The government’s travel-ban dance is a waste of precious time
Where has the government’s walk-back of its confounding travel ban got to? Here is what we know, following today’s collection of contradictory, blame-shifting statements. Repatriation flights won’t resume before May 15, but the chances of them returning after that date are “looking good”, and in the meantime there is capacity for medevacs, in the case of emergencies. The chance of the full sanctions being used remains “highly, highly remote” and, actually, it’s the media’s fault that the punishments have been so widely publicised, not the government’s for mentioning them in its late-night emergency declaration. Hotel quarantine is totally safe and effective, and “fit for positive Indian returnees”, but we still have to wait, and when we do reinstate flights, the Howard Springs facility may be used exclusively for those returning from India, with two repatriation flights per week expected in what will be a massive logistical undertaking. But if we all agree that no one should be punished for coming home, and that the correct course of action is to urgently and safely repatriate those in need, why are we waiting?
Nothing quite adds up in the government’s latest attempts to undo the damage caused by its controversial travel ban. If there is capacity for medevacs in the case of emergencies, why are we waiting until people are definitely sick with the virus before bringing them home? If we had to ban people entering the country from India so that we could bring the cases in Howard Springs below the sacred “two per cent threshold”, how will we keep it there when we are filling it solely with people from the “hotspot” where we’ve trapped them, with surely more people infected by the end of the ban than when it started? And if there are 9000 people to repatriate, why delay by another nine days?
The chief justice of the Federal Court has suggested that the legal challenge, which is set to be heard on Monday, might be “moot” by next week, with the ban set to self-repeal the following Saturday, but legal experts say its worth pushing ahead with the challenge to make sure the ban isn’t renewed. It now seems unlikely that the government will renew it, but sources tell the Nine newspapers it is also unlikely that today’s National Security Committee meeting will make a decision to end it ahead of schedule. Despite four days of backpedalling, despite a contentious court battle, despite the government now talking up its repatriation plans and insisting that the “pause” has worked (so well, in fact, that we’re now down to 0.3 per cent quarantine positivity rate across the board), the government still refuses to admit that it might have gone too hard – and that it might be possible to back down early.
As with many of its mistakes during the pandemic, from the vaccine rollout to the need for more federal quarantine facilities, the Morrison government has dug its heels in, instead of simply acknowledging its error and getting on with fixing it. It prefers to slowly ease its way out of a position without ever admitting it was wrong. The government has continually told us to be patient, that things are “not a race”, but for those who are especially vulnerable to the virus, or separated from loved ones overseas, or stuck in a COVID-ravaged country where they are unlikely to be able to access treatment, time is of the essence. The government’s pride insists we wait until May 15 before we even start addressing this one.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian offers up the fact that NSW is not going hard on lockdown restrictions as justification for why other states should not shut their borders. The state remains on high alert after a Sydney couple in their fifties tested positive to COVID-19.
Australia abandons its own
Right now, thousands of Australian citizens are trapped in India
unable to get home because of an unprecedented ban on travel announced by the Australian government. Today, Gabriela D’Souza on the situation in India, and what the federal government’s new travel ban says about how we treat our own.
The amount of funding diverted to projects not recommended by the Home Affairs department in the latest round of the Safer Communities Program, in yet another example of inappropriate ministerial intervention.
The government has announced a $1.2 billion expansion of its digital economy strategy, with other initiatives focusing on building Australia’s capability in AI technologies, boosting digital skills and incentivising video game development.
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Where has the government’s walk-back of its confounding travel ban got to? Here is what we know, following today’s collection of contradictory, blame-shifting statements. Repatriation flights won’t resume before May 15, but the chances of them returning after that date are “looking good”, and in the meantime there is capacity for medevacs, in the case of emergencies. The chance of the full sanctions being used remains “highly, highly remote” and, actually, it’s the media...
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