Why we were happy to go along with the 'stay home' message

Why we were happy to go along with the 'stay home' message and how it will guide our exit strategy

National News
We were largely happy to comply with the "stay home" directives, civil liberties expert Stephen Blanks said.

We were largely happy to comply with the "stay home" directives, civil liberties expert Stephen Blanks said.

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Sensitive law enforcement will be vital to exiting restrictions, says one civil liberties expert.

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Careful and sensitive law enforcement is vital as Australia continues its exit from COVID-19 restrictions, according to NSW Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Stephen Blanks.

As state governments ease restrictions to varying degrees, Mr Blanks said that similar principles needed to be applied to exiting self-isolation as going in.

"That is you need very, very careful, sensitive enforcement from the police," Mr Blanks said.

"The police have to perform their role in a way that does not undermine community support (of restrictions) because one thing which could lead to a very quick loss of community support is if the police are seen to be picking on people unfairly, imposing fines as a first line of response instead of a last line of response, and imposing fines in ways that are not really relevant to the community health control aspect."

Early in the pandemic, as social distancing restrictions were rapidly implemented, Mr Blanks said there were examples where police had imposed fines where there was just "no justification for it". He said, in these cases, they'd been called out on it.

"Fortunately, from the sense that I have, the number of instances of that have been relatively low and the media are there to pick up any which do occur."

Reflecting on the implementation of restrictions during the past two months, Mr Blanks described the situation as "extraordinary".

"That the onus is on you to demonstrate you've got a reasonable excuse to be outside your home - that is just utterly extraordinary."

What was "equally extraordinary", Mr Blanks said was that, by and large, the community was "happy" to go along with it.

"The reason I think the Australian community has been so supportive is because the politicians did a pretty good job of explaining the epidemiological nature of the problem.

"They provided a lot of expert information to the public domain in a way that was really consistent, really easy to understand and impossible to argue with."

Mr Blanks said one of the reasons there was no significant questioning of the reduction in freedoms was because the entire community were provided with an opportunity to understand the message and the data behind it.

Mr Blanks described the situation as "absolutely unique".

EXIT STRATEGY: NSW Council for Civil Liberties' Stephen Blanks said that similar principles needed to be applied to exiting self-isolation as going in.

EXIT STRATEGY: NSW Council for Civil Liberties' Stephen Blanks said that similar principles needed to be applied to exiting self-isolation as going in.

"There's never been a public health order, or any other kind of order, requiring people to stay at home - never.

"And, I can't think of another situation where it would be justified or even able to be contemplated."

Police in most states in Australia can still fine residents for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

Acting Deputy Commissioner of Tasmania Police Jonathan Higgins said the past couple of months "has been an unprecedented period of change and a very challenging time" for everyone.

"The response to COVID-19 is dynamic and will continue to evolve rapidly over the coming weeks and perhaps months as restrictions are eased," Mr Higgins said.

The story Why we were happy to go along with the 'stay home' message first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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