Scott Morrison has revealed his government’s controversial India travel ban is under review after being blasted as “incredibly heartless”.
The Prime Minister on Tuesday defended the tough restrictions but said the threat of jail or fines for returning Aussies returning from India was “highly unlikely”.
In a combative interview, Mr Morrison told Today the tough restrictions on India were made to ensure more citizens stranded across the globe could continue to get home via Dubai and Doha.
“We are reviewing it regularly,” Mr Morrison said.
“It’s important we don’t see people coming back to Australia until 15 May from third countries.
“I’m not going to fail Australia. I’m going to protect our borders at this time.”
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From Monday, people who have been in India within the previous fortnight before their intended arrival in Australia will face a $66,600 fine as well as five years imprisonment for entering the country under emergency powers in the Biosecurity Act.
“Jailing and fining returning Aussies, I mean, as a sitting prime minister, it is incredibly heartless,” host Karl Stefanovic said.
But Mr Morrison responded, saying the likelihood of those penalties occurring was “pretty much zero”.
“So you’re saying no one will go to jail or be fined, is that right?” Stefanovic clarified.
“I think it’s highly unlikely,” Mr Morrison said.
“These powers at their most extreme end have not been used for those sorts of sanctions in the entire time we’ve had these biosecurity regulations in place.
“We will be administering it, in perspective, and that’s certainly the understanding the border force and other enforcement agencies have.”
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Mr Morrison, who was in Rockhampton for Beef Week, defended his government’s rhetoric on the ban and rejected the assertion there had been a shift in language.
“As we can hear you this morning there’s an awful lot of bull,” Stefanovic retorted.
Mr Morrison said many people had criticised him over “a lot of difficult decisions” made during the pandemic, but Australia was in an “enviable position”.
“Australians are living in a way like very few in the world today, and there‘s a reason for that,” he said.
“It’s because the government has shown the resilience, and has shown the foresightedness, to take decisions.
“When we shut the borders to China people criticise me for that too.”
Former Australian cricketer Michael Slater took to Twitter to join the condemnation of the India travel ban.
“Blood on your hands PM,” Mr Slater wrote.
“If our government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It is a disgrace!”
Mr Morrison said he was confident repatriation flights scheduled for India this month would resume by May 15 – when the ban is pencilled to end – to get Australians home safely.
Originally published as ‘Heartless’: Karl rips into PM