Legal action launched over Canberra airport mask mandate

By Anna Macdonald

June 8, 2022

Canberra airport
The airport’s CEO, Stephen Byron, said the action is to make clear the mandate is illegal. (frdric/Adobe)

The Canberra Airport Group has launched legal action against the ACT government over the mask mandate in the airport, saying it is in violation of the ACT’s Human Rights Act. 

The airport’s CEO, Stephen Byron, said the action is to make clear the mandate is illegal, and not about potential damages that could be awarded.

“It is beyond the Human Rights Act, because it is a discrimination with no legal basis. There’s no health basis, there’s no data or evidence that requires this, everyone knows and agrees that,” Byron said, as reported by ABC Canberra’s Twitter.

The group sent a letter to the ACT chief health officer pointing to masks no longer being required in other indoor areas in the territory, such as in bus terminals, pubs and brothels. Canberra Airport also pointed to the high vaccination rate in the territory and the EU dropping mask requirements. 

“In addition to impinging upon multiple human rights, as a practical matter, the requirement to wear a face mask at all times within Canberra Airport imposes a significant burden on airport workers and travellers,” the Canberra Airport Group wrote in the letter.

The ACT is one of the few regions in Australia to have specific human rights legislation. 

During a press conference, ACT chief minister Andrew Barr asked how Canberra airport was different from other airports given every airport in Australia requires a mask to be worn when in the terminal.

“In practical reality, you still need to wear a mask when you are on the plane. So what is at stake here is when in the terminal do you need to put your mask on? The current arrangements are once you walk into the terminal building, you’re required to wear a mask,” Barr said.

Masks are federally mandated on all domestic flights and have been in place for airports and flights since January last year. Canberra Airport is not objecting to masks being worn on flights.

Over in the US, a federal judge recently found the mask mandate on airlines overstepped the scope of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Canberra Airport is not the only airport to request airport mask mandates be dropped, with Melbourne Airport stating its opposition to the mandate last month, as reported by The Age

Meanwhile, health officials across Australia have expressed concerns about pressures on health systems from a combination of COVID-19 and flu season. 


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