Bar leadership lessons in managing the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact
Speech delivered virtually by Dr Jacoba Brasch QC, President, Law Council of Australia at the 2021 Singapore Opening of the Legal Year Presidents’ Roundtable.
"In little more than twelve months, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact across the globe, and it may be years before we are able to measure its true human and economic impact.
To make sense of what I will say about our responses, I will first briefly outline how Australia’s federated system and our constitutional framework have shaped government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then I will turn to reviewing Australia’s ‘COVID experience’ more generally.
Australia’s Constitution divides powers and responsibilities between the Federal Government on the one hand, and states and territories on the other.
During the pandemic, the Federal Government has exercised its powers to secure external borders, mandate quarantine for international arrivals, and provide economic relief to individuals and businesses. Meanwhile, the responsibility to implement quarantine programmes falls to state and territory governments.
Under our Constitution, states and territories also bear responsibility for health, education, and policing – so decisions to close internal borders, for example, between my state of Queensland and the state of New South Wales, to mandate the wearing of masks, to close schools and implement curfews, is within their remit.
In turn, different states and territories had different responses to those decisions. This created some difficulties in limiting the spread of COVID-19 both within states and territories, and across borders..."
You can read the full speech below.