The federal government has been accused of putting the rich and famous ahead of vulnerable families stranded overseas.
Greens senator Nick McKim said the government allowed movie stars, business people and tennis players into Australia while leaving many desperate citizens overseas during the coronavirus pandemic.
Senator McKim fired up during a heated debate in Senate estimates on Monday night.
“If you’re rich and famous or wealthy, it’s off you go, come and go as you please, or we’ll exempt you from the guidelines,” he said.
“Whereas if you’re a separated family, it’s tough luck, off you go.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has helped about 45,000 Australians return home since international borders were closed in March last year.
But there are still nearly 40,000 Australians abroad who are waiting to come back.
Given this backlog of stranded Australians, Senator McKim is concerned people are being allowed into the country with clearances known as 188 business visas.
There have been about 2500 people allowed into the country on 188 visas since September.
Senator McKim accused the coalition of putting money ahead of Australian citizens and permanent residents.
Liberal senator Amanda Stoker bristled at his claims.
“Those 188 visa holders that you pretend are fat cats, that you pretend are simply feeding off the benefits of any easier system, create 12,000 jobs upon which Australians depend,” she said.
“That’s 12,000 families that you would see not have a job in favour of a handful of people.”
An incredulous Senator McKim accused his Liberal opponent of “making stuff up”.
There have only been 1200 jobs created as a result of the business innovation and investment visas.