Three months ago, the Prime Minister said he hoped to give the gift of a home soil Christmas to Australians overseas wanting to return.
It hasn’t panned out that way, but not for want of trying.
After a year keeping our distance, it’s easy to understand why family and friends here and abroad who won’t be reunited at Christmas are frustrated.
When the PM committed to bringing Australians home, twenty-six thousand were registered as being away.
The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade offered thirty thousand seats on planes.
But at the same time, the number of people who call Australia home who hankered to return kept growing.
Thirty-nine thousand are now registered as awaiting a seat on a plane.
Some wanted immediate help, while others just yearn for home and hearth at some stage.
Imagine being a government official trying to decide who gets the nod ahead of others when you have this tick box of options:
- People in frail or failing health
- Those without overseas support
- Dual citizen vs permanent resident
- People who left after travel warnings were issued
- People wanting to say goodbye to a dying loved one
- Travellers who’ve run out of money
That’s just a sample from a long list of difficult choices.
Limited flights, last minute cancellations and general confusion about Covid travel hasn’t helped.
Since March, our officials have helped bring thirty-two thousand people home.
Eleven thousand have arrived on seventy-seven government flights, and there’s more in the pipeline.
Bringing people home during the worst global pandemic in a century is a complex logistical and humanitarian exercise.
We should all acknowledge the tireless work of our government officials to fulfil the Prime Minister’s Christmas hope to reunite our families.
I certainly do.
I wish everyone a peaceful and contented Christmas.
That’s just as I see it.