The government says Queensland's cities, such as the Gold Coast, could accept more returning Australians (photo courtesy Unsplash/Faris Kassim).
Australia’s flight cap has now been lifted from 4,000 a week to 6,000, according to deputy prime minister Michael McCormack.
Speaking to the media on September 16, McCormack said he had written to state premiers and chief ministers requesting they accommodate returning Australians undergoing the country's 14-day mandatory quarantine.
The states of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have each been asked to take an additional 500 arrivals a week.
South Australia will be asked to accept an additional 360 returning Australians and the government is investigating how many travellers Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory could handle. The suspension of international flight into Melbourne will continue.
“There are plenty of empty hotel rooms in these capital cities and I want them filled with returning Australians,” said McCormack. “It’s been a very difficult situation for some trying to get home and we acknowledge that.”
The Australian government has been under increasing pressure to accommodate the estimated tens of thousands of stranded Australians trying to get home. Last week the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA), the official voice for Australia’s international airline industry, called for caps to be raised to 100 passengers per flight if airlines are to continue to fly into Australia. Present caps limit passengers to 30 or fewer per flight. Sydney is currently limited to 350 arrivals a day and Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide are accepting no more than 500 or 525 passengers per week. BARA estimates as many as 100,000 Australians are seeking to return home.
Many returnees have reported 'price gauging' as airlines prioritise business class passengers and cancel economy class tickets. Foreign minister Marise Payne has announced that hardship loans will be made available to support stranded Australians who are struggling financially.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has called for Royal Australian Air Force planes to be drafted in to fly Australians home. “It is simply unacceptable that the Prime Minister continues to say that there’s nothing he can do about it and he hopes to have these families home by Christmas. Well, I think those who are desperate to get home should be brought home in September,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
Western Australia’s state premier, Mark McGowan, said he is willing to accept more returnees if they can be quarantined in Commonwealth facilities. The immigration detention centre on Christmas Island has been suggested as a possible quarantine accommodation.