Clive Palmer v Western Australia: border ban justified by risks of Covid-19, high court reveals

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Clive Palmer lost his challenge to Western Australia’s border ban because the policy was not discriminatory and was justified by the Covid-19 pandemic, the high court has revealed.

After giving orders against Palmer in November, the court published its unanimous but separate judgments on Wednesday explaining why the ban did not infringe the constitutional guarantee that interstate movement “shall be absolutely free”.

The reasons could make future challenges against border closures on public health grounds more difficult and suggest Palmer could have strengthened his case by challenging WA’s emergency laws and not just the directions issued under them.

In August the federal court’s justice Darryl Rangiah set Palmer a difficult task by finding the border ban was effective at preventing the spread of coronavirus and that a “precautionary approach should be taken”.

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Palmer then argued in the high court that Western Australia should have nevertheless allowed arrivals from states with a low risk of bringing Covid-19 into the state.

In their joint reasons, chief justice Susan Kiefel and justice Patrick Keane said this argument assumes “that there is a level of risk which may be regarded as acceptable” and “misapprehends” Rangiah’s findings…

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