SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

MEDIA RELEASE

18 March 2020

AUSTRALIANS OVERSEAS SEEK CLEARER ADVICE

Labor welcomes the clear direction issued this morning telling all Australians “do not travel” overseas at this time.

We also urge the Government to provide clearer guidance for all the Australians who are already overseas.

Overnight, the Government issued this advice on smartraveller.gov.au:

If you are already overseas and wish to return to Australia, we recommend you do so as soon as possible by commercial means.

There has been confusion as to whether this is meant for Australian tourists currently abroad, or the million Australians currently living and working overseas – or both.

For example, there are hundreds of thousands of Australians living in the United States and United Kingdom. The kinds of questions they have been asking are:

  • Is the Australian Government warning them to return home?
  • What is the risk to these Australians if they do not?
  • If they cannot return now, do they face not being able to return for months or years?
  • How can they get home with commercial flights grinding to a halt?

We also know that 1.35 million Australians took cruises in 2018, meaning there are likely to be thousands of Australians on cruises at any given time.

This is a difficult and stressful time for Australians abroad. There will be numerous cases where large numbers of Australians will need more direct support.

We commend DFAT’s consular team for their hard work around the clock, and urge the Morrison Government to ensure that DFAT is adequately resourced to provide the essential support Australians need.

In particular, we urge Minister Payne to explain how the Government is seeking to minimise risk for Australians wishing to return home but who are unable to access commercial flights.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.