Australians stranded abroad have made emotional appeals to the federal government to help them return home.
A Senate committee heard shocking stories from several desperate citizens still stranded abroad due to coronavirus travel bans and international arrival caps on Thursday.
Watch Jeff Kennett and Mark Lathan discuss Australians stranded abroad above
About 27,000 Australians are stranded abroad despite 20,000 empty plane seats entering the country each week.
Indeed, airlines cannot fly their planes at full capacity due to arrival caps that have been put in place to ensure that hotel quarantines are not exceeded.
Several citizens told the Senate inquiry that they had traveled abroad after the death of a family member and were unable to return.
Others said they had lost their jobs due to virus lockdowns and recessions and could no longer support themselves financially.
Charges were also laid against the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with some disgruntled citizens saying government officials failed to offer the support they needed.
Mother of five, Deanne Vowels, stranded in the UK with her children and husband, says consular staff told her to start a GoFundMe to pay for $ 70,000 in flights.
She also said authorities told her to send her children home to Australia on her own, as unaccompanied children were not counted against the caps.
Claire Burles said she tried to get home after her husband lost his job and they had to give up the lease on their home.
Instead, the Australian consulate gave him a list of homeless shelters.
“Lots of time to get home”
One Nation NSW MP Mark Latham said he had little sympathy for Australians still stranded abroad, arguing they should have returned home when the pandemic first hit.
“We have known for six or seven months now that the world was blocked, flights were drying up, borders were closing,” he said on Sunrise.
Latham said people with “compassionate grounds” should be treated differently.
However, former Victorian Prime Minister Jeff Kennett disagreed, saying he “had a little more sympathy than Mark”.
“If I was an Australian and had been stranded abroad for six months then I would like to go home and I would think the Australian government would be able to make arrangements to do so,” a- he declared.
The national cabinet agreed last week to lift the caps from 4,000 to 5,500 in October, meaning more Australians can return home each week.
It is hoped that all overseas citizens and residents will be at home by Christmas.