Dear Prime Minister,
I write to you regarding the desperate situation of many of my constituents, their loved ones abroad, and all Australian’s currently stranded overseas.
As you know, there are many tens of thousands of Australians registered with DFAT who are finding any and all attempts to return home being thwarted by your Government’s travel caps. What’s more, the price gouging decisions of airlines to prioritise profits over people is making the situation one in which the most vulnerable are left behind. Kicking people of flights that they had booked in favour of wealthier passengers willing and able to pay for a higher class is wrong. It is disgusting.
The problem is not just confined to Australians wishing to return home either. Constituents of mine have highlighted to me the troubles they are having getting their partners to Australia as well.
I would like to highlight the story of one such constituent. Leigh Hughes and his partner Olga Cherniak have been separated now for almost a year. In January, Olga returned to her native country of Ukraine to visit her parents and was left stranded with the introduction of Australia’s travel restrictions. My office was able to assist Olga in receiving a travel exemption to come to Australia however Olga has been unable to secure a seat on a flight home, having bookings cancelled on multiple occasions. It is heartbreaking that Leigh and Olga have had their lives and their relationship interrupted in this way.
Their story is unfortunately far too common.
Late last year, you described the number of Aussies stranded abroad as a “cup that keeps filling up” and that you were “open.. to creating additional net capacity”. I urge you to act on this urgently. The Government should organise more repatriation flights, using chartered commercial airliners or even our fleet of VIP jets.
For many Australians and partners of Australians, their Christmas was a lonely one away from loved ones. Please act to ensure that their 2021 is one filled with joy, love and reunification.
Alicia Payne MP
Member for Canberra