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Emergency laws risk infringing our human rights, says commission


The Palaszczuk Government has met resistance in its bid to extend the state of emergency laws that control Queensland during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In a submission to a parliamentary committee examining the proposed extension, the Queensland Human Rights Commission warned that restrictions on citizens, without accountability or scrutiny, could become commonplace.

“Since the declaration of this public health emergency, the Queensland Human Rights Commission has sought to work constructively with the government on legislation and service responses to this crisis, in a way that ensures compliance with human rights and anti-discrimination law,” the commission wrote.

“The Commission has consistently acknowledged that even some of the most extraordinary powers that significantly limit rights may be justified, due to the government’s positive obligations under the right to life and the uncertainty about the risks posed by COVID-19, particularly to the most vulnerable people in our community.

“However, the Commission is becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of justification for limits on human rights that arise from legislation such as the Bill, including consideration of less restrictive measures and/or further safeguards. There is a risk of a culture developing within government that any limitation on fundamental human rights is justified if made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, without proper consideration of human rights relevant to the particular circumstances.”

While the commission acknowledged the government’s pandemic response had protected lives, but said “limitations on other human rights must be justified, including considerations of less restrictive options and the inclusion of safeguards to protect against the arbitrary use of such powers”.

Labor will use its numbers in parliament to sign off on the extension until 2022.

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