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

26 March 2020

STRANDED AUSTRALIANS STILL NONE THE WISER ON GOVERNMENT HELP

Stranded Australians are increasingly desperate for clarity from the Morrison Government on how it is helping them get to safety.

With borders and airports closing, airlines cancelling services, and only five days of international Qantas and Virgin flights remaining, time is running out for Australians trying to follow the Government’s advice to come home.

In an effort to quell rising anxiety, a statement was released yesterday afternoon by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.

Any Australian reading that statement would be none the wiser as to what the Morrison Government is doing to help them.

A vague indication in that statement that the Government will consider offering direct support on a “case-by-case basis” is better than nothing – but for Australians who demonstrably have no viable commercial option to return to safety, the Government must do more.

There is no time for delay. With just five days before a further serious reduction in commercial options, Labor again 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 active, plain-English 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.