High Court says WA's decision to close borders due to COVID-19 was justified
The High Court of Australia has determined Western Australia's decision to close its borders last year was "not discriminatory".
The court said the state's decision was justified due to risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state shut its borders to the rest of Australia in April last year, to stop the spread of the virus.
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Mining billionaire Clive Palmer challenged the hard border closure after he was denied a travel exemption in May last year.
A hearing took place in the High Court over two days in November.
The court published its findings today, with the reasons on why the border closure did not infringe on a section of the constitution stating interstate travel should be "absolutely free".
The findings said during a state of emergency an authorised officer may "direct or, by direction, prohibit, the movement of persons, animals and vehicles within, into, out of or around an emergency area or any part of the emergency area".
The court considered the potential impacts on WA if people entered the state while infectious at the time of the hard border.
"There would be a high probability that the virus would be transmitted into the Western Australian population and at least a moderate probability that there would be uncontrolled outbreaks," the court said.
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"If there were uncontrolled outbreaks, the consequences would include the risk of death and hospitalisation, particularly for the vulnerable groups mentioned above.
"In a worst-case scenario, the health consequences could be 'catastrophic'".
The court ruled Mr Palmer should pay the costs of the special case.
WA Premier Mark McGowan welcomed the High Court's decision.
"Clive Palmer challenged the borders at the height of the pandemic," Mr McGowan told reporters today.
"What we did saved lives."
Mr McGowan said he did not have an estimate of the costs Mr Palmer would be required to pay to WA, however he said he believed it would be "significant".
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"I'm pleased we were successful," he said.
The decision reaffirms decades of case law allowing states to restrict travel through interstate borders in the event of national disasters.