Thursday, 13 May 2021
Consideration of Legislation
I seek leave to move a motion to provide for the consideration of the Biosecurity Amendment (No Crime to Return Home) Bill 2021. The motion has been circulated in the chamber.
Leave not granted.
Pursuant to contingent notice of motion, I move:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent as would prevent Senator Patrick moving a motion relating to the conduct of business, namely a motion to give precedence to the consideration of the Biosecurity Amendment (No Crime to Return Home) Bill 2021.
I've not sought the grace of the Senate to immediately consider a bill before, and I would not do so except in exceptional circumstances. The exceptional circumstance and the reason why we should be dealing with the bill this morning is that on 1 May the Minister for Health and Aged Care made a high-risk country travel pause determination under the Biosecurity Act, making it a criminal offence for distressed Australian citizens to return home from India.
I don't say we should open our doors and just let everyone come back in without any sort of quarantine or any measures put in place. My bill does not seek to prevent the exercise of other existing powers under the Biosecurity Act to require persons, for example, to quarantine on arrival or to go to a particular destination. It doesn't stop any of that from occurring.
I know there are a bunch of Australians out there who would say: 'Tough luck. You left the country. You shouldn't be able to compromise our health.' I know that that sort of sentiment is driven by uncertainty and fear. I understand that. But we shouldn't be losing our compassion and our humanity in relation to our Australian friends and neighbours.