Tens of thousands of Australian nationals are currently stuck overseas due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Meanwhile, foreigners of a certain class are coming into Australia thanks to Canberra’s decision to grant travel exemptions to people with business innovation and investment visas.
To qualify for such a visa, a foreign national must be prepared to invest at least $800,000 in Australia. If they meet that requirement, they can enter the country the same way Australian citizens can—that is, by quarantining in a hotel for two weeks upon arrival. As the Australian Border Force explained,
“The business innovation and investment program targets migrants who have a demonstrated history of success or talent in innovation, investment and business, and are able to make a significant contribution to the national innovation system and the Australian economy.”
According to the Guardian, the ABF issued 485 business investment visas between March and September.
That’s not very many, and on its face it doesn’t seem like it would pose an issue for Australian citizens trying to get back home. But consider that travel restrictions stipulate that no more than 4000 people can arrive in Australia in a single week. As a result, most flights only contain a few dozen passengers. And as a result of that, airlines are jacking up the price of tickets to cover operational costs, while simultaneously catering to first-class travelers.
Testifying before a Senate inquiry, ABF head Michael Outram stated that roughly 25 percent of people traveling to Australia and quarantining in hotels are not citizens or permanent residents.
Opposition leader Penny Wong is now demanding that the Morrison government provide answers to stranded citizens and their families.
“There may be very legitimate reasons for some of these [non citizens] to enter the country, but these numbers show one person is being given the green light every day ahead of a stranded Australian who wants to come home,” Wong said, adding:
“Once again with Scott Morrison we see it’s one rule for a privileged few, while stranded Australians are left behind.”
I wouldn’t expect a candid response from Morrison and company any time soon.