Monday, 30 November 2020
At the request of Senator Keneally and Senator Wong, 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 36,875, and the number of Australians classified as vulnerable has doubled to 8,070,
(iii) Amnesty International Australia has reported that the 'arbitrary cap needs to be significantly increased or removed' and quarantine 'needs to be significantly expanded',
(iv) on 10 November 2020, the Senate called on 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, the Philippines and Lebanon—including charter flights, and
(v) the Morrison Government did not announce any funding or initiative as part of the 2020-21 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 doing everything possible to support Australians who want and need to return. More than 432,000 Australians have returned since 13 March and around 31,900 have been assisted by the Australian government, including on 74 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, and 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 safety for the whole Australian community, the caps have restricted the availability of flights 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.