Tuesday, 6 October 2020
I, and also on behalf of Senator Wong, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the Australian Government is responsible for borders, quarantine, and assisting Australians in jeopardy and stranded overseas,
(ii) the Prime Minister agreed to cap international passenger arrivals on 13 July 2020,
(iii) since then, the number of stranded Australians overseas has risen dramatically, with 27,000 Australians unable to get home,
(iv) over 3,000 of these Australians are classified as vulnerable by the Morrison Government, including many with health and financial concerns requiring urgent attention,
(v) the United Kingdom Government says Australia is the only country in the world to have actively restricted its citizens returning, and
(vi) the Government has no meaningful plan to lift flight caps or increase quarantine capacity, including identifying new quarantine facilities and training quarantine personnel; and
(b) calls on the Government to take urgent steps to help every stranded Australian return home by:
(i) increasing the number of permitted arrivals under international flight caps through using Commonwealth resources to increase quarantine capacity,
(ii) stopping price gouging by airlines flying into Australia, and
(iii) putting all options on the table to return stranded Australians, especially from places like the United Kingdom, India, Philippines and Lebanon—including charter flights.
Over 391,000 Australians have returned since 13 March, including on 64 government facilitated flights. On 17 March the government advised Australians overseas who wanted to return to do so as soon as possible by commercial means. To manage quarantine arrangements at the request of the states, the national cabinet agreed to international passenger arrival caps. While critical for community safety, the caps restricted flight availability. Resumption of travel to Melbourne when permitted by the Victorian government will assist our capacity to assist Australians. The government made available a hardship program for emergency assistance for the most vulnerable Australians still overseas.
The Morrison government seems to have washed its hands of the thousands of Australians who are stranded overseas, who just want to come home. We Greens have said time and time again that aiming to get stranded Australians and their families home by the end of the year just is not good enough. Thousands of people are in desperate financial and personal circumstances, not able to come home, due to ill health, remote location, flight cancellation or pregnancy. I have heard so many heartbreaking stories from my constituents and the evidence that was given to the COVID committee. The government's approach of small loans simply won't cut it. Prime Minister Morrison and Minister Dutton must urgently provide extra resources for quarantining capacity and to stop the airlines price gouging so people can come home.
The Jacqui Lambie Network won't be supporting this, simply because we believe states have not come to the party or have not voiced it. The states have not said exactly how many people they're going to take or what they're going to do. Actually, the states are missing in action when it comes to this. That includes the state of Tasmania, with our own stuck over there. This is not just up to the federal government; this comes down to the states as well. That's why the Jacqui Lambie Network won't be supporting it.