Threat to jail Australians returning from Covid-ravaged India for five years is NOT racist, Scott Morrison insists
- India is suffering horrific wave of coronavirus with 401,993 daily cases recorded
- Australia has stopped flights and threatened jail time and fines for any breaches
- PM Scott Morrison has insisted the move is not racist but medically necessary
Scott Morrison has insisted his threat to jail Australians arriving from Covid-ravaged India is not racist but based on medical necessity.
Australia last week banned direct commercial flights from India as the nation of 1.4billion battles a surge in illness and death with 401,993 coronavirus cases recorded on Sunday.
From Monday any Australian who enters via a third country having been in India in the past 14 days faces a fine of up to $66,000 and five years in jail under the Biosecurity Act.
A crematorium for mass cremation in New Delhi, India on Saturday as the virus ravages the nation
The Greens have called the measure ‘horrific and racist’ and Labor has called it ‘extraordinary’ and accused the government of abandoning 10,000 Australian citizens and residents who are stranded at least until chartered repatriation flights resume on May 15.
Critics pointed out that the government did not threaten to jail or fine people returning from the US or Europe when those countries were suffering from the disease over winter.
But Mr Morrison said the measure was simply to protect Australians’ health and dismissed accusations of racism.
‘The same accusations were made against the government over a year ago when we closed the borders to mainland China,’ he told Sydney radio station 2GB.
‘There’s no politics or ideology in a pandemic… It’s got nothing to do with politics, this is a virus.’
Australia last week banned direct commercial flights from India as the nation of 1.4billion battles a surge in illness and death with 401,993 coronavirus cases recorded on Sunday
Mr Morrison said the Biosecurity Act powers would be used sensibly and added: ‘We’ve done all the right things to keep Australia safe during this pandemic. This is another very difficult decision. I feel terribly for the Indian community.’
Independent MP Zali Steggall said the jail threat was ‘the first step to a totalitarian state’ and Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi said the measures were ‘absolutely horrific and racist’.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese called the decision ‘extraordinary’, adding: ‘The government’s got to justify how it is that the figures from India are similar to what they’ve been in the past from the UK and the US, but we haven’t seen these sort of measures.
‘Australia has obligations to our citizens, to people who are Australians, not just to abandon them overseas.’
The Australian Human Rights Commission said in a statement: ‘The Government must show that these measures are not discriminatory and are the only suitable way of dealing with the threat to public health.’
About 600,000 Australians have Indian ancestry, according to the 2016 census.
The Greens have called the measure ‘horrific and racist’ and Labor has called it ‘extraordinary’