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

24 March 2020

STRANDED AUSTRALIANS NEED A PLAN FOR ASSISTED DEPARTURES

The Morrison Government is running out of time to help repatriate many thousands of Australians stranded overseas – who are unable to comply with its advice that they return home because they cannot arrange transport.

On 30 March, Qantas and Virgin will cease international commercial operations.

It currently appears that many thousands of Australians who are seeking to follow the Government’s advice and return home will remain stranded overseas at that time.

Closing borders and airports, changing travel warnings, and cancelled flights are leaving many Australians with no commercial travel options.

It’s not just countries like Peru that are in lockdown; major hubs like Singapore have banned transit altogether by non-citizens.

Australians overseas and their families are deeply worried for their safety and welfare.

Scott Morrison must act now, while the airlines are still operating, to address this problem.

And he must take Australians into his confidence and explain his plans, if he wants Australians to have confidence in his Government.

With just six days before a further serious reduction in commercial options, Labor urges the Morrison Government to:

  1. Follow the lead of other countries in providing direct support to bring stranded Australians home, including subsidised and assisted departures where commercial options are not viable.
  2. Engage in clear and active communication with Australians overseas including updates on action being taken so they know they are not on their own.
  3. Expedite the processing of visas for immediate family members of Australian citizens who are rushing to return home.
  4. Properly resource our consular teams in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and visa processing teams in the Department of Home Affairs to meet the unprecedented demands to assist Australians and their families overseas.

The situation for around 3,000 Australians on cruise ships is especially challenging, given the heightened risk for exposure of passengers to COVID-19. We urge the Australian Government to communicate a clear plan to help them get to safety, including appropriate quarantine and health care.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.