Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 13 May 2021) . . Page.. 1499 ..
I never thought I would be quoting John Donne in this Assembly, but this captures my mood:
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
This community is in pain and needs our support. These people have brought so much to the ACT and greatly enriched our community, so it is only fair that the ACT government extend what help we can to assist this community at this terrible time.
This situation was compounded when Australian citizens trying to flee the danger and return home for safety had the door slammed in their face. This action is in breach of the compact between the Australian government and its citizens, breaking trust and leaving a sour taste in mouths. As the Seekers sang, “I am, you are, we are Australian.” No-one is more Australian than another; there are no levels to being Australian. These people should be afforded safe harbour in the same manner as any Australian citizen would hope and expect.
This right to return highlights the importance of an efficient and effective quarantine system to ensure that Australia remains safe from COVID. Under the Australian constitution, quarantine is the responsibility of the federal government, and I support the call on the federal government to expand and improve its quarantine system to provide safe harbor for Australians returning to their homeland. We support this motion.
DR PATERSON (Murrumbidgee) (4.29): I thank Ms Orr for bringing this motion to the Assembly. What is unfolding across India and South Asian countries is simply awful. The pandemic, now in its third wave in India, is causing hundreds of thousands of new cases every day. I read the news and I am saddened, aghast and deeply concerned. Just a few days ago the headline was bodies washing up on the banks of the Ganges River, believed to be those of families who cannot afford wood for the funeral pyres. The rate at which this pandemic is spreading is horrific. The lack of medical supplies and facilities to assist is a real concern. Exhausted health workers are being pushed to the brink of collapse.
I read these articles, and while deeply distressed by what is going on, I know that my response is nothing compared to those in our community who read these same articles and have direct connections with the people affected. From the ACT, where we have been relatively and comparatively unscathed by the pandemic, it is difficult to comprehend the devastation being caused by the pandemic overseas. Many members of our ACT community have intimate connections to India and South Asian countries, whether it be their country of origin, whether they have friends and family members living there or because they have other connections.
In the Murrumbidgee electorate, which I represent, India is the third most common place of birth for residents behind Australia and England. Our Indian and South Asian