A NSW Supreme Court judge has sided with the government in a landmark decision following a challenge to the state’s public health orders.
The NSW government has won a landmark Supreme Court challenge to the state’s lockdown measures to combat the Covid outbreak.
Two sets of plaintiffs – who all refused to be vaccinated – filed civil suits asking for various aspects of the public health orders to be quashed and that the government be restrained from setting any further lockdown measures.
Northern Rivers woman Natasha Henry and five other citizens asked the court to overturn rules requiring aged care workers to get the Covid-19 jab and prohibiting unvaccinated essential workers from leaving a local government area of concern for their jobs.
Another group, including construction worker Al-Munir Kassam, was asking the public health orders be declared invalid because they impugn their “personal liberty” and force them to undergo a medical procedure.
However, Robert Justice Beech-Jones ordered that both lawsuits be dismissed on Friday afternoon.
“It was contended the orders interfered with a person’s right to bodily integrity and a host of other freedoms,” Justice Beech-Jones said.
“When all is said and done, the proper analysis is the impugned order curtails freedom of movement, which in turn affects a person’s ability to work and socialise.”
The case has attracted enormous interest with more than 45,000 people tuning into a live stream of the opening day of the hearing.
Justice Beech-Jones also took the extraordinary step of issuing a warning to people watching on not to contact him after his chambers were inundated by emails and phone calls.
His warning came after anti-vax groups on social media encouraged people to write into Justice Beech-Jones.
The proceedings were also the subject of a misinformation campaign, with a fake transcript that circulated online claiming key government witness Kristine Macartney had said in evidence that vaccinated people were 13 times more likely to catch Covid.
The fake transcript also misspelled or incorrectly stated the names of NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, Professor Macartney and Justice Beech-Jones.
The Kassam plaintiffs relied on the evidence of several medical professionals including Professor Thomas Borody, who claimed that he could cure Covid-19 with a mixture of ivermectin, zinc and doxycycline.
They also relied on evidence from Professor Ian Brighthope, a specialist in nutritional medicine who said that vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and ivermectin could be used to treat the deadly virus.
“In summary, Covid-19 poses very little risk to people of good health.” Professor Brighthope’s affidavit said.
But as Justice Beech-Jones pointed out: “No academic publications, research papers or regulatory approvals are referred to in Professor Brighthope’s affidavit as supporting these opinions.”
Justice Beech-Jones said he instead accepted the evidence of Professor Macartney, a University of Sydney professor and the director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.
“She is a more qualified expert to opine on the topic on the suitability of these treatments than the witnesses called by the Kassam plaintiffs,” Justice Beech-Jones said.
The government had argued that the rules did not amount to a vaccine mandate, despite there being economic pressure exerted upon them.
Barrister Jeremy Kirk pointed out that none of the people suing the Health Minister were forced to get the Covid-19 jab.
The plaintiffs argued that the lockdown measures amounted to an “unreasonable exercise of power” because it affected fundamental rights and freedoms.
They also argued that the orders should be ruled invalid on legal grounds because they were inconsistent with the Law Enforcement Powers and Responsibilities Act.
But in a resounding win for the government that crafted the orders, Justice Beech-Jones dismissed the lawsuits on all grounds including arguments that the orders were not necessary and were a form of civil conscription.
“The differential treatment to people according to their vaccination status is not arbitrary,” Justice-Beech Jones said.
“On the evidence, the approach taken by the minister is very much consistent with the Public Health Act. According this aspect of both challenges fails.”