Stranded Australians may not be home for Christmas, says Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton

Matt CoughlanAAP
VideoThe Trade and Tourism Minister says extra quarantine capacity at Howard Springs means more Australians stranded overseas can return home.

Australians stranded overseas due to coronavirus restrictions and flight cancellations will struggle to get home by Christmas, a senior Federal Government minister has conceded.

There are more than 36,000 people registered to return to the country with the Department of Foreign Affiars and Travel classifying 8070 as vulnerable.

Labor is urging the Federal Government to stop pointing the finger at State-run hotel quarantine and do more to help isolate arrivals.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the Government had brought back urgent cases where there were medical needs and people in desperate situations.

But he warned that people who had been forced to travel overseas in the past month to care for loved ones would struggle to get back for Christmas.

“If people have gone in the last month or so and expect to get back by Christmas it’s tough,” Mr Dutton told Today

“Flights have been cancelled or there is not room in hotel quarantine, so just be careful when you make the booking to go.”

Mr Morrison believes Australia is on track to reach his goal of bringing home the 26,700 people registered in September by December.

“Australia is moving everything we possibly can to get as many Australians home,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“But there are obviously understandable constraints to that because of the caps on quarantine capacity.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese argues the Commonwealth is responsible for quarantine under the constitution.

He wants air force jets to bring people home to an expanded quarantine system using federal resources to bolster capacity.

“We should be getting more people back, we should be using all the resources at our disposal,” the Labor leader told 3AW.

DFAT officials told a Senate hearing more than 426,000 people have returned since Australia’s borders were closed in March, with 30,000 on government- facilitated flights.

The Prime Minister said the hotel quarantine system had been incredibly successful, despite the virus spreading to the community in some states.

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