Earlier this month, I was shocked when I landed in Bundaberg and was greeted by a police officer wanting to check I was a Queensland resident, but I guess I would have been even more shocked if I tried to come into Queensland from NSW and was greeted by a soldier. Why the Australian Government is assisting the Queensland Government impose internal border controls that national health officials have previously suggested are undesirable is beyond me. But that is what has been occurring according to the Brisbane Times article Defence move from Queensland border raises police union concern:
Queensland’s police union has hit out at moves from the Australian Defence Force to pull troops from border checkpoints, as the state readies to further wind back domestic travel restrictions.
Defence personnel have been helping police on state borders and in hotel quarantine settings throughout the pandemic, with extra support requested to ease delays at the busy Gold Coast checkpoints in July.
We seem to have lost our previous notions of a) Australia being a free country and b) the clear dividing line between civilian life and the military. The military shouldn’t be used for internal policing in democratic countries. Yes, COVID-19 is a public health emergency, but we need to recognise fundamental principles we will never violate.
Our political leaders should have said some principles cannot be compromised, but we will do everything reasonable we can to control COVID-19 while respecting civil liberties. Many of the measures we have adopted, particularly the curfew in Melbourne and the re-closure of Queensland’s border with NSW and ACT, were completely disproportionate to the risk and violated fundamental civil liberties, and arguably the Australian Constitution. But we won’t know if the latter is true until the High Court hears arguments in November regarding Clive Palmer’s challenge to the WA border, and we probably won’t have a decision until early next year (see November showdown looms for Clive Palmer’s High Court border challenge).
Finally, I should say I welcome the latest relaxation of Queensland’s border restrictions, but as other commentators have noted we should just open up to the whole of NSW. There appears to be little reason not to do so, and it would provide some hope to our struggling tourism sector.
On the border battle, check out my recent interview with Joe Branigan: