Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Matters of Urgency
It is the responsibility of the Australian government to assist Australians who are in difficulty overseas, not to criminalise them for coming home. I'm going to say that again: it is the responsibility of the Australian government to assist Australians who are in difficulty overseas, not to criminalise them for coming home. And, certainly, any such decision to do so should properly be the decision of the parliament, not some faceless official drafting an instrument and getting the minister to sign it into law. A single minister should never have the authority to outcast an Australian from coming home. It's improper, and it's immoral. There are powers available to the minister to deal with Australians that return home, to put them in quarantine, to make the Australian citizenry safe. The government has, of course, failed in its setup of quarantine. We know from the COVID committee that it's a capacity restriction that has caused this instrument to be brought into effect.
I'd just indicate to the Senate, noting this on the Notice Paper now, I will be introducing a bill tomorrow in the Senate, a 'Biosecurity Amendment (No Crime to Return Home) Bill', which will seek to firstly remove or repeal the instrument but also to make sure that doesn't happen again. It will certainly allow the continuation of powers for a minister to deal with people who are here, but never should we criminalise an Australian for wanting to return home.