Senate debates

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Matters of Urgency

COVID-19: Quarantine

4:59 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | Hansard source

Australia is very fortunate to share many things with our friends in India. We are both democracies. In fact India is the largest democracy in the world. We obviously share a love of cricket, we share cuisine, we share the rule of law, we share many other legal and bureaucratic systems and of course in this day and age we share with India a growing Indian-Australian population. In fact I saw some figures on the weekend which showed that the Indian-Australian community is now the fastest-growing migrant community in Australia. I think we now have over 700,000 Indian Australians living with us in this country and from whom we benefit. Indian Australians have made an enormous contribution to our country, whether that be in academic fields, in business fields, in community areas or in sport. In so many ways our own country has been enriched by the contribution of Indian Australians.

So you can well understand why Indian Australians feel so desperately abandoned by their government at this time. India, the world's largest democracy, we all know is going through an absolute crisis in terms of COVID infection rates at the moment, and it is extremely distressing that several thousand Indian-Australian citizens are stranded in India at the moment. The important point there is that no matter where these citizens may have been born—it may well have been in India—these are Australian citizens who have been let down by their government. I had the great honour of hosting a forum this weekend just passed with leaders of Brisbane and Gold Coast's Indian communities, which was joined by Senator Wong as shadow foreign minister and two of my other federal Labor colleagues, and it was entirely obvious the level of distress that people in the Indian-Australian community are experiencing right now. This government tried to make this an argument about whether Australia's borders should be closed at this moment in time, and that is not what this is about. There is no-one arguing that we should bring back all several thousand Indian-Australian citizens now, but what this government should have done is put in place quarantine facilities so that we could bring back people safely rather than leaving them stranded overseas.


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