Queensland urged to immediately release Covid orders to end confusion on borders and restrictions

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Matt Roberts/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

The Queensland Council of Civil Liberties says the state government must release public health directions to end confusion and uncertainty about plans to reopen state borders and bar unvaccinated people from public spaces.

The premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, announced Queensland’s plan to “unite families” and “give certainty” more than three weeks ago.

But those measures are just a guide until the state makes formal public health directions. With just days until Queensland is due to hit its 80% double-dose vaccination target, the council says the delay in releasing even draft directions is problematic.

“The premier cannot make law by press release,” council president Michael Cope said.

Related: ‘No compassion’: why thousands of Queenslanders remain stranded on the NSW border

“No lawyer will be able to properly advise their client, particularly their small business clients, without access to the actual terms of the law. A press release is no substitute for the actual direction.”

The Queensland human rights commissioner, Scott McDougall, told Guardian Australia last week that the commission had been flooded with inquiries due to confusion about the reopening plan.

“We’re very much aware of the confusion and the lack of clarity for people trying to make sense of our border reopening plans,” McDougall said.

“Because we don’t have the detail about how the requirements will be applied, whether there will be exceptions and how people might seek them out, and what obligations will fall on business.”

Australians attempting to return to Queensland from overseas say they have cancelled flights due to the way the announced plans would apply different quarantine rules to members of the same family.

Amid the uncertainty, Queensland health said two weeks ago the plans were “only a guide” and that “the relevant direction, once it is released, will aim to ensure families arriving into Queensland remain together”.

People stuck outside Queensland still have no certainty.

“It is entirely inappropriate that almost two weeks out from these complex rules (restricting unvaccinated people) coming into place, businesses and individuals in this state cannot plan properly for the new laws,” Cope said.

“No matter what the police commissioner says, for practical purposes the enforcement of these laws will fall on businesses because the police will not be able to be everywhere.

“Those businesses are entitled to know now what their obligations are.”

Cope said the government should immediately publish the public health direction, prior to its implementation.

“At the very least, a draft of the proposed direction should be released immediately.

“It is a fundamental premise of the rule of law that people are entitled to certainty in conducting their lives and businesses. A draft of this proposed direction must exist.

“Too often in this pandemic, these directions have been released either just as they start or on occasions after they came into force.

“There is no possible reason to delay the release of the direction given that the government’s policy was announced three weeks ago.”

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