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Caps blow for stranded Aussies as Melbourne rules out flights

written by Adam Thorn | September 25, 2020

Cathay Pacific flight CX105 arrives in Melbourne. (Cathay Pacific)
Cathay Pacific flight CX105 arrives in Melbourne. (Cathay Pacific)

Australians stranded abroad were dealt a new blow on Friday when Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said Melbourne wouldn’t welcome international arrivals until November.

Melbourne stopped accepting flights at the start of July as the city experienced a second wave of coronavirus cases. Later that month, the government capped arrivals nationwide to just 4,000 – but that low figure was partly due to the Victorian capital not being able to help with the load.

Critics have argued the cap system has stopped Australians abroad being able to return home by reducing availability and increasing prices.

Premier Andrews reiterated on Friday morning that he can’t restart his quarantine program until the ongoing enquiry into the state’s handling of arrivals reaches a conclusion later this year.

“It depends on what is in that final report in terms of what system, structures … we have reset the program, we are doing some work in the background to make sure that we can respond to the report as quickly as possible. But it is not possible for us to anticipate what will be in that final report,” he said.

“I have tried to be as clear as they can on multiple occasions that we will wait for that report before I ring the Prime Minister and say flights can come back.”

Melbourne’s involvement is crucial as the industry body representing international airlines in Australia, BARA, has repeatedly said its members need to be able to fly into major airports to make flights economical.


Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised there would be 50 per cent increase in Australia’s arrival caps  – however, it’s still unclear whether that target has been met.

It came days after Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack appeared to try and force states’ hands by writing to premiers and urging them to help lift the national cap by 50 per cent, from 4,000 to 6,000.

However, it’s unclear though whether the national government has the authority to increase capacity – while it maintains responsibility for the ADF, most quarantine services have been managed by state administrations.

The restrictions limiting the number of Australians who could fly home at any one time were first introduced in July to regulate the flow of people arriving into government quarantine facilities and have been extended multiple times.

Deputy PM Michael McCormack was bullish in attempting to force the arms of premiers to do more.

“Those letters are telling them that’s what they, in fact, need to do, and I’ve had discussions with them,” he said. “They know, they understand, this needs to happen.”

There was a mixed response from state premiers on the news: WA Premier Mark McGowan reacted angrily to not being informed before the federal press conference, but NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was a “fair response” to take more arrivals.

The current limits, before any increases were added are:

  • Melbourne – no international passenger arrivals;
  • Sydney – 350 passenger arrivals per day;
  • Perth – 525 passenger arrivals per week;
  • Brisbane –500 passenger arrivals per week; and
  • Adelaide – 500 passenger arrivals per week.

Comments (16)

  • I just don’t understand why the Australian Federal Government hasn’t accepted the offer of the Northern Territory Government/Darwin City Council to open up the IMPEX facility again in Darwin. This can hold up to 3000 arrivals every 14 days. If its because the International Airlines will not fly into Darwin, previously both Singapore Airlines, Philippine Airlines and Garuda offered flights from Singapore and also Qantas had a number of the QF9/10 flights operating through Darwin from/to London.

    If the Federal Government cannot get an International Airline to fly the route, then for goodness sake let’s use our very capable A330 Airbus RAAF aircraft. They can easily fly from RAF Brize Norton in Oxforshire (which is the largest Airbase in the UK and operates the UK armed Forces Movement Control operation for all Defence personnel arriving and leaving the United Kingdom. It has full customs and immigration local support. and the RAF A330 MRTT are also based there, so it has the ground handling equipment to handle passengers movements. The RAAF A330’s could refuel in RAF Base Akrotiri in Cyprus or at the RAF Base in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean before continuing onto Australia. The Government could ask passengers to contribute the equivalent of a standard single pre-COVID fare to offset the costs. One A 330 aircraft could easily transport up to 290 passengers. This could easily help to reduce the number of Australian vulnerable passengers stranded in the UK or Europe.

    Come on Mr Morrison – lets Australia do the right thing!

  • Al


    Why denote Sydney as 350 per day, rather than 2,450 per week?
    If you are going to do that then you should show Brisbane as 71 per day etc

  • Gerard


    It seems unusual to many of us on the other side of the Tasman that the PM seems to have no authority over each state: is there no united Australia? Equally, presumably most people flying into a state are from that state.

  • Nicholas


    Is there any low position that this man hasn’t plumbed yet?

    PM Make it easy and refuse all Victorians till this man has been tarred and feathered and sanity prevails.

    Makes you embarrassed to be an Australian when I read this story.

