Thousands of Australians stranded overseas could have already been home if Scott Morrison had heeded advice about the quarantine system, the opposition argues.
Labor home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally has lashed out at the prime minister after national cabinet on Friday agreed that returning Australians must return a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure.
“Australians would be shocked to know that Scott Morrison was told last year that other countries had introduced testing of passengers before they got on flights but the PM did nothing,” Senator Keneally said.
A review of Australia’s national hotel quarantine system, released in October last year, referenced countries with pre-flight testing but did not make it a formal recommendation.
National cabinet agreed to implement all of the recommendations, which included new models of quarantine and consideration of a national quarantine facility for emergency situations.
But Senator Keneally has accused Mr Morrison of ignoring the advice which she says would have helped get almost 40,000 stranded Australians home.
“It is his fault that more Australians cannot get home,” she said.
The prime minister on Friday said pre-flight testing was already “largely practised” among airlines coming into Australia.
“These arrangements are already in place in terms of the flights that we are chartering,” Mr Morrison said.
“But this will now be a requirement right across the board. Travellers to Australia must return a negative COVID-19 test result prior to departure to Australia.”
Under the tough new arrangement, testing exemptions will only be applied in extenuating circumstances such as seasonal workers from countries with limited access to testing.
However, stranded Aussies are going to find it even harder to get home with international passenger caps in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia being halved until February 15 to reduce the risk from highly infectious mutant strains.
Chartered flights for vulnerable Australians will continue with one arriving in the Northern Territory next week.