Senate debates

Thursday, 13 May 2021


Consideration of Legislation

9:49 am

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I want to reiterate the Greens' support for this suspension of standing orders, because this issue is urgent. Although the current measures are due to expire on 15 May, it is quite possible for the minister to roll them over and to continue to attack the rights of Australians to come home. Citizens of Australia being able to return to their home country is a fundamental right. That is what is at stake, and that's what there has been ministerial override of.

Whether this is an appropriate action for this government to be taking is an issue that this parliament—and, in particular, this Senate—needs to decide on. We feel very strongly that it is not. The minister has acted in a way to disallow people coming home, to block the borders and to keep Australians in India, where they are becoming sick and dying from COVID. Australian citizens are dying because they are not being allowed to return home to Australia. This is absolutely an urgent issue that we must address, because there are Australians who are dying in India because of the actions and failures of this government.

We know that Australians would be able to return home if we had put the appropriate quarantine facilities in place. It just beggars belief. I do not understand why the federal government has not accepted its constitutional responsibility to deal with quarantine. All this government needed to do was to actually act as a federal government to put appropriate quarantine facilities in place so that Australians would be able to return home, but it has refused to do that. It seems that it's refused to do that because it's left it up to the states so that, if things go wrong, it can blame the states.

You, the Morrison government, have abrogated your responsibility to keep Australians safe by not investing in quarantine facilities. We could have quarantine facilities like Howard Springs. I have not heard a bad word about the experience of people who have been through the Howard Springs quarantine facility. We should and we could have facilities like that right around the country, but this government has just said no. It is not putting the investment in and it is not taking responsibility for that.


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