NSWCCL - Lift the travel ban and clarify process

29 MARCH 2021                                    


The NSW Council for Civil Liberties calls on the Federal Government to end the ban on leaving Australia and introduce clear and transparent rules for who gets to enter Australia.

This week marks a year since the imposition of both inward and outward travel bans. The government has adopted an authoritarian approach to the issue of incoming and outgoing travellers rather than improving the hotel quarantine system. This approach must now end.

The total lack of transparency around the basis for the granting and rejecting of applications is causing immense suffering in the community.

What is most galling is the ease with which rich and well-connected people seem to come and go as they please while ordinary people who have been separated from partners and immediate family for over a year receive rejection after rejection, with no reasons given, even when their applications meet all the stated criteria.

“It is quite shocking that we have a ban on exiting the country with no clear or compelling justification”, said Pauline Wright, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. “Since the government has made it very difficult for people to return, and testing and quarantine measures remain in place on arrival, it is hard to understand the purpose of the exit ban, let alone its proportionality.”

“The terms of the Biosecurity Determination are vague, allowing enormous discretion, and the proof required of applicants is unclear. A lack of clarity increases the costs of mobility and adds unneeded stress to the lives of citizens who just want to go out of their country” said Ms Wright. “It is dismaying that the government is acting in a manner unprecedented in the democratic world in prohibiting people from leaving Australia. It displays a disregard for fundamental human rights and liberties.”

When it comes to entering the country, NSWCCL is aware of many people who qualify as immediate family members of Australians who have been rejected in applications to re-unite.

“The government must be far clearer in publicly explaining the basis for its decision-making and give people reasons,” said Ms Wright.

The government has had a year to produce a more open, transparent process. Enough is enough.

NSWCCL will watch with interest the challenge in the Federal Court of Australia to the exit ban regulations being brought by LibertyWorks. However, the result of that case is far from certain.

“This travel ban once again underscores the urgency of a federal charter of rights to better protect human rights and freedoms in Australia. Australia is unique in the western world for lacking federal legislative or constitutional human rights protections.”

For comment and for case studies of people with applications rejected willing to speak to media, please contact: NSWCCL President Pauline Wright on [email protected].