Ironically, some of the same commentators are also the first to attack globalist anywheres and pose as champions of salt-of-the-earth somewheres when playing culture war games with domestic political issues. However, and more importantly, the idea that insular and envious Australia has heartlessly pulled up the drawbridge on its expat high-flyers is wrong and contradicted by the facts.
The real hurdle to speedy repatriation is not flights but the cap on the number of quarantine places set by each state government.
Since the international border was closed in March, more than 440,000 Australian citizens have been able to come home. The reason those still seeking to return must instead wait in the queue for limited quarantine places is that an Australian passport does not confer immunity to the coronavirus for people travelling from places such as the US and Britain, where the pandemic is still raging.
Hence, it was the fear that the highly transmissible UK variant might infect largely virus-free Australia that spooked the Prime Minister into halving the cap on international arrivals. Nothing to do with cutting down tall poppies: it was a precaution to reduce the risk of the new strain leaking out of the quarantine weak point in the nations COVID-19 defences.
Mr Morrison also has to balance the welfare of expats with safety and best interests of 25 million other Australians, while being all too aware that populist premiers on a hair trigger will slam the internal borders shut and impose damaging lockdowns on cities and even entire states at the first sign of a hotspot.
This does not mean that more cannot be done to bring more Australians back sooner. Following Emirates airline’s suspension of flights to Australia that were made commercially unviable by the revised passenger caps, the government has commissioned 20 special repatriation flights over the next two months in partnership with Qantas.
But the real hurdle to speedy repatriation is not flights but the cap on the number of quarantine places set by each state government. That the halving of the passenger cap applied only to arrivals into NSW, Queensland and Western Australia implies that other states especially Victoria, which is only accepting 1100 people a week into quarantine could also do more of the heavy lifting to help bring Australians home.
With the Northern Territory government having agreed to increase the number of quarantine places at the Howard Springs camp outside Darwin, Fridays national cabinet meeting should also move to further disperse quarantine arrangements and progress Annastacia Palaszczuk’s proposal for a regional quarantine facility at Gladstone in Queensland.
With the passenger cap to be reviewed early next month, some Team Australia unity is now needed to bring back sooner the expats who, like expats who have gone and come back before, will be valuable team players, whose talents and skills, honed by international experience, will help boost Australias recovery from the pandemic.