House debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Questions without Notice


2:40 pm

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Home Affairs. Will the minister please update the House on how the Morrison government is dealing with the challenges of the omicron variant while continuing to ensure the safe reopening of our international borders as part of our plan to secure Australia's economic recovery and return to our way of life?

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question and also for her great advocacy in Western Sydney on a wide range of issues, including a number of matters in home affairs. Late last week we became aware of the omicron variant, which presents a range of new challenges for us here in Australia and also globally. It's very early days. The world is yet to have a complete understanding of it. Here in Australia we need to learn more about that particular variant.

That's why this government took the very sensible step last night to place a two-week pause on stage 2 of our planned border reopening from 1 December. It will be a 14-day pause from 1 December for a number of cohorts that we had previously indicated we were going to be able to open to. Those cohorts include economic workers, skilled workers, international students and humanitarian and refugee temporary visa holders. Also we have had to pause our reopening to citizens of Japan and South Korea. That pause will be in place for a period of 14 days to make sure that there is time in Australia particularly for our health professionals to understand more about this new variant.

This is not a decision that the government took lightly. We know that many plans had been made. We know that businesses are desperately wanting skilled workers and they need those skilled workers here. We know that visa holders in Australia want to be able to see loved ones, many of whom are overseas and they have been separated from for a very long period of time and many of those people want to come to Australia to visit us here. So we are very mindful of the impact that those border changes have on many individuals, on many families and on many businesses here in Australia. We certainly feel for all of those who have been affected.

But we took this very sensible and this very prudent decision based on health advice. That advice was that we needed to put in place a pause on the next stage of reopening our international borders. The Morrison government are absolutely committed to doing all that we can to reopen those borders as soon as we possibly can, but we need to do that in a very safe and considered manner. That's why the decision was taken last night that we would pause the international arrivals that we had planned to allow into this country as of 1 December.

We need to be very conscious as we move forward that we need to bring in those skilled workers. Again, the Morrison government will do all that it can to make sure that we open our international borders as safely and as quickly as we can. (Time expired)