BRISBANE - During the first quarter of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic reached Australian shores and its devastating consequences spread across the continent like a catastrophic bushfire.
After many decades of rampant unfettered free market fundamentalism, it soon became evident that preventive legislation, superficial social protection mechanisms and deteriorating public health and privatised aged care facilities were disproportionately inadequate and often ineffective.
Indeed, the entire structure resembled a house of cards built on estuarine mudflats and the emaciated architecture underpinned by adversarial legislation merely protected the state and secured the interests of the powerful over the powerless.
This inequitable and asymmetrical framework provided socialism for the influential and prosperous and austerity for the doomed and deprived, which included many vulnerable migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced itinerants.
Federal and state governments across Australia with assistance from the National Covid-1984 Commission Advisory Board implemented policies and other stringent obligations, which attempted to prevent and curtail the disease from escalating out of control.
This included categorisation of crucial or essential occupations with prescribed requirements covering any unwarranted or unnecessary movement of countless workers.
It forced thousands of businesses to close their doors and many small to medium enterprises ceased operating altogether, which created widespread redundancies across the country.
Additional federal government interventions were immediately required and included the Covid-1984 social support package.
This consisted of the nebulous JobKeeper and JobSeeker interim schemes that offered some assistance to many of the struggling businesses, retrenched employees and the broader community affected by the pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn.
However, the support packages explicitly excluded temporary migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and many other displaced itinerants.
Most employers understandably retained the services of Australian citizens or permanent residents, which enabled businesses to apply for federal government financial assistance and other subsidies.
This was exacerbated by the federal government’s provisional relaxation of restrictions covering the hours worked by international students throughout the retail, disability support services and the health and aged care sectors.
Countless legitimate visa holders were suddenly unemployed without any income or suitable opportunities of finding decent employment with rent to pay and many overdue bills mounting.
It soon transpired that most of the international students and other temporary migrants were unable to meet basic living needs and fulfil outstanding financial commitments.
Scott Morrison, Australia’s first Pentecostal prime minister (who conceitedly stopped the boats during the federal government’s Operation Sovereign Borders), subsequently advised any impoverished temporary migrants to return home.
Despite a significant contribution to Australia’s economy over many years via a readily available supply of cheap contingent labour, the clumsy diplomacy was understandably misinterpreted as a discreet alternative for the redneck rhetoric: ‘Why don’t you fcuk off back to where you came from?’
A recent extensive survey completed by the Migrant Worker Justice Initiative and subsequent report describes the humanitarian despair experienced by thousands of international students and temporary migrants in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic.
It walks a mile in their moccasins and depicts the devastating social consequences through many immigrant eyes.
Displaced itinerants anticipate their dire predicament will rapidly deteriorate towards the end of 2020 following the federal government’s brutal decision to exclude international students and temporary migrants from the Covid-1984 social support package.
Returning home potentially threatened their future livelihood, especially following substantial investment towards studies and professional careers in Australia, which was initially encouraged by our federal government and various commercial and educational establishments.
Additional uncertainty emerged if they were unable to return to Australia or denied entry after the pandemic subsided.