On Sunday 29 March 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced new lockdown measures in response to COVID-19, including limitations on the number of people who can assemble. Since then, the States and Territories have brought in sweeping new laws that provide restrictions on freedom of assembly and movement. The laws generally restrict gatherings to members of a household or two -ten people only, and permit leaving the home only for ‘essential’ reasons such as work, healthcare or grocery shopping. Many in the community are confused about what behaviour is still allowed under these new laws. In some cases, Police Commissioners or Premiers have said that certain behaviour is allowed, when it appears to not be allowed on the face of the law.
The laws are being enforced by police officers, who have broad discretion to issue fines or charge people under the laws. Penalties range from fines to imprisonment. A key concern about these laws is how they will be enforced, particularly for groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and migrants who already experience high levels of policing. It is vital that these new police powers are overseen by law enforcement commissions and ombudsmen, and that data about the use of these powers by police is made readily available.
The pace of introduction of these lockdown measures and the confusing nature of the measures demonstrate the need for clear and accurate information to be provided to the public. Measures that provide such draconian restrictions on key rights need to be subject to scrutiny in order to protect our democracy.
About the COVID Law Monitor Project
COVID-19 Law Monitor, a project of Grata Fund and Hall & Wilcox is resource for journalists and civil society to track COVID-19 measures introduced by governments that impacts on civil liberties and freedoms.
COVID-19 measures have been introduced, amended and rolled back rapidly across Australia making it difficult to keep track. COVID-19 Law Monitor will track the powers used to ease restrictions in different stages across Australian jurisdictions, or if a second wave of COVID transmission occurs, the introduction of new measures.
The website will track Commonwealth, state and territory measures that impact civil liberties including:
- New or amended legislation.
- Determinations and orders.
- Use of emergency powers.
FIND A STATE OR TERRITORY
Click through to find COVID measures by state or territory.
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
Factsheets for First Nations Peoples
National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS), UTS Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research and the National Justice Project have created factsheets for First Nations People about the restrictions in every state and territory. These are current from 2 November 2020 and are available to download here.
More on civil liberties and human rights
COVID-19 measures have curtailed the freedoms and rights of people living in Australia, and while extraordinary measures are necessary they must be proportionate, time-limited and for the legitimate purpose of public health to protect public trust. Find out more about the civil liberties and human rights impacted here.
Grata Fund is grateful for Hall & Wilcox 's support for this project.
We can’t do this work without you.
Our COVID-19 Monitor Project is shining a spotlight on laws and rules that are being rapidly introduced across Australia.
Please donate to enable us to continue this vital work.
You can view international comparisons of covid measures, focusing on emergency laws that affect civil liberties and human rights tracked by the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law here.