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Does Graham Turner’s threats to sue shuttered states have legal legs?

Last year, the High Court upheld Western Australia’s hard border, saying it was a proportionate public health response.


But senior lawyer for Arnold Bloch Leibler, Leon Zwier, wrote in the Australian that the national plan to reopen along with our rapid uptake of vaccinations would now likely shift the balance of legal arguments to those wanting to challenge state border closures.


“Chief Justice Susan Kiefel and Justice Pat Keane endorsed WA’s position with a powerful and prescient statement of the court’s reasoning: ‘There is no known vaccine, and no treatment presently available to mitigate the risks of severe medical outcomes or mortality for a person who contracts COVID-19’,” he said.


“The question … is this: did the High Court deliberately leave the door open to a future challenge as soon as a vaccine was rolled out and other treatments approved?”


Enter Flight Centre chief executive Graham Turner who is prepared to mount a legal battle against Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania if they do not unveil “reasonable” plans to rejoin the rest of the country, claiming it is costing the company $100 million a month, the Australian reported. 


“Our lawyers do believe the case has actually changed since the Palmer case on whether it is reasonable to keep the borders shut,” he told the paper. 


“We expect the state premiers to have a plan and we expect it to be reasonable. If not and the borders stay shut, we don’t have a choice but to challenge.


“We are losing $800m a month’s worth of sales and that makes up about $100m a month in our total revenue.


“We are prepared to mount a challenge ourselves, but we have been talking to quite a few companies if we have to challenge.”

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Published: 6 October 2021

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