Peter Dutton has backed a challenge over the legality of Queensland’s border closures, saying the Premier’s ‘lack of logic’ is killing the economy.
The Home Affairs Minister has repeatedly attacked Annastacia Palaszczuk for refusing to ease coronavirus restrictions and admit visitors from interstate.
He says businesses are slowly bleeding to death, and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson is right to question the constitutional validity of the shutdown, which may not lift until September.
The federal government is pressuring state and territory leaders to lift hardline restrictions to boost the crumbling tourism and aviation sectors.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has linked the future of Australian airlines to lifting the domestic travel bans.
“If we do want a domestic airline to continue and to resume very quickly, then one way of doing it is to ease those border restrictions,” he told the ABC on Friday.
Senator Hanson says she’s got lawyers and potential plaintiffs lining up to be part of her planned High Court challenge.
She claims it’s unconstitutional for the Premier to restrict the movement of people, causing severe harm to the economy in the process.
Asked on Friday if he believed the Premier’s actions were unconstitutional, Mr Dutton said he wasn’t sure, but added:
“People are right to test that if they think it’s not. Because it is impacting on people’s lives.”
He said there was “no logic” underpinning the Premier’s position, despite Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young saying it isn’t safe to let people in until infections in southern states fall.
Mr Dutton, who represents the Queensland south-east electorate of Dickson, denied he being influenced by the demands of southern states who want to reopen borders for economic reasons.
“I’m a proud Queenslander, I’m not taking advice from people south of the border at all, but I believe it’s in Queensland’s best interests, given that we are a mining state, we’re a tourism state, and we want to get people back to work,” he said.
The national health advisory committee has made no decision nor offered advice on state border closures.
But a road map to get the nation back to normal after the coronavirus crisis allows for intra and interstate travel from July 10.
Australia’s deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has said that from a medical point of view, he can’t see why some borders remained closed.
But Ms Palaszczuk has backed the advice of Dr Young, and says she won’t be told what to do by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who’s called for borders to reopen to aid economic recovery.
“We’re not going to be lectured to by a state that has the highest number of cases in Australia,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Tourism operators have pleaded with the premier to open the border from July.
Some southern Gold Coast businesses who rely on trade from northern NSW say the closure is like living with the Berlin wall.
Senator Hanson has vowed to press on with her planned High Court challenge, even though some observers have warned borders will have opened by the time it is heard.
“I’ve had three legal firms who have contacted my office also wanting to get involved in this case,” she told the Nine network on Friday.
“They are constitutional lawyers. Surprisingly also by midday yesterday we had 45 people to come forward to be the plaintiff in this action against the Palaszczuk government.”
— Jessica van Vonderen (@jessvanvonderen) May 21, 2020
University of Queensland constitutional law professor Nicholas Aroney says Senator Hanson’s promised case relates to to section 92 of the constitution, which deals with trade and the movement of people between states.
He’s told SBS the High Court would have to decide if the border closure and resulting restrictions on the movement of people was a response proportionate to the situation.
And the case for keeping borders shut would weaken as infections drop, he said.