Wednesday, 12 May 2021
I, and also on behalf of Senator Faruqi, move:
That the Senate—
(a) condemns the Federal Government's travel ban on citizens and visa holders returning home from India as racist and punitive;
(b) recognises that people who call Australia home in India and the Indian community in Australia felt abandoned by their Government when it criminalised their return home from COVID-ravaged India;
(c) acknowledges that there are 9,500 citizens and permanent visa holders in India who would like to return home to Australia, including 950 vulnerable people and 173 unaccompanied minors;
(d) notes that the Government is not bringing people home fast enough, as planned repatriation flights are estimated to bring 1,000 people home, at most, by the end of June; and
(e) calls on the Federal Government to immediately revoke this racist travel ban, invest in additional quarantine facilities, and announce its plans to bring the 9,500 Australians home from India quickly and safely.
I think we have tried to work with the Greens to amend this motion, but unsuccessfully. For the record, if the intent of this motion by the Greens party is to express support for the Indian-Australian community, we support that intent. If the intent is to oppose the jailing of Australian citizens for returning home then we support that intent. But this motion goes further than that, and that's why Labor cannot support the motion. The motion would see the Senate override the advice of our medical experts, which is not our role. The only way we can bring home the 40,000 stranded Australians, including those citizens from India, is for Scott Morrison to finally roll out the vaccine here in Australia and accept his responsibility to safely expand Australia's quarantine capacity so that all Australians can again call Australia home.
One Nation will not be supporting this motion. I feel very offended that they used the words that this is 'a racist travel ban'. It is based on the fact that India is suffering under a pandemic, and no-one will disagree with that. The fact is, decisions have to be made as to what is in the best interests of Australia and how to bring people back into Australia based on a pandemic. Over a period of time here in Australia, we have found that the premiers of states, at the drop of a hat, for one COVID infection, close the borders, which affects businesses and people in their jobs and communities. If we allow people to come into the country from a country that does have the pandemic, we are going to have to deal with that, if we can, and we've seen what's happened in the hotel quarantine accommodation. All I want to say is that to say this is racist is belittling the people of Australia, and I think it's disgusting that you put it that way as it's not based on fact. (Time expired)