Channel 9 star Karl Stefanovic slams Scott Morrison over India travel ban on Today

Scott Morrison has hit out at “exaggerated” criticism of the India travel ban and insisted Australians were unlikely to face jail time for returning home.

The Prime Minister on Tuesday defended the tough restrictions, including five-year jail terms or a $66,000 fine, in the face of mounting outcry.

Mr Morrison said criticism was overblown and played down the prospect of Australians facing jail time.

“It hasn’t been helpful for these things to be exaggerated,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“It is my responsibility to do everything I can to prevent a third wave in this country. I make no apologies for that.”

The laws are the first in Australia’s history preventing citizens from returning home, but Mr Morrison claimed similar measures had been in force under the Biosecurity Act for more than a year and had been used “responsibly and proportionately”.

“The same rules apply to prevent people from going into remote Indigenous communities. They would have faced exactly the same fines and potential arrangements for those sanctions as is being applied here,” he said.

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In a combative interview earlier, 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.”

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.”

RELATED: India travel ban not racist: PM

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 criticised me for that too.”

But Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government’s response to the Wuhan outbreak was markedly different, including chartered flights to bring Australians home.

He accused Mr Morrison of making a “macho announcement” before admitting it “won’t actually be implemented”.

“The Australian passport and Australian citizenship must mean something. And if it doesn’t mean that you have a right to come Australia, then what does it mean?” he said on Tuesday.

“The government has to explain that and the reason why.”

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!”

Nationals Senator Matt Canavan said the government should be trying to help Australians in distress.

“Yes, there would be risk to us bringing Australians home from India,” Senator Canavan told Sky News.

Senator Canavan said he understood the medical advice, but putting Australia at risk, to help others, would prove that they cared.

“That is what shows we really are Australian, we really do care for each other,” Senator Canavan said.

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.

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