Over the next few months, the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law will be running a series of webinars discussing the impact on and responses of public law to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These webinars are collaborative exercises, drawing on the expertise of members of our partner centres, our colleagues from universities and institutes across Australia, and legal professionals, as well as Centre members, affiliates, and alumni. They are also designed to complement the Centre’s special series on COVID-19 and Public Law.

The first webinar, Lessons (or Cautions) from Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, drew together experts from Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan to discuss how the governments in their jurisdictions have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, what has determined the success of responses, and what oversight challenges have arisen in an environment of rapid executive and legislative response to crisis.

The discussion focused on the challenges faced where there is a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and how further resurgences might be avoided, and is available now as a recording.

The second webinar, COVID-19 and Cruise Ships, will look at cruise ships as a central site for the transmission of COVID-19. These have created some of the hardest cases for governments to respond to.

How long, for example, is it reasonable to leave people on a ship as part of quarantine measures? What about workers and vulnerable people? Are there limits under domestic or international law on governments’ ability to force cruise ships to leave Australian waters?

Leading public lawyers, historians and international lawyers will debate and analyse these issues on Friday 29 May.

The third webinar in the series, COVID-19 and COVIDSafe on Friday 12 June, will examine the COVIDSafe App launched by the Australian government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will consider the design and function of the app and the legal restrictions on its use, as part of a broader discussion of its potential risks and benefits and public trust in government operated technology.

The fourth webinar, COVID-19, Human Rights Restrictions and Proportionality on 26 June, will focus on restrictions to various human rights – such as freedom of movement and association, and the right to an adequate standard of living. It will note the various countervailing human rights arguments for imposing restrictions of this kind – including the right to the highest attainable level of health.

Drawing on public health and economic experts, as well as experts on human rights and proportionality, it will debate how these different rights are best weighed or balanced – or how we achieve a truly proportionate set of restrictions on some rights in the name of protecting others.

The final two webinars will look at COVID-19 and Federalism: Seeding Chaos or a More Effective Response? on 24 July and COVID-19 and the Turn to E-Courts on 14 August. Please register on the Gilbert + Tobin website.