Hope for stranded Aussies as arrival caps are set to increase

Arrival caps limiting the number of Australians who can enter the country are set to increase, giving hope to Aussies who are stranded overseas.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack on Wednesday announced he is lifting the weekly cap from 4,000 to 6,000. 

He has written to state premiers telling them that their international arrival caps must increase 'as soon as possible.'

Asked what would happen if any premier refuses to take more passengers, he said: 'They will comply'. 

Sheree Richardson, from Perth, and her three young children were forced to sleep on the floor of London's Heathrow airport for three days after being bumped from flights because of coronavirus travel caps

Sheree Richardson, from Perth, and her three young children were forced to sleep on the floor of London's Heathrow airport for three days after being bumped from flights because of coronavirus travel caps

Under the plan, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia will take 500 extra passengers per week, South Australia will take an extra 360 and Darwin and Canberra will take flights on a case-by-case basis. 

However, Mr McCormack warned that some Australians will still be left stranded because the caps are needed to protect the hotel quarantine system.

'Not every Australian will be able to get home by Christmas, I have always said that,' he said. 

The transport minister said he would consider using federal facilities such as Howard Springs in the NT to house returned travellers but hotel quarantine is preferred at the moment. 

Mr McCormack is also urging Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to consider Cairns and the Gold Coast as quarantine locations.  

More than 25,000 Aussies are struggling to get home from countries including the UK, India and the Philippines because strict limits on the number who can enter Australia have led airlines to cancel flights.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese wants the prime minister to bring them home this month and has suggested using RAAF planes to help them. 

Scott Morrison is being urged to send his private plane dubbed Shark One (pictured) and other RAAF VIP aircraft to fetch Australians who are stranded overseas due to arrival caps

Scott Morrison is being urged to send his private plane dubbed Shark One (pictured) and other RAAF VIP aircraft to fetch Australians who are stranded overseas due to arrival caps

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and wife Jenny board a RAAF aircraft in June 2019

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and wife Jenny board a RAAF aircraft in June 2019

The prime minister's private jet (pictured) is a converted Qantas A330 that was upgraded for a reported $250million in 2019

The prime minister's private jet (pictured) is a converted Qantas A330 that was upgraded for a reported $250million in 2019

The prime minister's private jet, which he named Shark One after his NRL team the Cronulla Sharks, is a converted Qantas A330 that was upgraded for a reported $250million in 2019. 

Mr Albanese said sending RAAF jets to bring home vulnerable Aussies is a 'practical' solution. 

'There's something very practical that he can do because the RAAF VIP fleet is largely sitting idle,' he told reporters on Tuesday. 

'We're hearing stories that are flooding electorate offices around the country, of desperate people. We have a woman with a one-year-old child told to go to a homeless shelter,' he said.

Shark One: Scomo's 100-seater private jet

Named 'Shark One' after Mr Morrison's beloved NRL team the Cronulla Sharks, the KC30-A tanker is a welcome improvement for the PM and his entourage and can now travel from Australia to Russia in a single voyage.

The plane is a previous Qantas and Jetstar commercial A330, which was bought in 2015 by Airbus and modified by Airbus into a freighter and air-to-air refueller.

Shark One has a customised interior, and can comfortably carry more than 100 passengers in a lie-flat configuration. 

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'We have women who are about to give birth, desperate to get home. The government has access to these planes.'

Mr Albanese said the RAAF planes are flying around empty as pilots train and they could be used for rescue flights to 'bring home one hundred at a time from Europe.'

He also said the government should pay Qantas and Virgin to fly people home.

'It is simply unacceptable that the Prime Minister continues to say that there's nothing he can do about it and he hopes to have these families home by Christmas. 

'Well, I think those who are desperate to get home should be brought home in September,' he said.  

The government is working with states and territories to increase the arrival caps which have led airlines

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