MEDIA RELEASE: Covid-19: Extraordinary powers must be balanced with strong parliament and courts says report

8 April 2020

A report released today by Grata Fund lays out a road map for the Government to maintain public trust through the management of the COVID-19 crisis.

Within a matter of weeks of Covid-19 hitting our shores, the two accountability arms of our democracy were curtailed with the adjournment of Parliament and the Courts forced into various stages of closure and transition to digital operations. 

Australian politicians are making decisions of enormous magnitude. These decisions will have life and death implications for Australians, while also reshaping our entire economy, social security system and widening the powers of law enforcement and its relationship with us. 

At a time when public trust is our best defense against COVID-19, steps to strengthen our democracy must be a cornerstone to every Australian government’s response. 

Isabelle Reinecke, Founder and Executive Director at Grata Fund said “These decisions will change the face of our nation for decades to come. To do this, Government politicians are asking that we trust them.

“In our democracy, public trust is contingent on good government, confidence in leadership and integrity of processes. 

Parliament will reconvene in an emergency session to pass the wage subsidies legislation today for the last time until 11 August and at that time must take the decision to reconvene parliament in a safe manner and provide additional support for the courts and legal assistance organisations to deal with the digital transition and increased legal need in the face of Covid-19. 

“The adjournment of the Parliament and limitations on public participation in democracy through their elected representatives will see important things missed, unforeseen consequences overlooked, mistakes made and vitally, a breakdown of public trust in the Government to manage the crisis. Scrutiny and public accountability will aid politicians to make better decisions to protect public health and safeguard our democracy now and in the future,” said Isabelle Reinecke. 

“Measures implemented by the State and Territory governments to restrict our movements are unprecedented. We need oversight of these measures to ensure our democratic freedoms are protected and that the measures are necessary, proportionate, time-limited and applied in a non-discriminatory manner,” said Maria Nawaz, Head of Strategic Litigation at Grata Fund. 

Grata welcomes the decision of the ALP and crossbenchers to create a Select Senate Committee to oversee the Governments Covid-19 response and urges that this be complimented with other oversight measures that will build public trust. 

The report In democracy we trust: accountability in the time of Covid-19 outlines the impact of Covid-19 on the three arms of our democracy and our civil liberties and lists new laws and public health measures introduced in each jurisdiction. The full report is available for download here

 

Maria Nawaz, Head of Strategic Litigation is available for interview. 

Media contact: Belinda Lowe, 0428 805 696