The Queensland Human Rights Commission on their website have stated that “It is vital that these restrictions on rights do not stay in place for longer than necessary, or limit rights more severely than they need to.” The Queensland government currently is seeking to extend the Public Health Emergency Response powers until April 2022. The president of the Law Society of Queensland, Elizabeth Shearer agrees and has expressed her concerns about the government’s overreach of powers, stating that we need to “reinstate checks and balances” to ensure humans rights are not trodden upon.
The Law Society of Queensland is the peak representative body for legal professions. Their website states that they are there to serve the public “by providing a clear and passionate voice for solicitors and legal professionals” and “engaging with government, the public and legal community on issues of importance.”
In a statement made to the Economics and Governance Committees public hearing regarding public health legislation, she declares that the government overreach in powers needs to be reviewed. Saying explicitly that the “rule of law has been suspended due to a range of decisions of executive government being put beyond challenge.” She goes on to say that “it’s time some important elements of the rule of law are reinstated.” The law society is in agreement with the Human Rights Commission that the “limitations placed on human rights by the emergency response remain justifiable and proportionate.”
The Queensland Human rights commission also states “Human rights protections apply in a pandemic as they do otherwise. During this pandemic, courts have observed that governments must respect human rights during urgent or emergency situations.”
Whilst the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews can be quoted as saying about human rights being squashed during this pandemic, “it’s not about human rights, it’s about human life.” Many Australians disagree. It’s invigorating to finally hear that lawyers are standing in line with the people’s opinion, that human rights are essential as part of protecting people and the democratic society in which we live. Elizabeth Shearer has also said that there needs to be “better scrutiny and oversight over all Covid 19 related legislation and executive action by a parliamentary committee. This committee should be able to enquire into these matters without a specific referral from the government and should be able to receive submissions from the public.” Seeing as this we live in a democracy it’s only reasonable that Australian people are heard, and the law society president also stated that “the usual hallmarks of democracy like ours is checks and balances subject to reviews for decisions and that’s not happening at the moment.”
The law society’s concerns over the breach of humans rights concern to freedom of movement, the right to enjoyment of property and the right to humane treatment in detention” also in regards to access to lawyers for people in aged care who are of course under current restrictions on their visitors. Will the government finally start listening to those who understand the law and speak on behalf of the people and the law experts? Or will these requests as we have seen through this pandemic, fall upon deaf ears of politicians who don’t seem to be caring for the people they represent.