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Queensland $230M Covid Isolation Camp is Now A Movie Set. It’s Only Taxpayer Money…

‘Blown away’: Mothballed $230 million quarantine centre finds new purpose

by Louise Talbot

Less than 12 months after the Queensland government poured more than $220 million into a state-of-the-art Covid quarantine facility outside Brisbane, it was labelled a so-called “waste camp”.

Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government was under enormous pressure to find it a new purpose, like accommodation for domestic violence victims, skilled workers, refugee workers and the homeless.

In the end, only 730 people ever stayed there, and it was decommissioned early last year … a white elephant on private land costing taxpayers $3.3 million a week.

What to do with a mothballed 1000-bed accommodation facility next to the Wellcamp Airport in Toowoomba?

Bring in the entertainers!

According to reports, Wagner Corporation’s Queensland Regional Accommodation Centre, and the adjoining airport, are now the key locations to film a new Australian blockbuster.

Australian actors David Wenham and Gary Sweet are reuniting in the comedy crime drama, Spit, a sequel from their 2003 original hit, Gettin’ Square.

Not only will the once-controversial site be home to the 250 cast and crew, it will also be the movie set.

The airport’s general manager Kellie Banditt told the Toowoomba Chronicle the two sites, within a few hundred metres of each other, were identified by producers as an ideal location.

“Global producers came up to look at the airport and quarantine facility and were blown away by the state-of-the-art facility we had,” she said.

“It will start here at Wellcamp Airport … everything from catering to movie sets to costuming – they’re injecting a huge amount of money.

“They will all be located at the accommodation facility. They can see it as an asset (because) everyone knows rooming accommodation is limited.

“It’s once again Wellcamp that has all the facilities to provide international movie studios – that’s the only reason they’ve brought this entire production,” Banditt said.

Wenham’s career was already on the rise when he was cast alongside Police Rescue‘s Sweet in Gettin’ Square, a Gold Coast production written by criminal lawyer Chris Nyst.

Wenham played a hopeless junkie, Johnny Spiteri, who had spent time in prison and gets caught with a stack of heroin on the outside.

He becomes part of a Criminal Intelligence Commission inquiry and his courtroom scene becomes part of Aussie film folklore akin to The Castle‘s “It’s the Vibe” scene.

Wenham said this week “barely a day goes by when I am not asked about Johnny Spitieri, a character I played more than 20 years ago. Spit was a character that endeared himself to audiences – bad habits, bad haircut and bad fashion aside, he was the quintessential Everyman, a little man doing his best under seemingly impossible circumstances.”

“It’s primarily a comedy in the well-established style of the London criminal comedy caper, but the Gold Coast setting adds an ironic flavour – palm trees, bikini car washes, and lots of people with expensive clothes and no taste,” wrote Paul Byrnes for the National Film and Sound Archive.

“His courtroom bamboozling of the lawyers and bureaucrats is one of the highlights of Wenham’s already distinguished career – a comic tour-de-force in which he cons two lawyers out of $40, tells them nothing, and gets away with it.”

Wenham, 58, is known for his roles in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Van Helsing franchise and 300.

He was also cast in Moulin Rouge, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Dark City, Top of the Lake, SeaChange and Peter Rabbit.

Byrnes said Wenham’s performance as Spit – for which he won an AFI best actor gong – made the movie.

More than two decades later, Wenham has come on board as producer, and Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky is returning with Nyst’s story.

Receiving a share of $6.9 million production funding from Screen Australia, and Screen Queensland, Spit is about Johnny Spiteri – now an ex-drug addict – who flies into Australia and is locked up in an immigration detention centre.

The authorities want to know who he is, and where he’s been.

But so does the original gangster and drug dealer, Chicka Martin (Sweet), and his crooked cop associate Arnie DeViers (played by David Field in the original).

Link to story here