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The rightwing thinktank Libertyworks has lost its federal court challenge to Australia’s outbound travel ban.
On Tuesday the full federal court unanimously rejected Libertyworks’ bid to overturn the Covid-19 restriction, which had argued that the health minister, Greg Hunt, has no power to impose a blanket rule stopping citizens from leaving the country.
Justices Anna Katzmann, Michael Wigney and Thomas Thawley dismissed the application and ordered Libertyworks to pay the commonwealth’s costs.
The federal government had argued that, if successful, the case would have “driven a truck” through Hunt’s powers under the Biosecurity Act to impose measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 during the global pandemic.
The case is the fourth failed challenge to Australia’s coronavirus restrictions, after Clive Palmer’s failure to overturn Western Australia’s travel ban, a high court decision upholding the validity of Victoria’s second wave lockdown, and the federal court rejecting a bid to overturn the travel ban from India.
Despite the ban, more than 140,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents have left Australia since the start of the pandemic under a regime of exemptions administered by Australian Border Force.
In May national cabinet agreed these exemptions should be reviewed after the WA premier, Mark McGowan, supported by the Victorian government, called for a crackdown.
In their joint reasons, the justices said the health minister’s powers were “intended to be used in circumstances where there is an emergency of such scale and significance as to require management at a national level”.
Accepting Libertyworks’ interpretation would mean only individuals could be ordered not to travel. The justices said it “defies belief” that parliament had intended this and such a reading would “emasculate” the minister’s powers.
“It would mean, for example, that the only way to prevent or reduce the risk of contagion from Australians who travel overseas during a pandemic would be through making a human biosecurity control order on every single individual who wishes to do so and then only for no more than 28 days.”
Interpreting the act as only allowing restrictions on movement within Australia “would substantially limit the minister’s power” and be “contrary to the plain words” of the act, they said.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Federal court rejects challenge to Australia’s outbound travel ban | Law (Australia)