Tuesday, 10 November 2020
COVID-19: International Travel
At the request of Senators Wong and Keneally, I 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) since the Prime Minister capped international passenger arrivals on 13 July 2020, the number of stranded Australians overseas has risen dramatically to more than 34,000,
(iii) the United Kingdom Government says that Australia is the only country in the world to have actively restricted its citizens returning,
(iv) on 5 October 2020, the Senate called the Government to take urgent steps to help every stranded Australian return home by:
(A) increasing the number of permitted arrivals under international flight caps through using Commonwealth resources to increase quarantine capacity,
(B) stopping price gouging by airlines flying into Australia, and
(C) putting all options on the table to return stranded Australians, especially from places like the United Kingdom, India, Philippines and Lebanon—including charter flights, and
(v) the Morrison Government did not announce any funding or initiative as part of the 2020 Federal Budget to respond to the Senate's motion, and has no plan to help every stranded Australian return home; and
(b) calls on the Morrison Government to bring our stranded Australians home by Christmas, as the Prime Minister promised he would do.
The Australian government is focused on helping Australians who want and need to return. More than 411,000 Australians have been returned since 13 March and around 30,600 have been assisted by the Australian government, including on 67 directly facilitated flights. On 17 March, the government advised Australians overseas who wanted to return home to do so as soon as possible by commercial means. In order to manage and maintain quarantine arrangements in Australia, at the request of the states the national cabinet agreed to international passenger arrival caps. While critical to the integrity of Australia's quarantine system and the safety of the whole of the Australian community, the caps have restricted the availability of flights home for Australians overseas. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has made available a hardship program, with further emergency assistance for the most vulnerable Australian citizens overseas.
The Greens will be supporting this motion by Senators Wong and Keneally. My heart breaks at the thought of the thousands of Australians who, having been stranded overseas, thought they were going to at least get home for Christmas and now will be realising that that is not going to happen, that they are not going to be able to come home. They are overseas in countries where COVID is absolutely exploding. They are Australian citizens who want to be able to come home to be with their families at this time of coming together. The fact is it's in the government's hands to be able to do something about it, to put more resources in to establish more quarantine opportunities. It is in the government's hands and yet they are denying the opportunity for Australians to come home to be with their families at Christmas time—shame, absolute shame!
In our world today there are no fewer than 14,000 nuclear weapons in existence, and 1,800 of them are on high alert. This means that, at a moment's notice, they are able to be used and deployed, which would result in the elimination of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives around the world. The International Committee of the Red Cross tells us clearly that there is no way to effectively support a community through a nuclear detonation. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, created by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an Australian based organisation, provides us the structure by which we may lay down these immoral and inexcusable weapons. Signing this treaty is a step that Australia must take.