Human Rights Commissioner blasts Qld’s hotel quarantine system and celebrity exemptions
There are no shortage of critics when it comes to Queensland’s strict stance on borders and hotel quarantine and now the state’s human rights commissioner has weighed in.
In a rare fiery statement, Commissioner Scott McDougall said the process was too harsh and appeared to favour celebrities and those with media attention over other cases in genuine need.
Mr McDougall took aim at the system set up by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government, expressing concern that the process was too often heavy-handed.
“The Commission has been concerned that throughout the pandemic, blanket approaches (to exemption applications) designed to eliminate any risk of the spread of Covid have not properly considered the rights of those affected by restrictions and may not have been proportionate to the risk,” Mr McDougall said on Wednesday.
Mr McDougall also said it was important that those granted exemptions are successful not “because of their celebrity status or the media attention they have been able to attract”, but rather on their own extenuating circumstances and “consistent assessments” of risk.
Ms Palaszczuk brushed off the suggestion the exemptions unit was softer on celebrities than those with a lower profile.
“I reject that completely. I reject that. These people, the people are doing their very best, they are looking at all the compassionate grounds,” she said.
“It is a very stressful time for all Queenslanders that are separated from family and friends.”
Mr McDougall said the complaints he had received relating to the exemption process were mostly from people seeking to quarantine at home or in alternative accommodation because they or a family member had significant disability or health concerns.
As per the government’s rules, a mandatory 14-day stint in hotel quarantine awaits anyone arriving in Queensland from overseas or a designated hot spot, such as Greater Sydney and Melbourne.
But there have been a string of high-profile exemptions, including a number of NRL and AFL players and their wives and girlfriends.
Others have also been granted an exemption after taking their case to the media, but the majority of quarantine arrivals remain forced to bunker down for two weeks.
Ms Palaszczuk on Wednesday highlighted her own stint in quarantine after arriving home from the Tokyo Olympics.
“Look, I respect what the Human Rights Commissioner is saying, I did hotel quarantine myself - it’s tough, you know,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“But let me say it very clearly and I say it every day: The reason we have an exemptions unit in Queensland is because there is a massive outbreak on our doorstep in New South Wales.”
Deputy chief health officer Dr Lynne McKinlay now has oversight of the exemptions unit, having completed the first audit of the unit since it was created in August 2020.
Originally published as Human Rights Commissioner blasts Qld’s hotel quarantine system and celebrity exemptions
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