Many of you would have seen (as I have) some of the video clips of deserted streets and highways in what would otherwise be bustling Chinese cities that are now in shut down. More worryingly, you may also have seen videos of people being forcibly removed from their apartments and being bundled into white vans by security people in hazmat suits. My first reaction to some of those measures was surprise at how heavy handed these were. Surely it was a Chinese over-reaction?

Unfortunately, it appears that it’s not. In 2015, the antiquated 1908 Quarantine Act was replaced by the Bio-Security Act. Large parts of that act fall under the agriculture portfolio. I get it, we live on an island, agriculture is important and pests and diseases need to be kept out. However, as well as various “bio-security measures” the act also provides for human bio-security control measures which could come into effect if a human bio-security emergency is declared. There are accompanying human bio-security emergency powers which can be then be exercised by the Minister for Health.

If you end up becoming subject to a human bio-security control order you can: be required to provided information (s 85); be restricted in your movements (or confined to home)(s 87); be required to undergo decontamination (s 89); be required to submit to an examination (s 90) or provide body samples (s 91); or be required to receive a vaccine or medication (ss 92 and 93). However, you will be pleased to know that the use of force in administering this provisions is not allowed (s 95), but you can be detained if you don’t comply. If you are detained the amount of force used should not subject you to “greater indignity, than is necessary and reasonable to detain the detainee or prevent the detainee from escaping” (see ss103-104).

We might be a little way off being forcibly detained by people in hazmat suits, but it is a (lawful) possibility. Interesting, the health department has already issued an emergency response plan. Let’s hope that Australia manages to manage the spread of the corona virus.

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.


Share Button