Federal government passes buck on repatriating Aussies

With up to 100,000 Aussies stranded abroad, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has written to state governments demanding they lift their hotel quarantine capacity so that the arrival cap on returning Aussies can be lifted from 4,000 a week to 6,000 a week:

New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have each been asked to take an additional 500 incoming passengers per week, with South Australia also asked to boost its capacity.

Mr McCormack said he had also written to the leaders of Tasmania, the ACT and the NT, to gauge their ability to take on more international arrivals.

“Those letters are telling them that’s what they in fact need to do, and I’ve had discussions with them,” he said.

“They know, they understand, this needs to happen.

“There’s plenty of empty hotel rooms in these capital cities, and I want them filled with returning Australians.”

Mr McCormack said he hoped to see the proposal agreed to and implemented by the end of the month, suggesting Queensland in particular should explore whether it could further boost its quarantine capability by using hotels on the Gold Coast and in Cairns.

State Governments have rightfully hit back:

Western Australian premier Mark McGowan has slammed deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, accusing him of breaching the spirit of the national cabinet by publicly calling for the states to increase their intake of Australians returning from overseas.

In comments that will set the scene for a tense meeting of the national cabinet this Friday, Mr McGowan also accused the Commonwealth of trying to “palm off” its quarantine and customs responsibilities to the states…

The WA government is pushing for the Commonwealth to house any additional arrivals in either defence bases or detention centres such as Christmas Island or Yongah Hill near Northam in rural WA.

Mr McGowan said there were “scores” of defence bases around Australia that could be used to quarantine returning Australians, while army, navy and airforce personnel at those bases could also manage security…

Mr McGowan cautioned that boosting hotel quarantine capacity “run the risks of security making mistakes” and introducing failures into the system, like what occurred in Victoria…

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said NSW could manage the extra load but only if the other states agreed to increase their numbers…

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk[said]… “We will do whatever we can, but the federal government has resources as well…The states have had to do the heavy lifting. (The commonwealth) they’ve assisted with quarantine with ADF, and I appreciate that, but there’s a lot of resources that are needed, especially with our police. Every time we put a new hotel up, there’s extra police that are needed to look at those hotels as well.”

Whereas Labor Opposition leader Anthony Albanese accused the Morrison Government of passing the buck:

“How absurd is it that the Deputy Prime Minister says he is writing a letter about the 25,000 Australians who are stranded overseas, who can’t get home and the national government is responsible for?” Mr Albanese said. “This isn’t the responsibility of the state. It is the responsibility of the national government and what it requires is national leadership and not the Deputy Prime Minister writing a letter.”

Mr Albanese said it was increasingly clear that National Cabinet was becoming dysfunctional and that Scott Morrison was in danger of being an “observer rather than a participant” because he “didn’t have control over anything.”

“We are a vast continent,” Mr Albanese said. “If we cannot provide accommodation and space for many more people than we are now, then it’s because the federal government is not being fair dinkum about finding those solutions.”

Too right. The Australian Government must take responsibility for repatriating Australian citizens.

Open up quarantine facilities and charter flights to pick them up. Even better, use the outbound flights to send stranded temporary migrants home. Just get it done.

It is hard to fathom that the federal government has plans to fly international students and ‘skilled’ migrants into Australia while actual citizens are stranded abroad.

The biggest kick in the guts comes from the Northern Territory, where taxpayers will foot half the cost of international student quarantine while Australians returning from overseas to the NT are being charged the full $2,500 cost ($5,000 for families) for their hotel quarantine.

The federal government must quit making excuses and do its job. Bring our stranded Aussies home.

Leith van Onselen
Latest posts by Leith van Onselen (see all)


  1. Offshore Australians are being held to ransom for ideological purposes by a Federal Government which is

    –       Seeking open quarantine places for foreign students & agricultural labourers, and presumably (later) tourists
    –       Seeking to impose its will over states in relation to lockdowns
    –       Seeking to impose ‘blame’ in the form of costs on Australians trapped overseas (in the context of no blame being attached to those rorting JobKeeper for vastly more)
    –       Seeking to suggest Australians overseas (for often legitimate reasons) have ‘only themselves to blame’ for not heeding earlier warnings (when they didn’t heed warnings)
    –       Seeking to suggest those with other passports and citizenships are some form of second class Australian citizen  
    –       Seeking to avoid comparison with other nations which have laid on flights for their nationals to return home

     Overseas Australians are the ‘Children Overboard’ story of 2020.


    • Easy to fix: stranded Aussies need to band together and hire a Canberra lobby firm to get their plight recognized. Tip: promises of funding for the Liberal Party would be helpful. A brown paper bag loaded with $100 bills is even more persuasive. Have a go to get a go!

