Australians making an attempt to go away may have a constitutional problem to COVID-19 journey restrictions, says authorized knowledgeable

13 mins read

Consultants are questioning the legality of the federal government’s border measures requiring travellers heading out of Australia to get permission to go away. 

The journey restrictions put in place at first of the pandemic imply that Australian residents and everlasting residents are unable to go away the nation until they get an exemption from Border Drive.

The rationale for granting some exemptions and denying others can be typically deeply opaque, including to the frustrations of would-be travellers.

Regulation Professor Kim Rubenstein, an knowledgeable in citizenship legislation, mentioned there have been excellent questions on whether or not the restrictions match into the quarantine powers of the commonwealth.

“In essence, the federal government launched amendments to the biosecurity act — what it primarily did was introduce a blanket ban on individuals leaving the nation,” she mentioned.

“One of many questions is if you’re proscribing individuals leaving the nation, does that essentially match inside that quarantine energy?”

Passengers from India wearing masks and gowns collect their luggage
Professor Kim Rubenstein mentioned there has but to be a authorized problem on constitutional grounds to restrictions on leaving the nation.(

LAC Stewart Gould/Australian Division of Defence through Getty Pictures


The biosecurity act additionally requires the minister accountable is “glad … that the requirement is acceptable and tailored to realize the aim for which it’s to be decided” and “that the requirement isn’t any extra restrictive or intrusive than is required within the circumstances.”

It is this wording within the act that has the ANU Professor questioning whether or not the federal government is on strong floor with the ban.

“I simply discover it exhausting to grasp how a blanket ban on individuals leaving is the least restrictive approach of managing this well being disaster,” she mentioned.

A spokesperson for the Division of Well being mentioned the federal government was assured within the authorized foundation for the abroad journey ban.

“Emergency powers below the Biosecurity Act enable the Well being Minister to cope with human biosecurity emergencies of nationwide significance,” the spokesperson mentioned.

“Within the latest case of LibertyWorks Inc v Commonwealth, the Full Federal Court docket upheld the validity of the Dedication and it stays in drive.”

However Professor Rubenstein mentioned elements of the ban’s legality remained untested.

“There was one case within the federal court docket, by a gaggle referred to as LibertyWorks, however they did not problem the constitutionality of it,” mentioned Professor Rubenstein.

“I do not assume the broader constitutional query has been raised, nor that this isn’t the least restrictive measure obtainable for sustaining well being and safety by banning everybody from leaving.”

Human rights query

It isn’t simply home legislation leaving consultants questioning in regards to the authorized justification for the ban.

ANU human rights legislation knowledgeable Kate Ogg mentioned the ban may doubtlessly depart Australia in breach of the Worldwide Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

A man at an airport with a suitcase.
Restrictions on leaving Australia may additionally go towards worldwide treaties, in accordance with Dr Kate Ogg.(

AAP: Bianca De Marchi


Article 12 of the covenant offers with freedom of motion and a part of that proper is the appropriate to go away any nation together with your personal.

“There are very robust grounds to argue that Australia is in violation of article 12 of the ICCPR,” Dr Ogg mentioned.

“It isn’t what we name an absolute proper, the federal government can restrict that proper in sure methods, it could actually do it if it is for public well being.”

“Nevertheless it’s not sufficient for the Australian authorities to say, ‘we’re doing this for public well being’, the measures must be proportionate and must be the least intrusive choices obtainable.”

Dr Ogg mentioned Australia’s lack of motion on growing new quarantine services may additionally play into the scenario.

Together with the ICCPR, Dr Ogg mentioned the ban may very well be a breach of the Conference of the Rights of the Little one (CRC).

“One of the vital regarding tales we have heard is dad and mom being separated from kids [where] there hasn’t been permission both approach for the father or mother to go away and be part of their little one, or for the kid to return.”

“That implies that the federal government has not been bearing in mind the kid’s greatest pursuits and that will be a violation of the Conference of the Rights of the Little one.”

Extra authorized challenges?

On a home degree, Professor Rubenstein mentioned there are a variety of obstacles that may very well be stopping a problem.

Kim Rubenstein
Professor Kim Rubenstein mentioned authorized challenges won’t come up due to price and that candidates might need their journey authorized earlier than their issues attain court docket.

She mentioned the monetary danger of doubtless having to cowl the commonwealth’s authorized bills, if the bid have been unsuccessful, will surely play a task for some.

“The opposite side is it needs to be a stay matter, you do must be affected, so if you happen to’ve utilized after which the federal government later permits you to depart then you definitely not have an motion since you’re allowed to go away.”

“I believe I am conscious of a number of individuals who have thought of difficult a ban however who’ve then managed to get an exemption.”

Dr Ogg mentioned mounting a problem on the premise of human rights violations would even be difficult as a result of Australia does not incorporate worldwide treaties into home legislation by means of one thing like a invoice of rights.

“It’s unimaginable to go to an Australian court docket and argue the restrictions are in violation of the ICCPR or the CRC, in order that’s why we’ve not seen a home problem on worldwide human rights grounds.”

Baggage handlers at Perth Airport remove suitcases from the carousel, while wearing protective gear, including gloves and masks.
Many individuals want to hunt the assistance of their native MP or a lawyer to have their purposes to go away authorized.(

ABC Information: Tabarak Al Jrood


There’s a problem earlier than the UN Human Rights Committee, the physique liable for listening to complaints below the ICCPR, relating to residents being unable to return to Australia, however no ultimate consequence has been reached.

“The UN Human Rights Committee has issued what known as interim measures, that means that they’ve requested that the person who’s bringing the grievance be capable of return to Australia as quickly as attainable and earlier than the ultimate resolution is made,” mentioned Dr Ogg.

“The very fact they’ve executed that signifies it is a robust case, not essentially that it will likely be profitable.”

Determining the system

With any problem going through a variety of roadblocks, determined travellers are attempting to determine efficiently get an exemption below the present system.

For Sasha* from Melbourne, the method to attempt to get to Israel to see her sick aunt final yr was gruelling.

“I rushed to return over nevertheless it took me two months,” she mentioned.

Regardless of stating in her software that her aunt had no entry to help in Israel, Sasha’s first software was rejected inside days.

“She’s pushing 80, a holocaust survivor, lives alone however she’s additionally the only carer for her grownup disabled son who’s 60 [with] no household close by.”

Sasha put collectively one other software, this time with extra proof, nevertheless it too was rejected.

She ended up having to interact legal professionals and speak to her native MP Peter Khalil to attempt to get an exemption, a course of that took two months.

“I do not know which of the elements, whether or not the lawyer or the MP pushed issues by means of, however I did ultimately handle to get an exemption to go away.”

“I used to be in a position to fully take over the care of my cousin day-to-day, I ended up spending six months there serving to my aunt get at-home care from the federal government and run by means of the method of getting my cousin into care.”

Sasha’s lawyer Karyn Anderson has been serving to her purchasers with the exemption course of.

“The grounds for the outbound exemption are very restricted,” she says.

“They should decide to being out of Australia for no less than three months and be travelling for compelling causes.”

Functions must comprise a substantial quantity of proof together with flight itinerary, affirmation of depart from employment for no less than three months and docs certificates or some other proof or related documentation.

Ms Anderson mentioned it is placing these making an attempt to get out of Australia for shorter durations below plenty of stress.

“Restricted causes are given, so candidates can discover themselves making use of time and again and once more and getting knocked again a number of occasions earlier than they’re lastly permitted to go away, typically after the intervention of their federal member of parliament or different help.”

*Identify has been modified to guard identification.

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