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Still closed: International travel ban challenge dismissed in court

A bid to overturn Health Minister Greg Hunt's ban on Australians travelling overseas has been dismissed by the Full Court of the Federal Court.

A bid to overturn Health Minister Greg Hunt’s ban on Australians travelling overseas has been dismissed by the Full Court of the Federal Court.

LibertyWorks – a group that professes to support free speech, natural rights and free markets – in December launched a legal challenge to Australia’s travel ban, which was today dismissed by the Full Court of the Federal Court.

The lobby group argued the restriction, imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, was invalid and unduly impinged on individual rights.

Aside from the recent opening of the New Zealand travel bubble, people seeking to travel overseas have since March 2020 had to get a special exemption from the Department of Home Affairs.

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According to section 477 and 478 of the biosecurity act, the health minister is allowed to require or direct people to follow certain biosecurity measures once a pandemic has been declared.

LibertyWorks’ case was dismissed by the court on Tuesday and the group was ordered to pay the federal government’s costs.

Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue QC, representing the Commonwealth, told the court on May 5 that upholding LibertyWorks’ case would scupper the ability of the federal government to order people to wear masks, do contact tracing or keep people out of aged care homes.

He noted the health minister was restricted in imposing requirements on a specific person in a way that could identify them.

But the determination restricting outbound travel “does not single out” particular people, Mr Donaghue said.

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The case is the fourth failed challenge to Australia’s coronavirus restrictions, after Clive Palmer’s failure to overturn WA’s travel ban, a high court decision upholding the validity of VIC’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.

These include:

  • your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid;
  • your travel is for your business or employer;
  • you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia;
  • you are travelling on compassionate or compelling grounds;
  • you are travelling for urgent or unavoidable personal business;
  • your travel is in the national interest.

The court is expected to publish its written reasons later on Tuesday 1 June.

Source: AAP