Australia is facing its greatest emergency in the last 100 or so years but on this blog there is no running commentary on the legal issues involved in the response. That is true and there are several reasons for this:
- This blog, Australian Emergency Law has always focussed on the ‘traditional’ natural disasters – fire, flood, storm, accidents – and the response by the red/blue light emergency services – the SESs, fire and ambulance services. Whilst the current COVID-19 emergency has many things in common with those emergencies and does trigger some of the same legislation (a public health emergency can also be an emergency for the purposes of emergency management legislation), public health, and public health law, is its own area of speciality. I do not claim to be an expert in public health law.
- The sheer pace of events makes regular blogging by one part time person impossible. The pace of events in December/January was hard enough, I simply cannot keep up with hourly changes in response and arrangements.
- In the past I have had the privilege of blogging with the objectivity of distance. I have commented on disasters as an observer. Like everyone else, today I am a participant and that brings its own demands that sit higher than writing a blog.
- The law is fairly irrelevant. If the government health advice is stay 1.5m apart its more important to do that, than worry about whether that is advice or enforceable. Commentary on the law can wait until after the event is over.
- There should be one source of truth. If you want to know how edicts and limitations apply to you, go to the Department of Health website in your state or territory or health.gov.au for the answer.
- Having said all that, I am willing to consider questions about the COVID-19 response and implications for the emergency services, the normal subject of this blog.