An Australian court has refused to challenge the federal government’s coercive power to prevent most citizens from leaving the country so they don’t bring COVID-19 home.
Australia is one of developed democracies to bar its citizens and permanent residents from leaving the country except in “extraordinary circumstances” where they can demonstrate “compelling reason”.
Most Australians have been stranded in their island nation since March 2020 under a government emergency order created under the powerful Biosecurity Act.
The liberal group LibertyWorks argued before a full bench of the Federal Court in early May that Health Minister Greg Hunt does not have the power to legally enforce the travel ban that has forced thousands of Australians to attend weddings and funerals, die Taking care of relatives and meeting the newborn. children
Libertyworks lawyer Jason Potts argued that Australians had the right to leave their country under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Australia ratified.
But three judges ruled that the submission was based on the “wrong premise that the right is absolute”.
Lawyers for LibertyWorks also argued that such a biosafety control order could only be imposed on an individual, rather than the entire population. The order can only be imposed if the person has symptoms of listed human disease, has been exposed to such disease or has failed to comply with travel requirements.
Judges ruled that interpreting the law would thwart Parliament’s clear intentions when lawmakers created emergency powers in the Biosecurity Act in 2015.
“It can be accepted that the travel restrictions are harsh. It can also be accepted that they encroach on individual rights,” the judges said in their judgment. “But Parliament was aware of it.”
LibertyWorks president Andrew Cooper did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.
He expected hundreds of thousands of Australians to fly within weeks if he had won.
Critics of the emergency order argue that it is harshest for the 30% of Australians who were born overseas.
The government says strict border controls have played a key role in Australia’s relative success in containing the COVID-19 spread.
Surveys show that most Australians appreciate their government’s strict border controls.
The Australian newspaper published a poll last month in which 73% of respondents said the international border should remain closed until at least the middle of next year.
Australian Broadcasting Corp reported last week that 79% of respondents to its own survey agreed that the international border should remain closed until the epidemic was under control globally.
Critics of Australian travel restrictions argue who can travel and why are inconsistent and lack transparency.
Esther and Charles Baker, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish couple from Melbourne, were twice denied exemption for traveling to New Jersey to attend their youngest son’s wedding in June last year.
He appealed to the Federal Court in his extraordinary circumstances, citing religious and cultural reasons. But a judge dismissed their case and ordered the couple to pay the government’s legal costs for their challenge.
Melbourne on Friday began a seven-day lockdown due to the cluster, which had risen to more than 50 cases by Tuesday.
Australia and New Zealand opened a quarantine-free travel bubble in April and hope to form such bubbles with other countries in time.