Territorial reach

LibertyWorks Inc v Cth [2021] FCAFC 90

A private think-tank challenged a COVID overseas travel ban made under laws to prevent the spread of disease3.  It said its members should not be subjected to a measure a named individual could not be.  Also, the ban could only cover domestic movements – cf s 21(1)(b) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 – and its members each had a human right to leave Australia4.

Rights of movement are never absolute in their character or operation, however, and a clear purpose to protect public health would be emasculated otherwise.  Section 21(1)(b) is also subject to contrary intention – as was shown in this context5.  Further, government is empowered ‘to respond to a crisis’6.

This principle is from Episode 75 of interpretation NOW!


3 Determination made under s 477 of the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cth).

4 Art 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

5 s 2(2) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.  

6 Palmer [2021] HCA 5 (at [155]) quoted, cf Pape [2009] HCA 23 (at [233]).