(Australian Associated Press)
Families denied access to loved ones by the hard international border want the Morrison government to change the rules.
The current definition of “immediate family” has been challenged by a petition presented to federal parliament on Tuesday as Australians seek to be reunited with parents, and so babies can meet grandparents.
Signed by more than 70,000 people in just four weeks, the petition was tabled by independent MP Zali Steggall on behalf of the advocacy group Parents Are Immediate Family.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews appeared to warm to the idea of broadening the scope or definition.
“I would be more than happy to meet with you directly to pursue this further,” the minister told Ms Steggall during Question Time.
Audiologist Sophie Robinson moved to Australia three years ago and wants to return to work as an essential healthcare worker.
“But without any help or support from my family that’s just impossible,” she told reporters in Canberra, holding baby Lucy.
“It’s been really hard,” she said.
Ms Robinson is thinking about moving back to the United Kingdom, which she had never considered before the pandemic.
Ms Steggall said her office is being inundated with desperate calls for help, particularly from new mothers whose parents are unable to come into Australia to assist them.
“These women, these babies need to understand what the long term plan for Australia is,” she said.
Reunification with family should be considered a compelling and compassionate reason to travel, according to the formal plea to politicians.
The petition calls on the government to add parents as an exemption category after all the medical and quarantine requirements are met, and if exemptions cannot be obtained for parents coming to Australia to allow an exemption for people with family overseas to travel to see them.
PAIF spokesperson Kateryna Dmytriyeva has tried five times for permission to allow her mother to travel back to Australia from Ukraine.
She slammed the “obscene lack of compassion from the Australian government”.
Ms Steggall fears a broader brain drain, as one third of Australians are born overseas.
“At the moment we have a void of ambition, and you do not win the race with a void of ambition,” the former Olympian said.
Ms Andrews said the federal government was committed to doing all it could to ensure Australia had the skilled workforce it needed.
“Not only now, but in the months and years ahead.”
Australia’s border closed in March 2020 as an emergency measure.