Supporting the COVID Crisis in India and Nepal

House of Representatives 24/05/2021

Mr KHALIL (Wills) (13:33): Never before in our Federation has it been illegal for Australians to come home, but a few weeks ago this government made it so for Australians stuck in India. It wasn’t just wrong; it was outrageous and unprecedented. The fact is that the Prime Minister has failed on his own promise to have all Australians home by Christmas. He overpromised and underdelivered. It was a cynical distraction from the fact that he had over a year to deliver a federal quarantine system fit for purpose and he botched it. Instead, he cruelly abandoned thousands of Australians going through the most difficult time of their lives.

I welcome, of course, the decision to restart repatriation flights from India. But while attention has been focused on the situation in India, next door Nepal has also experienced a huge surge in cases. The latest figures, released just yesterday, show 8,591 daily cases. Hospitals are overflowing. Beds and drugs are in short supply. There’s not enough oxygen. We need to be doing more than just getting our citizens home. As a middle power with responsibility to lead in our region, our nation needs to support, step up and help our Indo-Pacific neighbours. So I welcome the government’s support for PPE and testing kits for Nepal. But if they hadn’t cut the foreign aid budget, maybe during a time of global crisis they’d actually be able to give more, support more and provide more leadership in the region.