Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP introduces petition calling for parents to be classified as immediate family

15 June, 2021


Today I rise on behalf of more than 70,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents, some of whom are in the House now, calling on this government to show greater compassion on travel exemptions. They have all signed a petition requesting that parents be added to the category of 'immediate family' for travel exemptions. In March last year the government locked our borders down in an emergency measure, but it has been 14 months since, and they have failed to show any flexibility or even advise on a time line or road map as to when those borders are likely to open.

Australia is a multicultural country where many of our fellow citizens and permanent residents have migrated from overseas. From my own community in Warringah, 30 per cent are migrants with close family living overseas. These are skilled migrants boosting our economy and filling skills shortages. They now face an indefinite scenario of being separated from their parents and not being able to access any assistance from them—young mums and dads especially. They need their parents for assistance. They're struggling to return to work. The children are suffering emotionally and financially.

This government needs to show leadership and urgently communicate a long-term plan. Otherwise, Australia is facing a skills drain due to this policy. The petition has been reviewed by the petitions committee and found to be in order. I commend this petition to the House.

The petition read as follows—

Australia is a multicultural country where many of it's citizens and permanent residents (PR) migrated from overseas. Therefore, thousands of Australian's and PR have parents living abroad. Currently parents are unable to to travel to Australia to be reunited with family because they are not classed as 'immediate family'. Parents are essential and connection with family is equally as important to migrants as it is to families living in Australia. Australians and PR have not seen their parents for a significant amount of time due to the travel ban and a strict exemption criteria which prevents people from obtaining exemptions unless they have a 'compelling reason'. Covid-19 has impacted many Australians, however, being apart from parents for an extended period of time without an indication of when they will be reunited puts unrealistic expectations on those desperate to see family. This has had a profound impact, mental health has significantly declined, children have not met grandparents, people have had to give up work due to limited support and families are having to re-evaluate their lives in Australia and have had to leave despite being here for many years. Citizens and PR have jobs and responsibilities with they cannot leave for 3 months or more.

We therefore ask the House to add parents as an exemption category. If exemptions cannot be obtained for parents coming to Australia please consider allowing exemption for people with family overseas to travel. Reunification with family should be a compelling and compassionate reason.

From 70,540 citizens (Petition No. EN2535)