Covid-19 isn’t going away anytime soon, if ever. As such, Australia’s border controls require an urgent overhaul – with purpose-built quarantine facilities our most pressing need, writes Sunny Grace.
Imagine living in a country where its citizens can’t leave or return if they have travelled overseas. What’s that I hear you say? North Korea? Other dictatorships?
No, it’s a bit closer to home than that. ‘Home’ being the operative word. Our borders have been closed since March, 2020 – and last month, on 11 August – the federal government amended the Biosecurity Act making it harder for Australian citizens living abroad to come back to Australia and return to where they are currently living.
The government attest it is for our own good, due to the pandemic. Sounds very patronising, doesn’t it? For our own good. Like we are children who can’t make our own decisions and so our father, or our PM, must make them for us.
This is a government obsessed with border control. From stopping the boats to deporting New Zealanders under Section 501. A government that changed the Department of Immigration’s name to the Department of Home Affairs, following in the footsteps of the USA, which, until recently, was ruled by a man who wanted to build a wall to keep people in and out. And it is the Department of Home Affairs that has the power in our home, girt by sea, to decide who comes and goes. We have gone back to our white colonising roots. A colony at the end of the world whose citizens are being help captive. While the rest of the world is testing the waters and opening again.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Yes, Delta is highly contagious and dangerous, but it wouldn’t be such a big problem if we didn’t have quarantine for returning citizens located in the middle of our most populous cities. As soon as it was known how contagious Delta was, and that the contagious period was longer, all quarantine should have moved to purpose-built facilities in unpopulated areas. Why were these not built last year?
As we are discovering, Delta is not as dangerous in people who have been vaccinated. It is no secret the rollout has been too slow. The first vaccine we had – the AstraZeneca – came with confusing medical advice about blood clots. Even doctors were reportedly telling patients not to take it. Then it was reported we would donate it to other countries whilst we wait for the ‘better’ vaccines. This is itself is a problem. Poorer neighbours can have it but not Australian citizens? That is, until Delta came to town.
The government had one job, like any good parent, and that was to protect their family, their citizens. And they messed it up. How can we trust a parent in our home who doesn’t put our needs first? Who gives us mixed messaging about vaccinations and lockdowns and then won’t let us leave the house?
Australia has become an overprotective, fascist, ineffective, toxic country, divided into seven rooms, fighting over who can come and go between those rooms.
Ironically, the only ones protesting are those that are anti-lockdown. I am not anti-lockdown. I am anti-hotel quarantine. Why do they persist with it? It can’t be an economic reason – after all, we are haemorrhaging money with each lockdown. The stats tell the story. Since the limousine driver from Sydney contracted Covid from a returning international flight crew in mid-June, there has been over 20,000 locally acquired cases. These lockdowns are avoidable if we have purpose-built quarantine facilities away from the cities. This is a big country! We have the space.
I feel for my sons who want to travel. They are of the age when young people travel. Here we are stuck at the bottom of the world, cut off. We were ahead and now we are behind. It should be up to us if we want to leave or come back. We are a multicultural society in which 49 per cent of our citizens were either born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas. This is not a policy that suits our citizens.
Meanwhile, some famous and wealthy people have been able to come and go. Scott Morrison and Annastacia Palaszczuk have managed to leave for London and Tokyo, and return. Surely their meetings could have been held online? Yet ‘ordinary’ people cannot see a loved once again, or say goodbye to a dying family member.
Move hotel quarantine out of the cities, improve the vaccination roll out and have some humanity for those wanting to come home, albeit for a short time. Because this land is not ours to own. Our borders are not real. We are lucky to be blessed with a home that is girt by sea. But one thing is sure: this land is older than us and will outlive us. Covid 19 or not.