Monday, 7 December 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Australians Overseas
My question is to the Prime Minister. In September, the Prime Minister announced he would have all stranded Australians home by Christmas. How many stranded Australians will be overseas on Christmas Day because of his refusal to act on the recommendations of the Halton review and establish national quarantine facilities, like Learmonth, instead of just blaming the states? Rather than spending $15 million on his comeback advertising campaign, why is he not doing more to help Australians come back home?
This is serious issue, and it is one which the government has been giving serious attention to. But the question posed by the member opposite demonstrates, once again, that Labor and the truth have a very unhappy relationship.
Opposition members interjecting—
On about 18 September we made a commitment. At that time there were 26,200 people who were registered overseas, and that was our target. That was our target: we were very clear about that. And 43,800 Australians have come home since that time. We've worked together with the states and territories, in particular, not only to establish an expanded quarantine capability with the Northern Territory government and with federal support in the Northern Territory but to do the same thing in Tasmania. In addition to that, just recently 13 commercial flights have been facilitated by the government since 23 October. There have been some 77 government facilitated flights which have brought home directly—specifically outside the commercial arrangements—some 32,100 Australians.
Our government has been acting on the calls to get Australians home. Back in March we said very clearly that we would advise against Australians going overseas and that we would encourage those who were overseas to return home at the earliest opportunity. Right now we have some 39,000 or thereabouts still registered to come back. That is higher than the figure that we had on 18 September. But the Australian government has facilitated flights. We have provided tens of millions in support to those who are stranded overseas on everything from cash assistance to accommodation support, to give them the support they need wherever they are. Services Australia is contacting all of those Australians to ensure that we have the most up-to-date information about their needs to come home.
But it is an appalling misrepresentation by the Labor Party to suggest that about the government, when we said that 26,200 people had to come home and we've beaten that and got 33,800 home, in direct response to the efforts that we put in place. They can haggle all they like and they can chip away, as they're seeking to do; they're a very grumpy lot over there today. Our government will leave them to their grumpiness; we will get on with the job of getting Australians home and we'll get on with the job of recovering the Australian economy and getting Australians back into jobs. Not the politics of negativity, rather, the economics of recovery, will be our focus.