    • I do wonder if Scummo has actually snookered himself by passing hotel quarantine to the states in the early stages of the Pandemic. He can’t really take it back now and this is a problem for his plans to bring the students/migrants.

  2. Was enraging to watch Birmingham (who was leading the push for international student arrivals 3-4 weeks ago) doing the buck passing blame game “its the states fault” on the tele last night

  3. Anyone know what’s happened to the 300 students being brought in through SA? I’ve heard it’s off, but why exactly? Just political optics? No students actually want to come and do quarantine?

  4. 25,000 Australians will just cost money and be a drain on the economy. 25,000 students could bring in $1b. Migrants magically create jobs, according to Population Minister Tudge.

  5. I’m confused — surely having these 25k Aussies back onshore would give the economy the same boost (perhaps more as many probably have money) that having 25k migrants onshore would?

    Or perhaps this about the ‘student’ and ‘slave worker’ intake only.

    • darklydrawlMEMBER

      Because life is rarely that simple. Sure a few of them will be backpackers who took a gamble that it wouldn’t get this bad and lost. But the vast majority of them are folks who are genuinely stuck. Ex-pats inparticular generally can’t just pack up and leave at the drop of a hat. How quickly could you crate up your entire existence and move it overseas? At what point do you leave a dying/sick loved one to head back home? What about all the people who had flights booked but keep getting booted by the airlines as they cannot afford business class tickets to fly back to Oz?

      • Totes BeWokeMEMBER

        “What about all the people who had flights booked but keep getting booted”

        Then government should tell the carriers to honour the flights or never land in Australia again. Just more of the same big business shafting Australians, while handing over FB and Google algorithms to MSM disguised to be in our interests….”making foreign business pay”.

        As for your other points, I agree. I am too harsh, but IMO anyone who can’t justify their decision to remain so long should be paying and not taxpayers.

    • Shades of MessinaMEMBER

      Yes indeed, my mate in Hong Kong no doubt had ample warning of his old man dropping dead from a heart attack.

      No trip to the funeral for you Aussie citizen scumbag !!.

        • There are plenty of people who got outbound exemptions on compassionate grounds but can’t get back because the inbound caps have been reached.

          I have a colleague who went back to the UK to farewell her terminally ill sister. Her return flight was booked on 2 September but they cancelled it because of incoming passenger restrictions. She can’t get a flight until 24 October!

        • Shades of MessinaMEMBER

          He has lived there for 3 years working for an Aussie company, nothing complicated about it.

          The irony is that he is there helping to generate export revenue for the benefit of all Australians.

          Tough sh!t for him I guess.

  6. Get rid of the ridiculous hotel quarantine system. What is it with Australia and mandatory detention? Does it make everyone feel safe to lock travellers up? How did that work out so far?

    • Shades of MessinaMEMBER

      And on the other hand, places like Singapore and Hong Kong allow you to serve your quarantine at home utilising basic tracking technology.

      Australia has its head so far up its @ss on this issue it’s not funny.

    • Australia is a nanny state.

      People can’t be trusted to self quarantine like in Europe and the rest of the world.

      Soon the governments in Aus will require all adults to wear a helmet when leaving the house or be fined 5k by the police who will stomp on your head.

  7. Given the current state of this country we may be doing those “stranded Aussies” a favor by not bringing them home. After 10 years abroad I brought my family home in March when encouraged by the govt. Australia has gone so far downhill we don’t recognize it anymore. Already planning our exit in Q1 — if we’re allowed to leave…

  8. Try getting your dog back. >$10K on a cargo flight as airlines have stopped taking pets. Only one quarantine station left as the govt shut them all down. Coronvirus central – Melbourne. Not much good for a Queenslander. Expensive and booked up for months. Cheaper to stay overseas than bend over and say “Woof”.

  9. COVID tax on over 65's

    How can a foreign student be allowed back in the country while Australian citizens are stranded overseas?

    Aren’t Australians returning from overseas having to buy first class and business class tickets to get back?

    Are all these students buying business class tickets? I don’t think so.

  10. rob barrattMEMBER

    I caught the virus in Austria (skiing) in March when everyone was told it was only in Northern Italy. I couldn’t get back to Aus initially (Singapore airport closed) and had to go to the UK where I developed symptoms 2 days later.
    I got lucky, 2 weeks later (2 April) I managed to get a flight on Qatar airways. Heathrow Terminal 5 was a ghost town. There were 32 people on an Airbus 380 going to Doha. On the second leg, Doha to Brisbane, there were 51people on a monster double decker aircraft.
    Imagine the money they were losing on those flights.

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