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Qld government denies borders the sole reason for business hardship

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The Queensland government has argued its border closure is not the sole cause of economic hardship felt by businesses that are challenging the restriction in the High Court.

The legal action has been taken by a group of tourism operators, claiming the closure has caused financial harm and losses worth millions of dollars.

One plaintiff, who operates a charter boat business, argued it has “suffered, and is continuing to suffer, financial harm because of restrictions on the movement on individuals in Queensland”.

In a preliminary response lodged in the High Court, government lawyers said they “do not admit” to the claim.

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Queensland LNP Senator Matt Canavan accused the state government of denying the travel restriction was causing financial pain.

“This is just arguing against the absolutely bloody obvious,” Senator Canavan said.

“Is the Queensland government listening? First job as a government is to listen to people.

“Just the other week Annastacia Palaszczuk was in the Gold Cost hearing from businesses hurt, a few weeks later she is turning around saying ‘there is no impact’.”

But Health Minister Steven Miles said the border closure alone was not the sole reason for the hardship, and other factors, including international airline shutdowns, were also to blame.

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“Restrictions on travel have clearly affected them, but those restrictions on travel existed at a number of levels,” he said.

“There is a restriction on people crossing our national borders from other countries.

“There are restrictions from travel from Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory.

“It’s very difficult to differentiate which of those restrictions have caused what losses.”

Ms Palaszczuk again defended the closure on Wednesday and said the borders would not be opened before the end of June.

“Our concern is the health of Queenslanders … and we do not want to see a second wave,” she said.

“Nowhere in stage two does it talk about interstate travel.

“It is in stage three and we will make that decision, based on the health advice, by the end of June.”

A lengthy queue of vehicles waits to cross into Queensland.

Exemptions for work, freight, compassionate grounds

The High Court challenge has argued the border closure breaches the Constitution by restricting free trade and commerce between states.

The lockdown was ordered in early April, but exemptions have been granted for people crossing interstate for work, freight and compassionate and emergency grounds.

In documents filed to the court, the plaintiffs argue the border closure was invalid because it breached section 92 of the Constitution, which guarantees that trade, commerce and intercourse between the states shall be absolutely free.

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The group also argued it breached section 117 of the Constitution because it discriminated between residents of Queensland and residents of states other than Queensland.

The plaintiffs put forward that there were “obvious and compelling” alternatives to closing the border, including allowing people to enter the state if they had tested negative to the virus, subjecting new arrivals to quarantine and confining the ban so it only applied to states or territories that had a COVID case in the preceding 28 days.

-ABC

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