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Call for RAAF to bring stranded Australians home

National

Pressure is mounting on the federal government to help 25,000 Australians stranded overseas return home on air force planes.

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Labor is demanding that idle RAAF aircraft used by the prime minister and governor-general to jet around the globe be fired up to bring people back to Australia during the coronavirus pandemic.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese wants the government to run its own quarantine programs alongside state hotel programs.

“What we have is a prime minister saying, ‘it’s all too hard’ at the moment,” he told ABC television on Wednesday.

“There’s 25,000 Australians stranded. We know many of them are absolutely desperate to get home.”

Mr Albanese said the government should also look at chartering Qantas planes and using other air force aircraft to bring people home.

He called for Commonwealth-run quarantine at the Christmas Island immigration detention centre and a facility outside Darwin, both of which were used early in the pandemic.

Labor is supportive of lifting the arrivals cap of 4000 a week.

MPs and senators from across the political divide have faced calls from constituents to do more for family and friends stuck abroad.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is due to address international flight caps at a media conference in Wagga Wagga on Wednesday.

South Australian Liberal Premier Steven Marshall will propose increasing his state’s cap of returning Australians from 500 to 800 a week at Friday’s national cabinet meeting.

“We do need to step up and take more,” he told ABC radio.

He said the state is not using all of its 500 places.

West Australian Labor Premier Mark McGowan has also signalled his state is willing to take more returned travellers provided they are quarantined in Commonwealth facilities.

But the federal government is reluctant to use immigration detention centres in WA, arguing that would be inappropriate.

State borders are beginning to slowly reopen, with South Australia lifting restrictions on people from the ACT overnight.

Queensland is considering relaxing its trigger to allow people from NSW and the ACT in from 28 days with no community transmission of the virus to 14 days.

Victoria recorded 42 new cases on Wednesday and eight deaths taking the national toll to 824.

From midnight, people outside Melbourne will enjoy more freedom with restrictions on leaving home and businesses eased.

Melbourne will move to its next step of reopening on September 28 if the 14-day case average falls to between 30 and 50.

It has slipped below 50 for the first time during the deadly second wave.

-AAP

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