Topics: Breach at Sydney Airport; returning Australians; quarantine rules




Samantha Armytage:   Minister, good morning to you. Now, it was New South Wales police officers who incorrectly allowed the travellers to get on a domestic flight to Melbourne. They have put up their hand, these police officers, and said they did the wrong thing. How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen again?


Simon Birmingham:     So Sam, look, I acknowledge and welcome the fact New South Wales Police have publicly apologised for this. But clearly, it is a reminder that the task of bringing thousands of returning Australia’s home each and every week to Australia and doing so safely is a very crucial one, but also one that poses some of the greatest threats to us in relation to the spread of COVID and it’s why all of the systems need to be thorough.


No doubt, New South Wales will be reviewing and tightening all of their systems and processes as a result of this. Just as today, we note that Victoria will resume for the first time since the 30 of June receiving returning Australians back into Australia. South Australia will also resume that for the first time in a few weeks and that’s going to help us to continue to bring those returning Australians home. But those jurisdictions and others, including New South Wales, have tightened a number of the standards as a result of some of those failures to make sure that it happens as safely as possible.


Samantha Armytage:    Yes. And we should point out that those two German tourists that made it Melbourne are now in hotel quarantine in Melbourne and a lot of people on that flight are now in isolation. So hopefully, this doesn’t go any further than that. But does Australia need to restrict the number of international arrivals at this point so we don’t have as much chance of these mistakes happening?


Simon Birmingham:     Well they are restricted, Sam. And now, Victoria and South Australia are coming back online in terms of doing their part in receiving international arrivals, will see us taking around 6700 per week but these are overwhelmingly returning Australian citizens. Now, on the one hand, we have a federal opposition, the Labor Party here in Canberra, who continuously attack us and seem to pretend there’s some cheap, easy fast way to bring Australians back home. But the reality is there isn’t. It is a high-risk proposition when it comes to managing the spread and potential spread of COVID.


That’s why we worked so closely with the states and territories to make sure that within these caps, we are getting as many home as possible but doing it as safely as possible, and the states and territories are doing a great job there. Obviously, there are some opportunities for improvement, and this failure, being a clear one, but we’re also providing Defence Force support to help them, and that’s the case in Victoria today as they begin this task again.


Samantha Armytage:    Absolutely. Okay, Minister. Thank you for your time this morning, we appreciate it.

Simon Birmingham:     Thanks, Sam. Cheers.