• Wed. Jun 16th, 2021

A Melbourne man who lost his court challenge to the federal government’s India travel ban has likened the unfolding COVID-19 emergency


May 18, 2021

A Melbourne man who lost his court challenge to the federal government’s India travel ban has likened the unfolding COVID-19 emergency in the country to “a Mad Max comic” and says, on the current timeline, it will take nearly a year to get Australians home.

Key points:

  • Gary Newman went to India in March last year and has been unable to find a way home
  • Mr Newman lost a Federal Court challenge last week against the Australian government’s controversial travel ban
  • He says the repatriation process since the ban was lifted on Saturday has been too slow 

Gary Newman, 73, went to India to visit friends in March 2020 and has been unable to find a way home.

Mr Newman came to national attention when he launched a Federal Court challenge to the government’s ban on travel from India.

Under the ban, Australians who tried to return home from India, even via other countries, faced the threat of jail or large fines.

Last week, the court threw out the direct challenge to the legality of the government’s Biosecurity Act, under which the controversial orders had been made.

Mr Newman’s lawyers have now decided not to pursue two outstanding constitutional issues about whether a government minister had the power to prevent Australians from returning home or whether the Commonwealth could make laws preventing people from exercising their right to come home.

India was forced to undertake mass cremations as the number of people dying from COVID-19 increased.(Reuters: Samuel Rajkumar)

‘I was Johnny-on-the-spot’

Mr Newman said he tried to come home in November but hit too many roadblocks.

He said never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined what the past year would be like.

“It’s like it came up out of a Mad Max comic.”

Mr Newman said he took on the Australian government through the Federal Court because he believed Health Minister Greg Hunt was wrong to stop Australians coming home.

The federal government’s travel ban lifted on Saturday and limited repatriation flights recommenced on Saturday, but Mr Newman said the process of re-homing those stranded in India had not been fast enough.

“I believe that they have a responsibility to have the aircraft [filled] nose to tail get those 9,000 people out of here,” he said.

“If you look at what they are planning at the moment it is one plane per week. The one that came back on Saturday wasn’t even filled to its capacity.

Gary Newman says Australians in India are still living under a strict lockdown as COVID-19 continues to spread across the country.(Reuters: Danish Siddiqui)

‘I think it’s racist’

Mr Newman said he had not tried to get on the recent repatriation flights, which meant he must stay in India which is still under a strict lockdown.

“There is a window of opportunity between 6:00am and 10:00am to procure essentials like food, milk, bread, butter — that sort of thing,” he said.

“I have not been out of the house since April 21. I have no intention of venturing forth at this point in time.”

After his Federal Court loss last week, Mr Newman said he was concerned the ruling had set a dangerous precedent, where the government could now too easily make a ruling and stop people exercising their right to come home.

He also raised concerns about the context of the ban including why return travellers were not banned from other countries that suffered through a similar outbreak.

“But someone has got to ask them why they didn’t do it for the UK, US and Brazil.”

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