The first weeks of 2021 have been a roller-coaster ride for those Australians who are overseas and seeking to return to our shores. We have seen caps reduced and then increased again, and the confusion caused by the decisions of individual airlines. Australians from my electorate living overseas have frequently asked for my help. Often there is real desperation as people find that normally secure jobs and circumstances come suddenly to an end. The effort to get Australians back home has been considerable. I want to thank the government and DFAT for all that they have done and are doing. In fact, 462,000 Australians have been able to return since the pandemic started, 91,000 of those since September last year. Many have done so on government facilitated flights. So many, however, remain in limbo.
Yet in the past week, as caps were meant to increase again—and have done in most states—we have seen the Premier of Victoria raise the prospect of tightening restrictions, which would make the task of getting our citizens home harder. The hotel quarantine system put in place by the national cabinet has, with some notable but relatively few exceptions, been a success. It’s not risk free, as we know, and ways to improve its safety and capacity must be considered. But my plea to Premier Andrews and to all governments is to provide the certainty and numbers in quarantine that we need for those still stuck overseas. Australians must be supported to get home, which is surely the right of citizenship of our great country.