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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 13 May 2021) . . Page.. 1501 ..

MR PETTERSSON (Yerrabi) (4.34): I am sure that all of us in this chamber, as indicated in the speeches I have heard, are very saddened to see the tragic loss of life and devastating humanitarian crisis that is currently unfolding in India and across Asia. The crisis has only been made worse by a lack of oxygen supplies, hospital beds and medical care. The result of this is a wide-scale and far-reaching humanitarian catastrophe, leaving many Australian citizens stranded and in harm’s way.

Canberra has a vibrant Indian community. My electorate of Yerrabi has a vibrant Indian community. We must acknowledge that for many of our neighbours and friends this is a particularly distressing time. Seeing loved ones affected by the ongoing crisis must be deeply traumatising.

I would like to pass on my sincere condolences to Canberrans who have lost family and friends. I want to acknowledge the many members of the community who have reached out to me to try to seek assistance for their loved ones stuck overseas.

The distress that so many Canberra families have felt has only been made worse by the commonwealth government’s decision to stop Australian citizens from returning home. Not only were Australian citizens banned from returning to Australia, but they were threatened with $66,000 fines, up to five years in jail or both. The USA and UK have similarly experienced significant COVID outbreaks, with hundreds of thousands of cases and many, many deaths. For these countries, our citizens were afforded the option of returning home and quarantining for 14 days. These are Australian citizens. All they want is to return to their home and be with their family and friends.

I am deeply concerned about the insensitive way the federal government has approached this situation. Australian citizens who are trapped in India need assistance now more than ever. Our federal government, in their moment of need, has been found lacking.

I would like to see Australians easily able to return home and complete their quarantine in a federally funded quarantine facility. I was disappointed to see that in Tuesday’s budget the federal government outlined no further plans to build new purpose-built quarantine facilities. More facilities like the one in Howard Springs would allow Australians stranded overseas to come home and complete their quarantine far more easily.

That is why I find the proposed amendment by Mrs Jones so interesting. Ms Orr’s motion is asking us to write a letter. I have written many letters in my time as a politician. Writing a letter is easy. What Ms Orr wants that letter to say is very sensible and very agreeable. I find it quite strange that Mrs Jones would seek to remove all contents of that letter.

Paragraph 3(a) of Ms Orr’s motion refers to the need to expand and provide facilities like Howard Springs. I think all members in this place could agree that we should be providing more federally funded quarantine facilities. But seemingly no: the Canberra Liberals do not support that. Seemingly, going to point 3(c), the Canberra Liberals do not want to affirm the right for Australians to return home. Paragraph 3 has many

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