The Politics    Wednesday, May 5, 2021

‘Nobody’s going to be jailed’

By Rachel Withers

Image of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack speaking on ABC News Breakfast this morning. Image via ABC

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack speaking on ABC News Breakfast this morning. Image via ABC

So long as they don’t come home, that is

A legal challenge to the federal government’s India travel ban has been filed in the Federal Court by Marque Lawyers, with an urgent application quickly heard and expedited this afternoon. According to reports, the case – Gary Newman v. Minister for Health and Aged Care – relates to a 73-year-old applicant who has been stuck in India since March 2020, and will seek to argue that the travel ban breaches both the Constitution and the requirements of the Biosecurity Act, which says that determinations must be effective, appropriate and no more restrictive than necessary. The government has today continued to walk back the threat of sanctions, while standing by them just enough to ensure that no one tries to come home. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack appeared on News Breakfast, promising that “nobody’s going to be jailed” under the sanctions, because the PM said so – prompting questions regarding the separation of powers. Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews complicated that promise slightly in her morning interviews, noting that “the best way to avoid the prospect of any fines, any sanctions, is to not get on a plane and come here”. In other words: Nobody is going to be jailed for exercising their right to come home… so long as they don’t try to exercise their right to come home. Perhaps the minister for health and aged care could tell that to the Federal Court.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison continued to downplay the backlash today, insisting that the ban – which has been widely opposed by the Indian-Australian community, and now by the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights – will not damage the relationship with our neighbour. Someone tell that to India’s opposition, which has slammed Australia’s decision as “against humanity and ethical conduct among sovereign nations who are supposed to be Quad allies”. The PM claimed that the pause “is already working” in bringing down the number of cases in quarantine at Howard Springs. Reports that the facility is now at just one third of its capacity might have something to do with that. It’s not just quarantine facilities that are rather unoccupied: as Labor Leader Anthony Albanese tweeted in response to Morrison’s announcement that the first flight carrying donated medical supplies left for India this morning, the plane will be coming back empty.

In unfortunate timing for both the federal government (with its insistence that hotel quarantine is working just fine) and The Australian (with its all-out front-page assault on Victoria’s system), New South Wales has recorded one locally acquired case of COVID-19: a Sydney man in his fifties, who has not travelled overseas in recent times and does not work in hotel quarantine, or in a border or health role. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who is very unlikely to announce any kind of lockdown at this stage, told a press conference that it’s unclear how the man contracted the virus, but that genomic sequencing is under way. Berejiklian has issued a pre-emptive warning to any governments considering shutting their borders to NSW, noting that she wouldn’t expect there to be implications, considering New Zealand recently “had more cases and we didn’t even flinch”. 

The wary Western Australian government, having recently grappled with two mini-outbreaks and one lockdown of its own, is of course already seeking advice from its chief health officer on whether to seal its border. With NSW unlikely to lock down over the mystery case, and the man having been rather active in the community in recent days, WA is probably not the only state government considering it. Though surely – surely – there won’t be any complaints from the federal government about drastic border closures this time.

“Why would anyone believe today’s Budget drop about a new disaster reliance fund, when Scott Morrison still hasn’t spent a cent from the $4B disaster fund he announced in the Budget TWO YEARS AGO???”

Labor senator Murray Watt is understandably sceptical of the government’s latest pre-budget announcement: $600 million for a natural disaster “resilience” agency.

“Compassion takes many different forms.”

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews – a self-described “very compassionate person” – refuses to say if she has compassion for the Tamil family detained on Christmas Island, or whether she will use her powers to help them.

When Hollywood came to town
From Crocodile Dundee to Marvel blockbusters, Australia’s film industry is being rejuvenated by an influx of international productions as the pandemic forced major film and TV productions to relocate to Australia. Today, Rick Morton on who really benefits from the current film and TV gold rush.


The number of years before Australia reaches net-zero emissions at the current rate of reduction.

“NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance has proposed subsidising car parks, waiving stamp duty and giving access to transit lanes for drivers of electric cars before the government imposes any distance-based tax on the vehicles.”

The NSW minister says Australia risks becoming the “laughing stock of the world” if state governments impose electric vehicle taxes too early.

The list

“The ‘problem’, as it is known, didn’t begin in 2011. But that was the year – the first 12 months with a woman in The Lodge – that brought us the image that best sums it up. It was the moment, Julia Gillard later said, that should have ended Tony Abbott’s career: the then opposition leader, along with a bevy of senior Liberals, standing before an angry mob, framed by sexist placards reading ‘Ditch the witch’ and ‘JuLIAR… Bob Browns Bitch’ … For as long as it’s been in power, the Abbott–Turnbull–Morrison government has barely gone a month without reminding the nation of its women problem, whether through policy or politics, culture or commentary. It’s hard to say if it’s now reached its nadir, but it’s been a long downhill journey.”

“Most families tell myths about themselves, but for Kneen the sense of the fabular in her ancestry is particularly acute. To her child’s eye, her family home resembled Baba Yaga’s house: ‘[a] house with chicken’s feet surrounded by impenetrable woods’. Thanks to her grandmother, her imagination is populated by figures from Central European folklore, including the Krivopete, with their backward-facing feet and their habit of telling secrets minus the crucial facts. Kneen weaves these elemental creatures into her narrative, and this touch of magic renders her own journey as a kind of fable.”

“Inspired by the bird of prey, Morrison found strength in biblical verse. ‘Scott, you’ve got to run to not grow weary, you’ve got to walk to not grow faint, you’ve got to spread your wings like an eagle to soar like an eagle.’ It’s a reference to Isaiah 40:31, which is about accepting one’s limits and asking the Christian God for help in renewing one’s strength. In retrospect, this is probably what the prime minister was doing in Hawaii that time when the country was on fire. Or what he’s been doing during the entire vaccine rollout. He’s accepted his limitations, and he’s now hoping God will sort it out.”

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Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.


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