34,000 Australians locked out, Big Brother’s Caitlyn Jenner allowed in

Citizens have been made prisoners, unable to leave or return while celebrities and politicians continue to travel.

34,000 Australians locked out, Big Brother’s Caitlyn Jenner allowed in
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Caitlyn Jenner – formally Bruce Jenner – has flown into Sydney in preparation for her role in Channel 7’s Celebrity Big Brother.

With a net worth of over $100 million USD, the athlete-turned-political-hopeful is running for Governor of California in the 2021 election.

In the meantime, Jenner has signed up to Australia’s Celebrity Big Brother which will see a combination of local and international celebrities compete for half a million dollars.

While 34,000 increasingly desperate Australian citizens remain trapped abroad, unable to secure one of the highly prized seats on a commercial flight into the country, Jenner was shipped over for the essential purpose of entertainment.

Jenner is believed to be in mandatory hotel quarantine after arriving in Sydney.

The city is currently experiencing a gruelling lockdown with no end date in sight. Citizens must remain within 5km of their home unless they are shopping for food or seeking a Covid test. The CBD has been turned into a ghost town.

International stars have formed part of a steady stream of individuals granted travel exemptions by the government.

Dubbed 'Aussiewood', dozens of high profile celebrities have been sighted including Zac Efron, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Idris Elba, Chris Pratt, Natalie Portman, Ed Sheeran, Taika Waititi, Ron Howard, and Tom Hanks. Australians Nicole Kidman, Rose Byrne, Isla Fisher, and Kylie Minogue also flocked home.

High profile people continue to arrive with the government's blessing, despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison and National Cabinet unveiling their four-phase plan to ‘manage Australia’s pathway out of the pandemic’ – starting with the halving of international arrivals.

‘Vaccinate, prepare, and pilot’ – or ‘phase one’ of the four phase plan – requires a drastic cut to the number of international arrivals. The change does not appear to have affected politicians or TV stars from entering the country.

On July 14, the 6,070 per week intake was slashed to 3,035. Sydney typically takes half of these, with Melbourne’s limit set at 1,000 a week, Brisbane at 1,300, and Perth at 530.

The Delta variant threatens to tighten these restrictions further, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attempting to cut the cap by a further 50-75%.

"I would like to see a massive reduction. We need to do that now because we need to contain this Delta strain."

This request comes despite Palaszczuk lobbying for a personal exemption to travel to the Tokyo Olympic Games. The move, wildly regarded as hypocritical, forced the premier to defend herself on the ABC’s Q+A.

"The reason that I would be going to Tokyo is to a help secure the 2032 Olympics for Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. This is a very important meeting and it is expected by the International Olympic Committee that a federal representative, the Premier and the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, attend to present, in front of the International Olympic Committee. And upon return, I would do the 14-day quarantine in a hotel, not in my home, not at The Lodge," said Palaszczuk.

The premier insisted that her trip was important for the nation, with Palaszczuk claiming that the 2032 Summer Olympics would bring $8 billion in infrastructure to Queensland and create 130,000 jobs. This is provided tourists are allowed to visit.

"It's worth about $14 billion and I would hope, by 2032, we would be back to a normal society of freedom."

Queensland's 2021 Budget forecasts a debt of $130 billion by 2025.

The Tokyo Olympics have proven to be the most expensive ever held, with opposition to them widespread among the Japanese people. There is a growing sentiment that large global sporting events are 'not worth the trouble or the cost' which might explain Palaszczuk's success in campaigning with this being the first time that a bid has been made unopposed.

In order to travel, Australians have to seek travel permits to leave the country on compassionate or essential business. Over 10,000 were rejected in June 2021.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan voiced his frustration regarding Australian citizens (not celebrities or politicians) continuing to travel internationally during the pandemic.

“The best part of 100,000 people have left Australia over the course of the past 18 months for all sorts of reasons. Some reasons are legitimate, but the vast majority of people going overseas, in my view, shouldn’t have. They should stay home while there is a pandemic running wild around the world, because, inevitably, they want to come back and when they come back, some of them will be positive and then they displace others who have been waiting overseas to get back, who didn’t go overseas in the past 18 months.”

Mark McGowan later added,"There is a large group of people who have been overseas on multiple occasions and every time they go overseas, they increase the risk. It's just not right. We need to crack down on this.”

Roughly a third of all stranded Australian citizens are in India. When the halving of travel caps was announced by the prime minister, international airfares increased sharply. With the cost of flights so high, most of those waiting to come home are out-competed by wealthy foreigners. Even in February, less than half of those admitted to the country were Australian citizens.

"They send you an email, they send you a link. They put out two flights, so that's 400 seats, and everybody simultaneously … tries at once. I tried three times to get through that system and they were gone in 10 minutes," said Alyse Brown.

It is not only the cost of unpredictable airfares, many simply cannot afford the two weeks of hotel quarantine required to enter Australia. Celebrities, by comparison, are often allowed to quarantine in private homes.

More than 450,000 Australians have returned since the Federal Government issued its first travel warning at the beginning of the pandemic. Hastily put together hotel quarantine has struggled to handle the demand despite the Department of Foreign Affairs assisting in the return of 48,700 people. 21,000 arrived in Australia on government facilitated flights.

There is no plan to reopen borders until phase four of the plan for which no time estimate has been given.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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