Thursday, 8 October 2020
COVID-19: International Travel
There are now almost 30,000 stranded Australians who have been abandoned overseas by the Morrison government. I'm sure to the shock of all members in this chamber the Prime Minister has failed to come up with a plan to help stranded Aussies at every stage of this crisis. There are Aussies overseas who are couch surfing, going to homeless shelters, running out of money, falling foul of visa requirements and frightened being overseas at such a time with this global pandemic. This is not good enough. When Darwin and Territorians put their shoulders to the wheel by offering that our city form part of a national effort to get our people home by Christmas from China and all around the world, do you remember the PM's response? The PM said:
If additional commercial flights were to go to Darwin or go to Adelaide, that would be fine … But that's not where the flights go.
With those seven magic words, the PM abandoned all responsibility. For the record, we have an international airport in Darwin. We have been accepting flights like we did when the Australian evacuees came out of Wuhan. We have had Vanuatu seasonal workers arriving in Darwin at our international airport. So we can take flights when it's approved by the Australian Border Force. But the PM said, 'That's not where the flights go,' even though we have flights stopping in Darwin going through to Hong Kong every week.
Quarantine is a federal responsibility and the coalition conveniently forgets that when it's attacking various state governments, usually Labor ones. All states and territories should be part of this national effort. After all, we have a national cabinet. But what does the Prime Minister say? He says, 'That's not where the flights go.' I'm talking to Australians overseas who are working with the Australian embassies and high commissions in, for example, Nepal and Laos, and Singapore Airlines are ready to help as well. But what does the PM say? 'That's not where the flights go.' There are some Aussies from my electorate stranded overseas. Alfred Harper is stranded in Sri Lanka, Swara Shah, a mother with a 2½-year-old son, is stranded in India, Maria and Jose are both stranded in Portugal, Asif Rahmani is stranded in Qatar and Gloria Nasir is stranded in the Philippines.
It's not good enough that we leave these stranded Australians overseas, and they should be back by Christmas. The Prime Minister obviously can help places like Darwin make sure that they do get back by Christmas. Bring those stranded Australians home. Darwin's ready to play a role. With some support from the Commonwealth, we can do that. No more excuses, Prime Minister: bring the stranded Australians home by Christmas.