Monday, 7 December 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID 19: Australians Overseas
My question is to the Prime Minister, and I refer to the Prime Minister's September announcement when he promised to bring all stranded Australians home by Christmas. Why have Tony Abbott and Alexander Downer been able to leave and re-enter Australia multiple times this year when there are thousands of vulnerable stranded Australians who haven't been able to get home once?
I thank the member for his question and wonder why he'd want to bring personalities into this, given that Mr Rudd has done the same thing. It surprises me. I think this reflects the politics of negativity that has overtaken the opposition. At a time when the country is dealing with one of the biggest crises we've ever seen, we will focus on the economics of recovery while those opposite are stranded in the politics of negativity that they bring into this place on a daily basis.
I can inform the member—
Some 29,416 Australians have had travel exemption decisions approved by Border Force. As I reminded him earlier and even since that day in September, some 43,800 Australians have returned—that is since September when there were some 26,200 who were registered at that time. So, we continue to bring Australians home. And those we have allowed and given exemption decisions to approve their travel have been for compassionate and compelling reasons; critical skills, medical; critical skills, other; the national interest, including diplomatic; urgent medical treatment; and transit approvals. We have been approving and supporting Australians moving out of this country and into this country as those needs have determined and those decisions have been independently made by the Border Force commissioner. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition wants to pick an argument with the Border Force commissioner about how he is independently exercising those decisions and attack the integrity of the commissioner, he should get up and do it and not be doing it in the cowardly way he is doing it in this place.