The deputy prime minister has defended the Federal Government’s threats of criminal sanctions for anyone who tries to enter Australia from India during the travel ban, claiming they were made to “send a message”.
The government’s controversial ban has triggered fiery backlash around the globe, which intensified following threats of five years’ jail time and fines of up to $66,000 for anyone who tried to breach the travel restrictions.
Speaking to Today, Michael McCormack said the criminal sanctions were used to warn people considering breaching the travel ban that there could be consequences for their actions.
“That’s actually in the Act, the Biosecurity Act,” he said.
“But appreciate that we also needed to send a message.”
The deputy prime minister said some travellers had been suggesting they would arrive “via a different route” to bypass the ban.
“That was seen, largely by many, as unfair, as potentially breaching the faith and breaching what we put into place and so we needed to be very strong on this,” he said.
Australian cricket great Michael Slater accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison him of having “blood” on his hands for abandoning thousands of Australians stuck in the coronavirus-plagued country.
Mr Slater launched a scathing attack on the government and their decision to ban all flights from India until May 15 on Twitter. “Blood on your hands PM,” he wrote.
“How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out quarantine system.”
Mr McCormack stood by the government’s decision, telling Today they would be “constantly reviewing the pause”.
“To keep Australia as COVID-Safe and as COVID-free as we need it to be, this has been a difficult decision to make but a necessary one,” he said today.
The UN Human Rights Committee and leading doctors from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) are among those who have raised ‘serious concerns’ about the travel ban.
Fear, not science, was driving the country’s ban on flights, infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon claimed.
He told Today he could not understand why Australian quarantine facilities could not cope with flights from India.
“We shouldn’t stop citizens and residents coming back to Australia,” Professor Collignon said today.
“Despite the flaws in the quarantine system, it has worked well.”
He said the system had coped with flights from the UK, when it was earlier struggling with a second wave of a new variant.
“Why don’t we believe it would be just as effective now?”