BRISBANE, Australia — The Australian federal government has been accused of putting the rich and famous ahead of vulnerable families stranded overseas.

Greens senator Nick McKim said the government allowed movie stars, business people, and tennis players into Australia while leaving many desperate citizens overseas during the coronavirus pandemic.

McKim fired up during a heated debate in Senate on May 24.

“If you are rich and famous or wealthy, it is off you go, come and go as you please, or we will exempt you from the guidelines,” he said. “Whereas if you are a separated family, it is tough luck, off you go.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has helped about 45,000 Australians return home since international borders were closed in March last year.

Qantas repatriation flight from India taxiing at RAAF Darwin in Darwin, May 15, 2021. About 80 Australians who were stranded in coronavirus-ravaged India have touched down in Darwin on the first post-ban repatriation flight. (Aaron Bunch/AAP Image)

But there are still nearly 40,000 Australians abroad who are waiting to come back.

Given this backlog of stranded Australians, McKim is concerned people are being allowed into the country with clearances known as 188 business visas.

There have been about 2500 people allowed into the country on 188 visas since September.

McKim accused the coalition of putting money ahead of Australian citizens and permanent residents.

Liberal senator Amanda Stoker bristled at his claims.

“Those 188 visa holders that you pretend are fat cats, that you pretend are simply feeding off the benefits of an easier system, create 12,000 jobs upon which Australians depend,” she said. “That is 12,000 families that you would see not have a job in favor of a handful of people.”

An incredulous McKim accused his Liberal opponent of “making stuff up.”

There have only been 1200 jobs created as a result of the business innovation and investment visas.

As per a statement by the Australian Government, Department of Health, to prevent the spread of Covid-19, travelers arriving in Australia by air or sea may need to go into government-approved mandatory quarantine for 14 days from arrival. Exceptions include travelers who are either traveling from a green zone or falls in an exemption category.

“State and territory governments, with support from the Australian Government, manage quarantine arrangements including transport for travelers from their arrival point to their quarantine accommodation and also quarantine arrangements at the accommodation facility,” said the Department of Health in the statement.

“You may be tested for Covid-19 in the first 48 hours and then between days 10 to 12 of quarantine. If you refuse to test, you may have to quarantine for a longer period. Exact testing arrangements depend on states and territories. In some states and territories, you may also have to pay a contribution to the cost of quarantine.”

(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Saptak Datta)

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