The Morrison Government is at war with its own people.
When the Federal Government, brandishing its latest dog whistle, announced on Friday (30 April) that any Australian citizens attempting to flee India’s raging pandemic outbreak would face $66,000 fines and five-year gaol terms, both Australians and the international community reacted with disbelief.
While it was the current dog whistle monitor, Greg Hunt, who announced it, chief bouncer, Peter Dutton, who confirmed it and head bean counter, Josh Frydenberg, who defended it, the travel ban move had Scott Morrison’s stamp all over it.
As even a cursory glance at this Prime Minister’s record on human rights will reveal, this announcement – devoid though it is of any concern for the people caught up in this human catastrophe – is just the next logical step in a long list of human rights violations perpetrated by Morrison and his Government.
THE COMPASSION OF SCOTT MORRISON
Unsurprisingly, it was not for his humanitarian efforts that Morrison first came to prominence.
A few years ago, when daggy dad/religious zealot Morrison was Immigration Minister, he came up with a series of advertisements, paraded on the international stage, detailing Australia's abject lack of compassion towards asylum seekers. The gist of these deplorable announcements was "Don't bother seeking asylum because we will never help you".
Morrison then followed up with a "message to asylum seekers", most notable for its visible vitriol, for people already on Manus and Nauru for the "crime" of seeking asylum at all. He called the people he imprisoned on Manus and Nauru "illegal", and stressed that they would likely be tortured indefinitely unless they went back to the worn-torn places from which they had fled.
Among other heartless statements, Morrison said:
"You have been brought here [Manus and Nauru] ... because you have sought to illegally enter Australia by boat. I urge you to think carefully about your next decision ... and to not remain here, and take the option to go back to the country from which you have originally come."
If you have the stomach to watch the whole video announcement, it is a pretty chilling indictment of the measure of this man — our current Prime Minister.
Over subsequent years, Morrison and this Coalition Government proceeded to make good on their torture threats to these vulnerable people and then to cover up their human rights violations with a level of commitment only describable as obscene.
It is also telling that – if not on most of his declarations – on the topic of having no compassion for asylum seekers this man has lived up to his warning. And persecuting refugees is an “achievement” about which Morrison is so proud, adorning his prime ministerial office is a boat-shaped trophy claiming he “stopped these”.
Is it at all surprising, then, that this Coalition Government, led by Morrison, can stand callous and proud and tell Australian citizens stranded overseas during a global pandemic that, not only does it have no intention of assisting them, but should they attempt to return home, they will be criminalised, fined and/or gaoled?
COALITION WASHES ITS HANDS IN AUSTRALIANS' BLOOD
When this Government washed its hands off expatriate Australians, announcing a "temporary pause" under the Biosecurity Act designed to criminalise citizens just for trying to come home, it effectively announced to the world that Australian citizenship isn't worth the paper needed to print out a passport.
Since these Australians have no option but to remain in India – where the pandemic is out of control and where there are not sufficient medical supplies to treat infections – it is likely this Government will also have blood on its well-sanitised hands.
And while we’re on the subject of Australians being abandoned to fend for themselves during a global pandemic, it may be time to discuss Morrison’s position on COVID before last Friday.
In fact, prior to the latest "travel ban" announcement, Scott Morrison has been summarily unconcerned with the coronavirus or its immediate threat to Australians everywhere.
First, there’s the issue of why it is that around 9,000 Aussies are currently stranded in India and a further 30,000 still remain overseas. These Australian citizens were not (at least originally) seeking asylum or citizenship elsewhere. They are not fugitives. And it is unlikely they are foreign spies. Why, then, are they not permitted to return home?
Does anyone remember when Morrison claimed he would be bringing ex-pats home by Christmas last year?
As Dr Norman Swan suggested, Australia "...could be shipping vaccines to overseas consulates and immunising Australians who want to come back”. Other countries, such as China, Spain and Thailand, have taken these steps to allow their citizens to return home.
What about the Ruby Princess epic disaster, where the whole thing began for Australia and where, once again, the Government took absolutely no responsibility for allowing an infected cruise ship to unload COVID-carrying passengers?
Morrison's initial response to the coronavirus was, "Let’s all go to the footy". He then capitulated to the states and agreed on lockdown measures, but only after people from all over the world attended a Hillsong mega-church assembly. He also ridiculed the preventative measures of (Labor) states.
Although quarantine is a Federal Government responsibility, the Morrison Government has failed to ensure effective quarantine measures in the initial stages of the pandemic and continues to fail to plan for future outbreaks.
Finally, there is the disastrous vaccination program, which does not appear to be improving any time soon.
GAOLING AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS FOR RETURNING HOME
Morrison and others, including Deputy PM Michael McCormack, have tried to soften the initial blow of the India travel ban, claiming "nobody's going to be gaoled". But this does not alter the fact that this Government threatened and may still go ahead with such measures.
Michael Rowland asked McCormack this morning on ABC News Breakfast:
"If you’re not going to gaol people, why announce it? Why threaten it in the first place?"
"Because," replied McCormack, "We don’t want people to board planes, we want them to do the right thing."
"We have obligations to Australian citizens. We should be ensuring that the Australian passport means something."
There are so many things this Government could have done to avoid this very situation and future disasters that may ensue. Instead, the only thing it can come up with is to leave thousands of its own citizens stranded overseas, to be a burden on the health systems of foreign nations, to fall ill and possibly to die.
The Morrison Government is at war with the Australian people.
This is an abridged version of an editorial originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter. You may read the full version of this article online in the IA members-only area.
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