The Morrison Government is gambling with public health as the China travel ban is partially lifted, writes Tarric Brooker.
FOR OVER two decades, the Coalition has run with a narrative that it is the only trusted option to ensure the security of Australia’s borders and “stop the boats”.
Yet when confronted with the challenge of the coronavirus outbreak and the enormous threat it poses to the health and safety of the Australian public, the Morrison Government has already decided to partially override its own China travel ban in order to begin to resume normal trade with China.
The first cracks in the Morrison Government’s resolve appeared last week, as multiple cargo ships were allowed to dock in Australian ports despite failing to observe the compulsory 14-day exclusion period.
Under the Government’s watch, one of these ships was allowed to dock even after some members of their crew lied to maritime officials about having been in mainland China recently. Multiple dock and maritime workers were exposed to the ship’s crew without any protection or warning they could potentially be exposed to coronavirus.
Despite consistently ramming home a narrative that the Coalition is tough on border security and focused on keeping the public safe, when the health of the Australian public was potentially at stake, the Morrison Government ultimately failed to “stop the boats”.
Recently, the number of new coronavirus cases per day in China reported by the Chinese Government has reduced substantially, leading some Australian health officials to conclude that the Chinese Communist Party’s quarantine measures may have been effective in containing the virus.
There has been increasing concern, however, about China's lack of transparency on the disease.
Based on these arguably questionable Chinese Government statistics, the Morrison Government is planning on allowing Chinese high school students, entry into Australia to study at our secondary schools without first observing the current, mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Under the Morrison Government’s plans, Year 11 and 12 students flying in from China (excluding those from Hubei Province) will be allowed entry into Australia after testing negative for the virus and agreeing to a 14-day self-isolation period. However, the Morrison Government’s plan to partially lift the China travel ban ultimately rests in the hands of state and territory governments who must first approve the policy.
It’s no secret that Australia is largely economically reliant on China, with the nation consuming more than 38 per cent of our total exports. But polling indicates voters believe Australia is over-reliant on China economically. Voters are also concerned about the threat of coronavirus.
Dr Zhong Nanshan – who discovered the SARS virus and managed the outbreak in China – is now suggesting that the incubation period for coronavirus could be as long as 24 days and tests around the world routinely rendering false negatives. It’s hard to see the Morrison Government’s move to relax the China travel ban as anything other than an unnecessary risk to the health of the Australian public.
By choosing to partially lift the China travel ban, the Morrison Government has chosen to bet the wellbeing of the Australian public on coronavirus statistics coming from the Chinese Government. The same government that lied about the impact of SARS and, even as late as January, was persecuting whistleblowers who were trying to warn the world about coronavirus.
The Australian Government should be choosing to remain cautious, given the potentially terrible impact a widespread coronavirus outbreak could have here.
As the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to warn about the growing possibility of coronavirus evolving into a global pandemic, one can only hope that the Morrison Government’s gamble with the health and wellbeing of the Australian public doesn’t end in disaster.
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