IThis is what it means: a government is trying to make it its home for its own citizens. Last week’s announcement of a ban on repatriation from India signaled a dramatic increase in “Fortress Australia”.
Yes, this is not the first time Australia’s borders have been closed to people from certain countries during an epidemic. There are those who consider it more dangerous. This happened with China in February 2020, for example.
But the new move goes beyond a temporary border closure. This includes fines imposed on those wishing to return from India and severe criminal penalties, including fines.
There is something seriously wrong with that. Citizenship means that they can guarantee their rights to certain rights and freedoms. Right to vote Right of expression. The right to live without interference. The right to enter one’s country.
Clearly, we cannot accept our fundamental rights and freedoms. It is no exaggeration to say that this policy undermines the status of citizenship. The principles of democratic liberalism are under attack.
However, citizenship means very little if you cannot exercise your right to return to Australia in time of need. Liberal democracy ends when your government does not protect you when you are present or in danger.
On every Australian passport, there is a page requesting other governments and people to “allow an Australian citizen, the bearer, to pass freely without hindrance and freedom and provide him with every assistance and protection.” Which he or she may be in need of. Now these words become hollow.If our government will not do the same with its citizens, how can we expect this from people abroad?
Closer to home, the move raises some doubts as to whether all citizens can assume they can enjoy equal citizenship.
It has not escaped the notice of many of us that Australian citizens and residents returning to their homeland in this epidemic have been treated differently. Last year, when Coyote was manipulated by the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe, the government took no steps to close our borders in those places, allowing criminal fines to be imposed on those who came from there.
The government says it introduced the policy on the basis of medical advice. Nevertheless, according to Paul Kelly, the Commonwealth’s chief medical health officer, “no advice was given” to impose fines or jail terms on those wishing to lift the Indian travel ban. In addition, several leading public health experts have questioned why the ban was imposed.
This will not be the first time the Australian government has used a whistleblower. As the Australian Human Rights Commission has stated, the government should “show that these measures are not discriminatory and are the only appropriate way to deal with a threat to public health”. Because right now they look discriminating. And they are far from the only way to deal with any health risk.
Here’s how we should treat things. About 35,000 Australians remain stranded abroad 9,000 In India, we and the government on our behalf are working in our name – these Australians, wherever they are, must take action to bring them home. The way to do this is obvious: charter flights to bring them back, and create dedicated serious facilities across the country to ensure it is done safely.
It is a matter of suffocation that this has not happened yet. We have been in epidemic for more than a year. There is plenty of time to think about it, plan and deliver.
Choice between two Australians
Then, you can understand why the government did not do that. We have faced this epidemic with a choice between two Australians: an open, confident, internationally friendly country and a closed, fearful, bigoted nation. Increasingly, it seems like people are choosing the latter.
There has been a strange acceptance, perhaps even enthusiasm for it, of retreating to a pointed country. Our politicians are well aware that closing and locking down borders leads to some solid electoral payoff: just ask Anastasia Plaszkok and Mark McGowan.
For many people, including those who may like to think of themselves as progressives, closing the border has become a fetish. It was so strange that the epidemic was creating competition among some other ministers to close the borders to other states. We have now reached a point where we are happy to close our national borders to our own people and fellow citizens. At least some of them, anyway.
Coyote has confirmed some timeless political truths. In the midst of danger, fear is a formidable beast. And in difficult times, minorities rarely like it. The Code has significantly increased racism against Asian racism. Consider, too, that epidemics have had an undivided effect on immigrants and international students.
But now the government is taking things to a dangerous place. Citizenship has been a central focus of Australian multiculturalism: regardless of your background, you can be assured of formal community membership. The recent move indicates that, in the eyes of the government, some of us are more Australian than others.
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