February 19, 1pm. Fisher Library, University of Sydney
Last week, the World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) a public health emergency. A serious public health response is certainly needed in Australia to minimise the spread of infection and properly treat anyone who is sick.
However, the decision by the Morrison government to deny all entry to Australia for people travelling from China (apart from Australian citizens and permanent residents) was directly counter to the advice of the World Health Organisation not to close down borders.
Morrison is more concerned with appearing “tough on borders” and stoking fear in the community than with a proper health response. The travel ban implies that the virus can be stopped by keeping Chinese people out of Australia; this is a racist policy for which there is no medical basis. Many Chinese people are reporting an increase in racism in daily life, and are having their lives disrupted by for example being unable to attend university.
Instead of coming out in opposition to the travel ban, USYD management are plastering the university walls with exaggerated and unnecessarily targeted posters calling travellers from China to “know the signs” and “stop the spread”. While some accommodations have been made for students to be able to follow lectures over the internet, the university has given no indication that appropriate financial and academic subsidies will be granted to those affected. The university’s response is one which perpetuates the same anti-Chinese racism as emphasised by the travel ban.
We must also challenge the government’s use of the Christmas Island detention centre to quarantine Australian citizens being evacuated from Hubei province. Evacuees should be brought to the Australian mainland where they can access appropriate medical care, not used as political tools to legitimize the historical use of Christmas Island as a centre for refugees held in offshore detention.
Abbey Shi (&MC) — USyd Students' Representative Council General Secretary
Michael Thompson — National Tertiary Education Union
Vinil Kumar — National Union of Students Ethnocultural Officer
And more to be announced
1. Lift the travel bans; healthcare not racism:
1A. Immediately boost funding and resourcing of public hospitals to ensure that adequate hospital beds, staff, medical supplies and resources are available to deal with any serious outbreaks in Australia
1B. Make screenings available for free at all health institutions, airports and maritime passenger terminals.
1C. Provide appropriate facemasks to all for free
1D. Grant paid sick leave to all workers, including those who are casual, so those who are feeling unwell, may be contagious or may require treatment, can survive financially without having to go to work and increase the risk of infection to others
2. Support International students:
2A. Extend visas at no cost and provide amnesty for those affected
2B. Ensure students are not penalised financially or academically
2C. Provide free accommodation for those isolating
2D. Provide grants to cover any costs incurred as a result of the travel ban, including accommodation extensions, visa application payments, and increased travel expenses.
2E. Providing extra counselling to students
3. Solidarity with Wuhan and the Chinese community