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Urgent hearing called on Melbourne lockdown challenge

Sorrento hotelier Julian Gerner’s challenge over the validity of Melbourne’s contentious lockdown has been fast-tracked by the High Court, with an urgent hearing called for tomorrow. Mr Gerner, who owns Morgan’s restaurant and bar in the Mornington Peninsula township, has engaged Bret Walker SC and Michael Wyles QC to represent him, arguing that restrictions such…

Sorrento hotelier Julian Gerner’s challenge over the validity of Melbourne’s contentious lockdown has been fast-tracked by the High Court, with an urgent hearing called for tomorrow.

Mr Gerner, who owns Morgan’s restaurant and bar in the Mornington Peninsula township, has engaged Bret Walker SC and Michael Wyles QC to represent him, arguing that restrictions such as the 5km rule, essential worker permits and being locked at home under a curfew were a disproportionate response to the threat of COVID-19.

In a statement provided to NCA NewsWire, Mr Gener said that the “Victorian Government has engaged in an unnecessary lockdown of the state and the economy, denying our basic freedoms as Australian citizens under our Federal Constitution, including our right to freedom of movement”.

“This is not what we signed up for and is inconsistent with a free society, representative democratic government and civilised living,” he said.

“Aggressive and heavy-handed enforcement of these restrictions has also alarmed most fair-minded people.”

The Australian Financial Reviewreports that Mr Gerner’s case has been approved for a directions hearing at 3pm, after being filed just this week.

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Since March, the State Government has relied on its state of emergency declaration under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 to enact and enforce lockdown restrictions across Victoria to try and stem coronavirus’ spread.

The hearing will no doubt put pressure on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who is already facing mounting calls to remove the 5km rule – among other significant restrictions – when he announces Melbourne’s next steps out of lockdown this Sunday.

In the midst of mother-of-three and cafe owner Michelle Loielo’s challenge against the capital’s hated curfew last month, Mr Andrews dropped the rule – just five hours before the trial was scheduled to begin.

But as Victoria once began to record case numbers lower than 10 this week, Mr Andrews has stayed quiet on what could be next for Melbourne, which likely won’t meet the less than five cases per day threshold required to progress to stage three of the lockdown exit roadmap on October 19.

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Speaking to reporters yesterday, the Premier said while some restrictions will be lifted, he didn’t think the government would “be able to go as fast and as far as we thought”.

“These measures come with a cost. There is a public health benefit, but there is also a cost … and that is why it’s so difficult to impose restrictions like this,” he said.

“This is not an indefinite arrangement … At some point, the cost of the restrictions will be greater than the increased risk and the increased challenge for our public health team to keep the virus suppressed if we open earlier than we had planned.

“Some of those are measured at a very personal level, in terms of the health, both physical and mental, of individual Victorians and their families. Then there’s obviously a whole range of economic considerations beyond health.

“Weighing up those matters is very, very challenging but there is an enormous amount of thought, consideration and judgment that comes with that task.”

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus.