appealed for the health department’s help to respond.
“Why is everyone else being denied and a famous and/or wealthy Australians allowed to be at home?” one person wrote to the Premier.
“What exactly is the COVID-safe plan? Why can the general public also not have access to this approval?”
Another questioned why other returning travellers had to pay for mandatory hotel quarantine instead of being allowed to quarantine at home.
“Surely if it’s good enough for Ms Minogue then we as returning residents should be offered the same option shouldn’t we?”
A staff member at the Premier’s office wrote to Queensland Health asking for advice on how to respond and if there were any “standard words that can be used”.
“Could you please advise if this is the case, and if not, could we please request advice to respond to correspondence of this nature?”
On July 14, Dr Young said Minogue had not been exempted from mandatory quarantine, but simply required to “quarantine in a different place” and there was “no special treatment for anyone”.
“[Minogue] has a COVID-safe plan that is being managed by an independent third party, that’s the reason that she got that exemption,” Dr Young said.
“It’s not incurring any charges to the state, to the Queensland government. She’s funding all those arrangements.
“There are a number of people who have come under that category who I have given an exemption to because they have third-party arrangements in place that I’m confident meet all the requirements that we have in place for hotel quarantine.”
A Queensland Health spokesman said only one international traveller had secured an exemption to quarantine at home since November 1.
It was granted two months before their travel and “would not have been approved under the current circumstances”.
“We have established specialised suites in government-arranged accommodation, making it safer for people with complex medical needs to quarantine,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman said since June, the department had received 34,774 exemption applications “including requests to enter Queensland from interstate, quarantine at home, visit a dying relative or attend a private viewing of a deceased person”.
“During this time, 104 requests to home quarantine were approved. The vast majority were for people coming from interstate and most were approved based on the applicants’ complex healthcare needs,” the spokesman said.
“Our quarantine policies have changed significantly since June to reflect rising case numbers globally and the threat of the new variants.”
The Minogue case also caused confusion for Queensland Police responsible for random checks to ensure people remained in quarantine.
On July 14, a detective superintendent from the taskforce managing COVID-19 compliance emailed the State Health Emergency Coordination Centre asking for details about Minogue’s quarantine arrangements.
“This morning the Health Minister confirmed in the media that Ms Danielle Minogue has been granted a ‘special exemption’ from hotel quarantine and that she is currently in self-quarantine on the Gold Coast,” the email said.
“The attached document shows QPS records of Ms Minogue transiting through the Brisbane Airport on 11 July 2020, however details of the ‘special exemption’ haven’t been provided to Task Force Sierra Linnet.
“Can Queensland Health please provide information to Task Force Sierra Linnet around that conditions of Ms Minogue’s self-quarantine, a copy of the self-quarantine direction, and details about who will be responsible for compliance checking in this regard.
“This responsibility has traditionally rested with Task Force Sierra Linnet where people are in self-quarantine in the community however we are currently unaware of the arrangements made between Q-Health and Ms Minogue.”
A staffer in the office of the Chief Health Officer responded two days later forwarding an email with those details, originally sent to the Queensland Police Service on July 10.
“Ms Minogue’s quarantine is being managed by [redacted] in accordance with a detailed health and security plan, including 24/7 onsite private security maintaining a log of activity which is provided to the [Gold Coast] Public Health Unit. Due to the confidentiality of this plan, it will not be shared at this time,” the staffer wrote.
“All parties were advised that the QPS may undertake random compliance checking during the quarantine period.”
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Lucy is the urban affairs reporter for the Brisbane Times, with a special interest in Brisbane City Council.
Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.