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QLS calls for closer scrutiny of COVID responses

Queensland Law Society has repeated its call for better scrutiny and oversight over all COVID-19 related legislation and executive action.

On Tuesday, QLS General Manager – Advocacy, Guidance and Governance Matt Dunn and Policy Solicitor Dr Brooke Thompson appeared before the parliamentary Community Support and Services Committee inquiry into the Public Health and Other Legislation (Extension of Expiring Provisions) Amendment Bill 2022 (the Bill).

Mr Dunn told the committee that QLS had welcomed the opportunity to work with the Government in drafting legislative measures to enable Queensland to navigate and respond to the effects of the pandemic. It was also pleasing that some of these changes, which had proved to be of great benefit to members and to the community, had been made permanent.

“However, it is important to remember that these measures flow from extraordinary powers given to the Government through legislation which was, originally, urgently passed in an emergency period and, that some of these measures have led to the abrogation of fundamental human rights,” Mr Dunn said.

“We accept there is an ongoing need for some measures to continue as the effects of the pandemic continue, however, more needs to be done to ensure that the powers, and decisions and arrangements flowing from them, remain justified and are reviewable.”

He said QLS had called for better oversight in a previous appearance before a parliamentary committee, but this had not occurred.

“A committee should be able to inquire into these matters without a specific referral from the Government and should be able to receive submissions by the public,” he said. “This has not occurred and we repat these calls now.”

The Bill further extends a number of emergency measures included in the Public Health Act 2005, Corrective Services Act 2006, Disaster Management Act 2003, Mental Health Act 2016 and the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020.

The committee’s report is due on 25 March.

Read the QLS submission.

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