Thursday, 10 December 2020
COVID-19: Repatriation Flights
There are about 37,000 Australians stranded overseas during a deadly pandemic who are desperate to come home, and Christmas is in two weeks and one day. On 18 September, the Prime Minister said he understood the problem. On 18 September, the Prime Minister promised to fix it. Since then, the number of Australians stranded overseas has grown by more than 40 per cent. The Prime Minister promised to fix the problem; 82 days later, the problem is 43 per cent worse. There are countless Australians crashing on couches, and people who need medical care who have lost thousands of dollars in cancelled flights. Many from my electorate of Corangamite are stuck overseas. A humanitarian worker from Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road has spent the past year selflessly giving of himself to limit the destructive impact of COVID-19 in Africa. Ian Dawes has been stuck in the Middle East with no return date. He and his wife are growing increasingly anxious as his visa expiry nears. Ian was in South Sudan and Iraq doing humanitarian work, before becoming blocked from returning home from Duhok. Ian asked my office a very sensible question: 'A major concern is, if I cannot go home, where am I expected to travel after Iraq? Why does the government assume other countries would allow me entry when my own country won't?' Ian is just one of the many, many constituents that have called, emailed, written and Zoomed my office to seek support where this government has failed in its duty.
Section 51 of part V of the Australian Constitution makes the Morrison government exclusively responsible for quarantine. There are seven different models of air mobility craft in the Royal Airforce. There are built-for-purpose COVID field hospitals, only eight kilometres from here in the ACT, that the government constructed in 37 days. There are spacious and sweeping areas with no standing population all across our great country. The task is challenging, to be sure, but it is the government's job. If you wanted to do it, you would. You'd get the ministers together. You'd make a plan. You'd actually create federal quarantine spots. You'd organise the flights, and you would bring stranded Australians home.
Ian from Anglesea got up and travelled to the other side of the world to help people in need as the pandemic swept across the globe. Ian's an ordinary citizen who put others before himself in a crisis. But his government, the Morrison government, cannot do the same. This is what the Morrison government has made of the 82 days since promising to fix the problem: the problem is 42 per cent worse. Please, Prime Minister, act on this now and bring our Australians home.