  • Patrickk


    Nicholas no need for extremes it is perfectly sensible to wait until the enquiry reports on hotel quarantine before opening it up again. I’m with Andrew what is the federal government doing with its accommodation resources including the NT one but also others. We may have different views on who should be tarred and feathered and where sanity lies. Nursing homes anyone!!!

  • Jeff Pay


    I cannot understand why people arriving from overseas by plane or ship are a state responsibility. Everyone is arriving using a passport (country issued, not state) and it would make sense that customs, quarantine, immigration and health matters of the passengers should be a federal responsibility.

  • These 25.000 ”stranded” Aussies, how many are REALLY stranded, they have had more than ample time to make the trip.
    Those who have permanently moved to Europe by their own choice, cant just turn round now and say, they would rather be back in AUS. and need to be ”rescued”
    I dont believe the RAAF A330 would be in any way suitable, its a military fitted out aircraft for starters and the logistics involved for 290 pax would just not be viable. The majority of the worlds airliners are parked up, our own QF mob have sent their A380s and 787s to the US for desert storage. If Joyce had any decency in him, he should have organised for the QF fleet to be utilised to bring these people back to AUS. Bringing additional travellers into PER for example can only be achieved if Perth has the hotel accommodation available to locate them in. Calm down every one, calm down.

  • Marum


    there must be political reasons why the facilities at Darwin are not being used. I love the way some are urging our leaders not to play “politics” over the CoVID 19 problem. For GOD’s sake! They are politicians! What would you expect them to do? Most of them would sell their Granny into slavery, if they could pick up another 1% of the vote.


  • Gary Hale


    We dont need to be a republic….what a very stupid and crazy idea….when our present system of government is so chaotic….at least the GG has no political power…whereas a Republican President would. SOVEREIGN states would go to war…and we would become individual nations of a werid mixture of nationalities…God help with us..

  • Gordon M


    How can it be legal for any government in Australia to refuse entry to Australian citizens and permanent residents? This is exactly what the arrival caps are doing.
    It is way overdue for class actions to be organised for all affected individuals to claim their increased costs and personal stress injury compensation owing to these dictatorial restrictions.

  • Ed murray


    People knew and were told months ago to come home.
    Some are legitimate cases but a lot ignored advice and now are paying the consequences.stuff em

  • That’s right Gerard. Each state has it’s own government. Some of the state parliaments have upper houses, but not all do. And W.A. is even rattling the old skeleton of possibly breaking away from the other states! I don’t think it has occurred to them that they would then have to setup their own military forces to defend their resources, and how much would that cost their budget?? I’d say we are more like Canada than we are to New Zealand.

  • Corrigin


    That’s the Aussie spirit Ed Murray; “Bugger you Jack – I’m alright” 👌
    How about a lot have legit cases but few ignored the advice? Regardless of the reason, they are citizens and the Government has a duty of care since they are the elected officials. Scott Morrison et al should do their job and be held accountable.

  • Owen Lee


    To all the people commenting that its the fault of Australians not coming home sooner you should be embarrassed.
    I am in the UK (I already had a return ticket for August) with my partner home schooling the kids while she could work.
    As Hospitality is entirely shut so I would be out of a job (and my partner would have to find a way to look after the kids) if I went back home earlier so there was no point.
    People overseas are also not getting jobseeker handouts like some of you may be getting and expect to fork out $3000 for my own quarantine. Its an absolute disgrace and you should be pointing the finger at the governments lack of organization not its citizens.

  • Simone


    I hear you Owen!!!

    Many Aussies on terra firma forget that the joblessness is rising world-wide and when you are an Aussie working overseas and the job goes, you have no access to that country’s benefits (just like overseas students are locked-out of Australia’s benefits system) and WORSE if your VISA is job-related you lose that status too IE the country you are in wants you out BUT Australia doesn’t want to welcome you home (unless you are VERY VERY RICH and can afford blown-out ticket prices or a private jet).

    It’s sad that so many Aussies lack the compassion for their many fellow countrymen who are legitimately stranded and need to come home. And then of course there are those who need to come home for other reasons like a being there through a family crisis – no compassion there either!

  • Darren


    There is no need for RAAF aircraft. There are thousands of airliners and crew sitting on the ground waiting for Australia to lift the flight caps. QF, CX, SQ, BA etc will fly all these people once the caps are lifted.
    Once Australia moves to IATA’s “test before flight” regime there will be minimal need for the destructive hotel quarantine that is stopping people from travelling to and from Australia.
    Australians please remember that 99.9% of people outside Australia are coronavirus free! Remember innocent until proven guilty?
    If you test negative before your flight (and after) you should be allowed your freedom upon arrival #quarantineisfordogs

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