Queensland travel businesses fighting to reopen the state’s borders have lost a High Court bid to access information about why the state government closed them amid the coronavirus crisis.
Chief Justice Susan Kiefel described part of the legal challenge against the constitutional right to keep the borders closed as a fishing expedition.
Lawyers for the Travel Essence challenge applied to access the information Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young assessed when the decision was made to close the borders in March.
Guy Reynolds SC told the High Court in Brisbane on Wednesday there was public interest in the documents being seen, and they could be of “critical relevance”.
But Chief Justice Kiefel refused the application, saying it was “par excellence a fishing expedition” the court would not be a party to.
“I am somewhat perplexed about the plaintiffs’ approach to this matter,” she said.
“There is no basis for the making of an order for the documents to be produced.”
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She also warned Mr Reynolds that wasting time on the refused application risked delaying the matter being heard with two other border challenges later in the month.
Mr Reynolds also earned a rebuke from Chief Justice Kiefel for saying he was suspicious there was no information available because little was assessed.
She accused him of making such statements for the media’s benefit, and said the request for the material was not important compared to the constitutional elements of the challenge.
Solicitor-General for the State of Queensland, Gavin Thompson QC, was also scathing and said the application had “no proper basis”.
“It’s clear our learned friend does not have any facts to support those allegations and they are serious allegations,” he said.
The Travel Essence challenge was ordered to pay the cost of the failed application.
The matter will return to court for a directions hearing on Friday, alongside two challenges by billionaire businessman Clive Palmer.
Mr Palmer is challenging border closures in Queensland and Western Australia.
The Travel Essence group of tourism operators is understood to be arguing the Queensland closures are causing them financial harm.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has refused to reverse her decision to keep the borders closed, saying she’s keeping Queenslanders safe.
She has flagged a potential September re-opening. However, this is under a monthly review and could be pushed forward.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also accused the Palaszczuk government of ignoring an earlier agreement to open to interstate travel in July.
He said there was no medical advice to support their extended closure.
Mr Palmer’s challenges, which were made through his flagship company Mineralogy, could be heard by the full bench as early as June 29.
The Travel Essence challenge will attempt to submit its draft case by 4pm on Thursday in a bid to join them.