In a controversial move, Senator Pauline Hanson, the leader of the One Nation party is threatening to take legal action against the Queensland government. Senator Hanson has imposed a deadline of Thursday 28 May 2020 on the Queensland Government to lift the border restrictions or face a constitutional challenge of the closures in the High Court.
The High Court challenge has not yet been filed, however Queensland law firm Mahoneys alongside New South Wales Barrister Guy Reynolds SC are expected to appear on behalf of a group of Queensland residents who have been affected by the ban.
There has been a GoFundMe page set up by Senator Hanson to raise money for the challenge. The page has a goal of raising 1 million dollars, as of midday 27 May 2020 the page has raised close to nine thousand dollars.
The letter was written to the Government requesting to revoke the border ban by 4:00pm Thursday 28 May 2020. The letter goes on to say “If you do not give that undertaking, and you do not otherwise satisfy us that the border ban is valid, we expect to receive instructions to commence proceedings in the High Court of Australia seeking a declaration that the border ban is invalid.”
In an interview Senator Hanson stated that 900 people died of the flu last year, no borders were closed as a result of death from the flu why should COVID-19 be any different. Senator Hanson referred to COVID-19 as a “virus we have to live with”, essentially going on to say if you are in the high risk category to stay home and focus on your own health so the rest of us can get back to life.
Senator Hanson has been leading the charge in Queensland tourism and jobs, stating the ban is “destroying” businesses, the tourism industry and economy in general.
The last statement by the Queensland Government emphasises the importance of taking “gradual and measured steps” and said they will not be bullied or lectured by a State with the highest number of cases in Australia.
The Constitutional challenge referred to by Senator Hanson is under Section 92 of the Constitution which deals with trade and movement of people between states.
Section 92 of the Constitution states:
Trade within the Commonwealth to be free
On the imposition of uniform duties of customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.
But notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, goods imported before the imposition of uniform duties of customs into any State, or into any Colony which, whilst the goods remain therein, becomes a State, shall, on thence passing into another State within two years after the imposition of such duties, be liable to any duty chargeable on the importation of such goods into the Commonwealth, less any duty paid in respect of the goods on their importation.
Constitutional law professor Nicholas Aroney has stated that the High Court would ultimately need to determine whether closing the borders and restricting the movement of people was a ‘proportionate response’.
Public health is a legitimate objective to border closures therefore the question to be determined is the proportionality of the borders remaining closed.
As the number of cases plummets the case for keeping borders closed will weaken.
In Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory borders also remain closed.
What are your thoughts?