Andrews’ bid to hide truth on curfew

By | September 23, 2020

The Victorian government will attempt to block records from being publicly aired in a trial challenging the legality of the state’s curfew.

Lawyers acting for health bureaucrat Michelle Giles, whose signature is on the order extending the state’s curfew from September 14, have told the Supreme Court of Victoria they will try to claim public interest immunity in the trial.

The government’s lawyers will argue that some of the data that informed Giles’ decision would not be in the public interest to be released in open court — where it would be accessible to all.

Judge Timothy Ginnane will rule if the documents will or won’t be released when the trial begins on Monday.

Michelle Giles is expected to be grilled by lawyers on Monday about what was going through her mind when she signed the order.

The order she signed extended the curfew, but loosened it from 8pm to 5am, to 9pm to 5am.

The trial date for the lawsuit challenging the legality of Victoria’s curfew, claiming it breaches human rights, was set earlier on Tuesday.

Single mum-of-three and Mornington Peninsula cafe owner – and Liberal Party member – Michelle Loielo Ms Giles for extending Victoria’s curfew from September 14.

The judge-alone trial will take place in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Monday and Tuesday next week.

Ms Loielo’s lawyers are claiming the curfew was “bizarre, capricious, and arbitrary”.

They argued on Tuesday that Ms Giles had an irrational state of mind when she signed off on the order.

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But Ms Giles maintains she made the decision independently and based on her knowledge and experience in the health field.

“Based on what I have seen occur in Victoria and overseas, I believed that large numbers of Victorians may die if appropriate restrictions were not put in place,” she said in an affidavit filed with the court.

Premier Daniel Andrews was asked about the case during the press conference.

“I can’t give you an answer to that,” he said. “I have no knowledge of the status of that. I can say that it’s obviously before the court, as your question indicates, so I’m limited in what I can say.”

Pressed again on whether he would claim public interest immunity, he said the “absolutely frank answer to you is I do not know, nor am I acquainted with the documents the court has sought or the parties to that action have sought and that speaks to the fact that I‘m in no way involved in that matter”.

“That matter is being dealt with by the appropriate legal teams and others who are called in that action,” he said.

“That’s not a matter that is on my desk.”

But Mr Andrews said rules around issues like public interest immunity and cabinet-in-confidence were “well known and understood”.

“It is difficult to make broad statements unless you know and understand the context and nature of the documents being sought,” he said.

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