Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Matters of Urgency
My heart goes out to the people of India, who are basically experiencing immeasurable suffering at this moment. We are thinking of you. We are trying to do everything we can to support you and are pushing the Australian government to meet its moral obligations. The government's disregard for the lives and the health of people overseas has become striking over the past couple of weeks. The Morrison government's threat of jail time for stranded Australians trying to return home from India is absolutely horrific, it's discriminatory and it is racist. The move was a reminder for non-white migrants to this country that our citizenship will always be conditional. For migrants of colour, terms and conditions will always apply to our citizenship. In the fine print, you discover that, for you, being Australian means greater scrutiny, harsher policy responses and fewer protections. You find out pretty quickly that 'we are all in this together' is a false slogan. Some of us will always be excluded.
Health care is a human right. Your visa, citizenship or COVID status shouldn't change that. People whose homes and lives are here must be brought back immediately. Australia should also be flying back any sick citizens, permanent residents and partners home for treatment, and the cost of quarantine and flights should be covered by the government. Quarantine facilities should be humane, comfortable and safe. These should be places where people can stay with dignity. It is beyond unacceptable that Prime Minister Scott Morrison thinks it's the right thing to leave sick people in India, with no access to local vaccines or work rights, little access to health care and no prospect of coming home with partners or family members when they're allowed to return.
The Subcontinent diaspora that I've been speaking to are telling me that they are feeling like second-rate citizens. They are telling me again and again that their hearts are heavy thinking about loved ones suffering the consequences of the pandemic. They are telling me that they dread phone calls from India because they will inevitably bear bad news. We must do everything we can to also provide healthcare aid and resources to India and make sure that they're delivered to those in need. I urge the government to immediately return Australian citizens, permanent residents and their partners in India back home to Australia.