Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Matters of Urgency
Here is my question to Labor: is it okay to shut borders to protect citizens and ensure internal health services are not overwhelmed, or is it not? It's a simple question. If you don't think it is appropriate, then why don't you ring Premier Mark McGowan, who shut his border on 5 April last year right through to December—nine months. It was a nine-month ban on travel. I had a member of staff who was born and raised in Perth. She could not go home to visit her family for nine months. You might want to call on Premier Dan Andrews, who slammed his border shut with less than four hours notice on New Year's Eve, preventing families from getting together to ring in the new year. You might want to ring Premier Palaszczuk, whose border was shut for eight months last year.
I am on the record speaking about those border closures. I am on the record speaking about the negative impact of families stuck on opposite sides of the border, supporting boarding school students and university students who couldn't get home for holidays and families who were split by a divide. I am on the record calling for common sense. But I never once questioned the right of the state premiers to listen to health advice and impose restrictions they thought necessary to protect their citizens.
Let's put it in context. Nine months in Western Australia. You, Mr Acting Deputy President Sterle, were restricted from travelling beyond your state borders other than the fact that you're an essential worker in this place. That was nine months. Our government announced this Indian travel ban on 27 April to come into effect on 3 May, so there was no four-hour notice like Premier Andrews; we gave them a week's notice. It is now being lifted on 15 May—12 days. Twelve days to buy us time to ensure that when we reopen and accept people returning to Australia from India we have the capacity to care for them.
In the middle of April, 50 per cent of all our quarantine COVID cases were returning travellers from India. Fifty per cent. At that rate, we would have been overwhelmed. Twelve days is what we asked for so that we can put in place systems to make sure we can care for our citizens. In the words of Premier McGowan, we need to do everything we can to keep this double mutant variant away, talking about the disease that has occurred in India. When we reopen our borders on 15 May, we will be focusing on prioritising the most vulnerable and getting them home, and we will have the confidence that our systems won't be overwhelmed and that we can look after them.
I agree it is heartbreaking for families and citizens who've found themselves on the wrong side of this border ban temporarily. I share their concerns, but I also stand with the premiers from around this country—from both parties; Labor and Liberal alike—who have themselves taken measures to protect their citizens. I stand with them to say we need confidence. We need to make sure that we have capacity, that our health systems are not overwhelmed and that we don't inadvertently do things that would make us vulnerable, because we don't want to be the next India. We don't want that level of COVID in this nation. We want to keep our citizens safe.