TUESDAY, 04 MAY 2021
SUBJECTS: India COVID-19 outbreak; Border closures; Federal quarantine failures.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, joining me live now is Labor MP, Peter Khalil. Peter, Good to see you, thanks for joining us this morning.
So we’ve heard from the Prime Minister. Well, we haven’t, but other places have, and he’s mentioned that it’s likely that repatriation flights out of India will resume on the 15th of May not before then, but what do you make of that? It seems as though that won’t be extended, despite the huge number of cases that continue to emerge out of India.
PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS: Well, good morning Pete. Look, I think the point I’ve made is that I thought that the decision by the Prime Minister was a poor decision because frankly it is either ham fisted or cynical. Well, because you could have set up federal quarantine facilities. You could use Christmas Island or Howard Springs. It should have been done a year ago and never before in our Federation has a government, a Commonwealth Government, made it illegal for Australian citizens to come home. At the height of the spikes in the US, the UK, Italy, this decision was not made to put a $66,000 fine or up to five years jail term for Australians wanting to come home. And I mean, the other thing I would raise too, is that if he had actually put in the effort and the resources into federal quarantine facilities that were safe, you could have people coming in. More Australians coming in doing their 14-day quarantines in a safe place, a facility that’s set up by the federal government. He didn’t do that. And it’s not like we’re Nostradamus here mate. Many, many people said the federal government has this responsibility and he botched it or squibbed it.
STEFANOVIC: Well, all the state leaders though decided they’d take care of quarantine back in March last year.
KHALIL: Well, that’s interesting that you say that because the State Leaders said they would do so with the assumption that the Federal Government would also come in and start to take responsibility for federal quarantine and that’s why they started all the hotel quarantine set up. Now we know that there’s been problems with hotel quarantine. My question has always been why is Scott Morrison averse to actually taking responsibility. Why is he trying to mitigate his risk in all of this? The Federal Government is responsible for quarantine.
STEFANOVIC: Wouldn’t you agree that hotel quarantine for the most part, less than 1% of cases have leaked out into the community, but for the most part, more than 99%, hasn’t it been successful?
KHALIL: They’ve done for the most part, a very, very good job, the States and Territories, absolutely! But we are also talking about numbers and logistics here. I don’t understand why Scott Morrison didn’t call out the ADF to support this effort. In fact, I remember last year, I think it might’ve been a senior ADF leader had said we could get this up and running in a couple of weeks. They’ve got the expertise, the ADF was used in Southeast Asia Pacific for humanitarian relief and disaster. They can be called out to support the civilian government in times of crisis, which this obviously is. That wasn’t done. I’ll just go back to the other point that never before has a Federation in our democracy made it illegal for Australian citizens to return home. It’s outrageous! It’s a distraction from the fact that Morrison has failed. He’s botched it. He overpromised and he undelivered. He said that he’d have all Australians home by Christmas and completely failed on that, on his own benchmark.
STEFANOVIC: But just for clarity purposes here, did you support a pause in the flights? Just the flights part of it. Did you support, do you support that?
KHALIL: Yeah well, the pause in the flights is fine. I mean, this is going to happen. If you have a serious situation and commercial airlines will make their decisions. It’s all on the government to pause repatriation flights, cause they haven’t got any. Where are those? That was another issue! Why aren’t we repatriating our people, our resident citizens like the US, the UK and many other countries have done. We didn’t even do that. I mean, there has been a complete pushing away of responsibility by the Morrison Government. Give all the risks to the States and territories. You said that they’ve done a fairly good job, good on them. But when is he going to step up? When is he going to be the Prime Minister of Australia and stop playing political games? Then he has this really clever thing where he says, “oh, well, there should be no politics in the pandemic”. He’s been playing politics from the very beginning. And that’s the disappointment I have because this is about the national interest and the precedent that is set with respect to laws against Australian citizens.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Peter Khalil, got to un, but good to chat. We’ll talk to you again soon.