Foreign Minister Marise Payne has rejected any suggestion that blocking travellers from India is racist.
"Absolutely not in any way," she told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.
But Senator Payne is standing by the government's warning that any Australian trying to return home from India will be in breach of biosecurity laws and face jail.
Although Australia has temporarily suspended direct flights from India due to the Asian nation's growing COVID-19 crisis, it says any travellers taking a different route home could face five years in jail or a hefty fine.
"We absolutely recognised the very, very difficult circumstances occurring in India right now," Senator Payne said.
"The decision which has been made under the Biosecurity Act on the basis of the advice of the chief medical officer is a temporary pause on returns."
Senior Labor frontbencher Brendan O'Connor said he was surprised the government is taking such a stance.
"I believe that the ban on flights would be sufficient to prevent people coming back to Australia," Mr O'Connor told ABC's Insiders program.
"So I think in part that is a political distraction from the main focus, which should be finding whatever means possible to ensure that Australians are able to return home. "
The Australian Human Rights Commission wants the government to prove that its decision to fine or jail Australians is "not discriminatory".
Travellers from India have been blocked from entering Australia until at least May 15, when the decision will be reassessed.
Indirect routes via Doha, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore have also been closed off as the daily tally of COVID-19 cases in India tops 400,000.
More than 9000 Australians in India are registered as wanting to return, including 650 considered vulnerable.
Meanwhile, Perth and the Peel region have avoided another lockdown, although other restrictions have been put in place and Sunday's AFL western derby between West Coast and Fremantle at Optus Stadium will be played behind closed doors.
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan's decision came 24 hours after a hotel quarantine security guard and two of his housemates tested positive.
There were no new cases reported on Sunday.
"We need people to get tested and we need everyone to be wearing your masks," the premier told reporters.
"I want to avoid going into lockdown again. I know how much it can impact people's lives and businesses. But if we need to go back into lockdown, we will."
Miner Andrew Forrest weighed into the debate over quarantining, saying the hotel model has failed again.
"The aerosol spread of COVID-19 is consistently being downplayed and is one reason these hotel quarantine breaches continue to occur," he said in a statement.
"Now we know that it is actually putting returning travellers at risk of infection, it brings into question the effectiveness of universal hotel quarantine. It is past time to deploy a science-driven, risk-based approach."
Meanwhile, Queensland has ordered any returned travellers who visited exposure sites in WA to enter two weeks of quarantine in government-arranged accommodation.
There were two new cases reported in South Australia, both already in hotel quarantine.
Australian Associated Press