Thursday, 10 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne. How many Australians are stranded overseas and registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as wanting to return home?
I thank Senator Keneally for her question. Around 39,000 people overseas are registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and wish to return to Australia. Over 430,000 Australians have returned from overseas since the government recommended that Australians reconsider the need to travel overseas. Since March, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has supported over 32,700 Australians to return, on over 500 flights. That includes over 11,200 people on 77 government-facilitated flights since March. A further 118 passengers landed in Hobart on Sunday from Delhi on a DFAT-facilitated flight with Qantas. Since 23 October, DFAT has facilitated 13 flights, with 1,847 passengers. Those numbers are, of course, constrained by the capacity of quarantine availability in Australia, through the caps supplied by the states and territories and agreed by the National Cabinet. Further facilitated flights with Qantas are planned for Frankfurt, Chennai, Paris, London and Delhi. Since 18 September, when the Prime Minister spoke about these matters after National Cabinet, over 45,400 Australians have returned to Australia. That includes more than 17,500 Australians registered at that time with DFAT, and, of these, over 3,800 were vulnerable. We continue to help those who are vulnerable through our hardship provisions, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has distributed significant funds to a number of those Australians. The consular division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and our consular offices around the world are literally working, with no exaggeration, no hyperbole, 24 hours a day and seven days a week to assist as many Australians as possible to return.
I don't have the numbers broken down, in that construct that Senator Keneally has asked about. As I said, since 18 September, over 45,400 Australians have returned to Australia. That includes more than 17,500 Australians registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The process of supporting Australians and organising flights means that, in the last four weeks alone, we've made more than 30,000 offers of places on flights to Australians registered overseas. That's resulted in around 3,000 people taking up nearly all the seats available to us on relevant flights. There are Australians who are not able to accept flights that are being offered to them. There are Australians who indicate that they have multiple ties to the country they are in, who are not able to depart immediately. Some airlines are being allocated additional capacity, specifically for vulnerable Australians— (Time expired)
The minister has previously advised the Senate that 26,000 Australians were registered with DFAT on 18 September. If 17,000 have come home, that would suggest some 9,000 are still stranded—on the day the Prime Minister made that promise. Given today is 10 December—the last day for stranded Australians to land in Australia, quarantine for two weeks and spend Christmas at home—what does the minister have to say to those 9,000 stranded Australians who will be stranded overseas for Christmas as a result of Mr Morrison's broken promise?
I absolutely reject Senator Keneally's characterisation in her question. Since 18 September, over 45,400 Australians have returned to Australia, including more than 17,500 Australians registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Today, tomorrow and every day between now and the end of this year—and, frankly, into next year—we will continue to support Australians to take flights, particularly vulnerable Australians, who we have supported on facilitated flights. I indicated there are further flights planned for Frankfurt, Chennai, Paris, London and Delhi. There is no denying that this is a very, very difficult situation, not just for Australians here but internationally and the government absolutely recognises that. The government recognises it is difficult for families, it is difficult for individuals, but we are working—(Time expired)