The NSW government’s decision to make Aussies returning from overseas foot their own quarantine bill has caught many off-guard. Now, those who thought it would be smarter to wait out the pandemic abroad say they can’t afford to come back.
The $3,000 quarantine fee was designed to force travellers to come home. Problem is, many Aussies overseas aren’t travellers, but people with roots and responsibilities.
For 27-year-old Ellen Pines, the new rules have made coming back from Canada out of the question.
“I thought I was doing the right thing by saving the [NSW] government five months of Centrelink payments, and they repay me with a $3,000 bill as a citizen for food I won’t eat and a hotel I am going to be stressed out of my mind in,” she told PEDESTRIAN.TV.
Pines moved to Vancouver in 2018 and worked at a recruitment company. She said because she has a house, a job and a car in Canada – in other words, a life – packing up and bailing isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds.
If she decided to come back to NSW, Pines would cop a $3,000 hotel bill, which is something she says she simply can’t afford.
Like other bills (and fines), there are payment plans for people who can’t afford it. However these are rare, determined on a case-by-case basis, and ignore the fact most returning Aussies won’t be able to get a job anyway.
Queensland has a similar arrangement for $2,800, while other states are expected to follow suit pretty soon.
“I weighed up my options, read government advice, stayed informed, went back and forth between the decision to stay and the decision to go,” Pines told P.TV.
“Ultimately, I decided if I stayed in Canada I had a job, a house, healthcare, my usual income and a safe place to shelter.
“If I returned to Australia, I would have no opportunity to secure a job and would need to live with my parents. I would have needed to receive Centrelink support immediately.”
Nobody could have predicted how long the pandemic has lasted, and that’s still the case looking into the future. Writing off Aussies living abroad as selfish or careless completely is a total misrepresentation of the actual situation, according to Pines.
“I feel abandoned and feel that we do not have a government who is working for the people as they are so out of touch with the reality of the citizens of their own country,” she added.
“I read the newspapers and see that Australian’s currently overseas are painted as ‘travellers who have already been told to come home’.
She’s written to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian but is still waiting on a response. Aside from that, Pines said she hasn’t heard anything remotely useful from the state government.
“Any communication from the government has misrepresented the situation of expats to sell the narrative to the Australian public that we have done the wrong thing by not coming home in March,” she said.