Influential conservative commentator Andrew Bolt has slammed Australia’s ‘racist’ government for banning flights from India – calling it a ‘shameful’ and ‘cruel’ to leave thousands of Australians stranded during the nation’s health crisis.
Australia has made it illegal for citizens to fly home from the Covid-ravaged South Asian nation under an emergency law which came into effect from 12:01am on Monday.
Citizens who arrive in Australia having been in India in the past 14 days could be charged and face five years in prison and a $66,600 fine – the first time Aussies have been stopped from returning home under the threat of jail time.
Speaking on Sky News on Monday, Bolt slammed health minister Greg Hunt who said the government had a sacred duty to protect Australia while trying to justify the unprecedented travel ban that impacts about 9,000 citizens stuck in India.
‘Not quite. We have a sacred duty to protect Australians, the people of Australia. And for the Indian-Australians stuck in India unable to escape, unable to come home to a decent healthcare system here if they’re ill, I think is a shame on this country,’ he said.
Australia has made illegal for anyone who has been in India in the last 14 days to return. Pictured, returning travellers arriving at Sydney Airport on Monday
‘What we are now saying with this ban is, if you happen to get sick in India, an Australian citizen, take your chances with their hospitals, which we have seen are running out of things like oxygen, let alone medicines.
‘I just think this is a terrible stain that betrays how panicked we are with fear. I’m not saying bring them and let them loose in the streets.’
He said while he was ‘really critical of in the past of people playing the race card’ he had heard from Indian-Australians who were demanding to know ‘why us. why is this happening?’.
‘I do think the politicians may not be doing this for racist motives but they’re allowed to get away with it because, I think, in part, racism, fear and ignorance,’ Bolt said.
‘I cannot help but think the fact that they’re Indian-born is a factor in this, and shame on us.
‘We’re now implying, that somehow they still don’t belong, That if they’re in trouble overseas, if they’re in trouble in India, we will not rescue them, it’s every man for himself then.’
Conservative commentator Andrew Bolt (pictured) said the decision to ban citizens from returning from India was ‘cruel’
Bolt said Aussie citizens could be treated ‘more capably’ in Australia and there was more of a chance of saving lives compared to in India, which is in the midst of a catastrophic healthcare crisis.
‘We have medical facilities that should be able to cope with it and I think we are just leaving people in the lurch,’ he said.
‘I Just think it’s so shameful. It would’ve been so inspiring for us to do an airlift of Australian citizens stuck in India, brought to Christmas Island, or maybe even a tent camp out in the Northern Territory, for quarantining, just to rescue everyone.’
In an opinion piece for the Herald Sun, Bolt said he did not believe the government ‘would impose such a travel ban on white Australians fleeing from, say, England’.
‘To me, it stinks of racism to tell the 8000 Indian Australians trying to come home that they must stay in India, in what Western Australia’s Premier admitted was the “epicentre of death and destruction”,’ Bolt wrote.
Mr Bolt said it was better for Australia to bring citizens back and treat them on home soil rather them having to face medical treatment in India which is in the midst of a healthcare crisis. Pictured, patients diagnosed with Covid-19 in New Delhi, India
‘How cruel we are to enforce this virus travel when the risk of these Australians dying of the coronavirus is much higher in India, where hospitals are running out of supplies, than they’d be here, where their treatment would be guaranteed.’
‘The death of any Australian in India because of this ban will shame the Prime Minister and everyone cheering this despicable and irrational policy. Any death will be because we turned our back on our own.’
Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan said his own government should look at fixing the hotel quarantine system rather than imposing travel bans.
‘We should be helping Aussies in India return not jailing them. Let’s fix our quarantine system rather than leave our fellow Australians stranded,’ he said.