Monday, 22 February 2021
Private Members' Business
COVID-19: International Travel
I am proud of the Morrison government for working with the state governments that are willing to work with the federal government to bring Australians home. Australia has gone through thick and thin over the course of COVID-19. I know this period hasn't been easy on any Australians. It is a blessing that it looks like we have almost made it through to the other side of this difficult period. I believe that part of our ability to overcome this virus as a people has been our ability to unite. We look out for each other in Australia; it's what allows us to go through some of the toughest times and emerge stronger and more resilient than before. I'm sad to say that some Australians have not been afforded the luxury of support from their fellow citizens, and still aren't. There are still a number of vulnerable Australians stuck overseas.
As I say this, the Australian government continues to work tirelessly with jurisdictions to bring these people back home. Some jurisdictions have been much more helpful than others in helping to bring fellow Australians home. On this note, I want to give a special shout-out to both the Northern Territory and Tasmania, who have consistently and productively worked with the Australian government to repatriate Australians returning from overseas. The Morrison government entered into bilateral agreements with both the Northern Territory and Tasmania. The Northern Territory agreement supports the return of 850 Australians per fortnight and will remain in place until 31 December 2021. This means that more Australians can return home. They can return home to their friends and family, who, I'm sure, have sorely missed them. They can return home to a nation that has the rare luxury of remaining almost entirely COVID-19 free. I feel the plight of these Australians and remain thankful for the Northern Territory's contributions in helping this to happen, and thankful to the Morrison government for contributing an estimated $243 million.
In addition, the Morrison government is working with the Northern Territory on options to further safely expand the capacity at Howard Springs, the quarantine facility dubbed as the gold standard of quarantine facilities. It's important to note that, while hotel quarantine arrangements are predominantly a matter for state and territory governments—as each jurisdiction is responsible for managing their COVID-19 response under its public health legislation—the Morrison government is committed to supporting these programs as best it can.
As I said, though, the Northern Territory is not the only state endeavouring to bring Australians home. Under the Tasmanian government, the state will support the return of up to 450 Australians over three flights, with financial support from the Morrison government estimated to be up to $7 million. Let's not forget the important role New South Wales has taken in bringing Australians home as well. One of the benefits of maintaining the world gold standard of COVID-19 contact tracing means that they can comfortably accept those returning home, without putting their state at risk.
Supporting all Australians in this time of need is imperative. I'm thankful to the states and territories, as well as our federal government, for doing all they can to support these Australians coming in from overseas. It is my wish that those states who haven't worked with the federal government to reach a meaningful solution on returning citizens are able to bring their facilities up to gold standard and start supporting their fellow citizens desperate to return.