Promoting people’s rights and civil liberties. It is non-party political and independent of other organisations.
Why no outcry over public Corvid-19 measures by CLA?

Why no outcry over public Corvid-19 measures by CLA?

Why no outcry over public Corvid-19 measures by CLA?

Emailed question to Civil Liberties Australia 15 March 2020:

From: Laurence

Hi, why has there been no outcry from you regarding the loss of liberties, introduction of new laws and manipulation of old laws relating to freedom of association, participation, travel and (soon to occur) education?

The virus is being used as a means of taking away liberties, imposing restrictions and reenforcing political allegiances that predate WW2. Why are you not vocal?


A common definition of civil liberties is:

‘the rights of a person to do, think, and say what they want if this does not harm other people…’

Civil liberties nearly always involve balancing “the rights of a person” against the rights of other people (“…if this does not harm other people”).

Rights and liberties are not absolute. They can be altered by circumstances. A virus pandemic, like a world war, is such a circumstance.

All Australian states and territories, and the federal jurisdiction (as for most countries) have emergency health powers which have been in place for many years. Under emergency health powers, like in war (which fighting a pandemic is akin to), government health bodies have extraordinary powers to make decisions for the public good (“not harming other people”).

The emergency powers can usually be enforced by police and punitive action, if needed.

Civil Liberties Australia agrees with the need for such emergency powers and actions in times of a pandemic, or war, or similar major emergencies.

That’s why there has been no outcry from Civil Liberties Australia, or from any like group.

Bill Rowlings


PS: You ask: ‘Why are you not vocal?’

Just in case your query was directed personally, I am not vocal because:

  • I’m in the high-risk age group. Being retired has allowed me to volunteer to run CLA for more than 15 years.
  • I have cancer (CML, chronic myeloid leukemia).
  • I have high blood pressure.
  • I have high ferritin.

…these are four of the main high-risk factors* for death from Covid-19.

I haven’t been vocal in urging people to follow health orders, but I am urging you, Laurence, to consider (if you have them) your parents’ and/or grandparents’ health first.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to campaign against draconian terror and anti-privacy laws and cases where our civil liberties are being jeopardised by governments, without proper reason or a balanced approach to freedoms and “the rights of other people”.

People at risk:

ABC journalist Mary Lloyd is in the middle of chemotherapy, and with her immunity low she is imploring you to do your bit to stop coronavirus spreading.

* First major analysis of those most at risk:

* Clinical course and risk factors for mortality of adult inpatients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China: a retrospective cohort study

Fei Zhou*, Ting Yu*, Ronghui Du*, Guohui Fan*, Ying Liu*, Zhibo Liu*, Jie Xiang*, Yeming Wang, Bin Song, Xiaoying Gu, Lulu Guan, Yuan Wei, Hui Li, Xudong Wu, Jiuyang Xu, Shengjin Tu, Yi Zhang, Hua Chen, Bin Cao

Published online March 9, 2020

CLA Civil Liberties Australia Inc. A04043

Box 7438 Fisher ACT Australia

Email: secretary [at]


16 March 2020



  1. Hi Bill
    Just a reality check people have more of a statistical risk of dying from:
    1. Heart disease – over 50 per day in Australia die from this disease yet I don’t see the government curtailing the sale of high fat content of fast food outlets, processed food or high sugar products;
    2. Car crashes kill over 5 people per day in Australia- haven’t seen the abolition of cars; and 3. Suicide (particularly male suicide) over 8 per day in Australia. I haven’t seen money thrown into suicide prevention like we’ve seen with this corona debacle or a state emergency declared.
    This virus is a conspiracy! (A secret plan by a small group to do something unlawful or harmful). People have been tested negative and yet still held in isolation. I question this practice as unreasonable.

  2. your civil liberties stance is flimsy. you “aren’t vocal” because YOU are at risk. YOU are ok with everyone else having their freedom of movement curtailed because YOU are sick. equating this with a world war is garbage and you know it. YOU should isolate YOURSELF, not tell everyone else how to live their life.

    many people also believe this is largely media doom porn and just another opportunistic test run for the inevitable police state.

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Bill.
    Coronavirus spreads slowly at first, then with increasing rapidity (it’s called exponential growth).
    It might eventually spread through the whole population, and in future it might be no more dangerous than other viruses, such as flu. But it is crucial to survival to slow down its rate of spread now because we have no immunity and no vaccine against coronavirus. Slowing it down allows more time for the health system to cope and for researchers to develop a vaccine.
    Unchecked now, it would overwhelm our health service as it already has in Italy and some American states, and there would be many more deaths of people who can’t be treated for coronavirus, as well as people who can’t be treated for other injuries or illnesses because the hospitals can’t cope. Many people who could have been saved will die of other causes if the health system is overwhelmed.
    So far our governments (State and federal) have acted proportionately to the dangers. They have balanced restrictions on liberties with public education and calls for co-operation. They have provided guidelines for people to protect themselves and others. I hope all the voluntary measures work. If they don’t we can expect to see tougher legal restrictions for our own good.
    Of course it will be important for CLA to follow these developments closely, to see that restrictions are effective and proportionate to the dangers, that unnecessarily draconian laws aren’t introduced, that emergency measures are not left in place after their usefulness has expired, and that the crisis is not used as a cover to bring in further restrictions on our liberty for un-related reasons.
    Meanwhile, there are other real dangers to civil liberties that CLA should be vigilant against: I mean discrimination and targetting of some individuals and groups for harsh treatment or exclusion from normal activities. Such behaviour is possible when people panic. It could be that a greater threat to civil liberties comes from extreme self-interest than from government actions. We might need tougher laws to prevent discrimination at this time.

    Paul Reid
  4. Our health system will be able to save more people if we do not all get sick at the same time.
    So the slower it spreads the more lives we save.

    However, I am alarmed at the speed our civil liberties are disappearing due to this pandemic. While the situation is serious, calling for serious measures, I am very concerned that the legislation being passed does not have a sunset clause.

    The time for containing the virus has passed. It’s fair to assume that sooner or later everyone on the planet will be exposed to it. That could be in a week, a month, or a year. At some time in the near future too many people will be infected for the containment measures to be effective. That’s when we should be rolling back these extreme restrictions.

    William Bor

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