Liberty Victoria is deeply concerned by reports that some of the extraordinary measures introduced by the Government, and in particular the imposition of a curfew, were not made on the considered advice of public health officials and Victoria Police.
Liberty Victoria has repeatedly accepted that, in an extraordinary public health emergency, there will be necessary limitations to the human rights of all Victorians, including the rights to liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and privacy. These rights are protected by the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
However, the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) requires that such extraordinary powers be exercised in a proportionate manner, and by authorised officers. That requires, necessarily, that such officers are satisfied that restrictions, such as a curfew, are strictly necessary from a public health perspective. If authorised officers are not so satisfied, then directions may well be unlawful under the requirements of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) and the Charter. This may itself lead to challenges to infringements issued in purported breach of a curfew.
Further, there are issues of potential pitfalls if such measures are not made on public health advice. For example, is it possible that a curfew actually leads to concentrations of people in public places at certain times, such as shopping after work hours and before the curfew takes effect? That would be obviously counterproductive, and demonstrates why such expert advice is of fundamental importance. It is not sufficient for the Government to merely assert that such measures makes enforcement easier by police. That, of itself, is not a valid reason for such limitations to our human rights.
If we, as Victorians, are expected to comply with such extraordinary incursions into our human rights, then we are entitled to expect that such decisions are made lawfully, and on expert advice. That is no less than what the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) and the Charter requires.
For enquiries contact Liberty Victoria at
firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 03 9670 6422