SMH: ‘Like martial law’: When police got the green light to take a truncheon to COVID-19

In the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the NSW government conceded two COVID-19 fines were invalid and withdrew 33,000 more of them. The NSW Council for Civil Liberties remains deeply concerned about the special powers given to the police allowing the issuing of fines which clearly added to the financial burden already placed upon individuals and businesses facing hardship due to the pandemic. Jordan Baker reported today in the Sydney Morning Herald that an independent report found, governments’ COVID-19 response “sometimes looked ... more like martial law than humanitarian relief”.

Michelle Falstein, on behalf of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, said the orders issued during the pandemic were arbitrary, changed almost daily, and were hard enough for police and government to follow, let alone ordinary people.

“It just shows you how compliant people are when they’re faced with an emergency in this country,” she said. “Very easily we can fall into a pattern, because we trust government, to have that power abused. It’s only when we come out of the situation that we can go, ‘look, that really was unreasonable’.

“If we don’t face how easy it is to have our lives upturned and to have laws turned against us in that way ... we’re going to have it happen very easily again. The vulnerable in our community are the ones who are really going to face most abuse from the police system in particular.”

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