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New rules for crossing the QLD border as COVID-19 continues to spread

Queensland Border Crossing - COVID-19 restrictions

New rules are in place and are frequently changing as COVID-19 spreads from state to state. On Friday 31 July, 2020, Legal Practice Director, Jeff Garrett, spoke to Steve Stuttle on Radio 4CRB and discussed the current QLD-NSW border restrictions and the penalties that can be imposed if you provide a false declaration.

QLD-NSW Border Restrictions

Even though the QLD-NSW border was officially ‘opened’ on 10th July 2020, the developments in Victoria, and more recently in New South Wales, have caused significant delays at checkpoints with additional information needing to be declared when crossing the border. Accordingly, although the borders are open, police are checking all vehicles for a current border pass and photo ID to establish your residential address, which has caused further delay. The border pass is only effective for 7 days and has been updated or changed by the latest health directives, which has also caught people unawares resulting in problems at the checkpoints.

The latest QLD health directive, which came into effect on 27 July 2020, now declares Greater Sydney as a ‘hot spot’, in addition to the already classified cities of Liverpool, Fairfield and Campbelltown, along with all of Victoria. The spread of COVID-19 from Victoria into New South Wales has vindicated any decision to carefully check anyone who may be entering Queensland from hot spots.

For Queensland residents coming back from any of these locations, or returning from overseas, they must go into government regulated quarantine for fourteen days, at their own expense.

Non-Queensland residents who have been in any of the hot spots in the past fourteen days will be turned back at the border and unable to enter the state.

There are exemptions, which include:

  • A person who is entering in order to comply with an order to attend a Court or Tribunal or to give effect to orders of a Court or Tribunal; or
  • Fulfilling a legal obligation relating to shared parenting or child access; or
  • If the person arrives by air to an airport in Queensland and transfers directly to another flight without leaving the confines of the airport;
  • If a person quarantines until the time of their flight to leave Queensland; or
  • If the person arrived in the COVID-19 hot spot and used private transport to travel directly from their point of arrival to an airport in the COVID-19 hot spot without stopping, to depart the hot spot by air;
  • If the person travelled by road using private transport and taking the most practicable direct route through the COVID-19 hot spot without exiting the vehicle.

There is a helpful summary regarding these border restrictions on the QLD Health website here

Declaring Accurate Information on Border Declarations

Anyone entering the state will be required to complete a border declaration. The declaration asks:

  • Are you currently a confirmed case of COVID-19?
  • In the last 14 days have you been in a COVID-19 hot spot?
  • In the last 14 days have you been overseas, had contact with a person who has COVID-19, or had symptoms consistent with COVID-19?

A recent, well publicised, case where two teenagers returned to the state via Sydney after being in Melbourne has received huge media coverage. They completed their border declaration incorrectly, or falsely, and did not disclose the fact they had come from a classified hot spot, being Melbourne.

It is concerning that more was not done upon arrival at the airport in order to further enquire about the traveller’s origin and mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 from other states.

The women have been charged by police, issued infringement notices and are currently under police guard in the Prince Albert Hospital in Brisbane. They are due in Brisbane Magistrates Court on September 28.

For breaching current regulations, the consequences are:

  • an on-the-spot fine which is $1,334; or
  • if a penalty is imposed by a Court, the fine is $13,345, and/or 6 months imprisonment

There is also an offence of providing a false declaration which incurs an:

  • on-the-spot fine of $4,004; or
  • if a penalty is imposed by a Court, the fine is $13,345, and/or 6 months imprisonment.

The possible outcome of the above matter in relation to the community could be catastrophic, as we have already seen happen in Victoria, and the spread of COVID-19 into New South Wales.

An online petition to Premier Annastacia Palaszuk is currently circulating with the public demanding these women receive jail time. The petition has received over one hundred thousand signatures, with more being added by the minute.

High Court Challenges

Earlier this year, the border closures were a source of contention among state leaders. The challenge by Pauline Hanson in relation to the Queensland border closure, which was also backed by Clive Palmer, was discontinued on 17 July, after the Queensland borders reopened on 10 July 2020. Therefore, the Queensland border challenge is finished, for the time being. The issue would have been whether the government had reasonable grounds to close the borders based on health advice about the risk of the spread of COVID-19.

The challenge to Western Australia’s closure of its borders by Clive Palmer continues, although the Federal Government has withdrawn its support of this challenge, presumably because it believes doing so is now electorally unpopular. The outbreaks in Victoria and NSW would presumably give the WA government reasonable health grounds to close its borders. At the time of the challenges being filed, the outbreaks had not yet been discovered in Victoria. One would think that the latest developments would give any state adequate grounds to close its borders based on health considerations.

COVID-19 and Aged Care Facilities

Attwood Marshall Lawyers have received enquiries from frustrated family members from southern states who are unable to enter facilities to see their grandparents, parents or elderly relatives due to lock-down directives. Communication with aged care facilities in these locations has been disgraceful, leaving family members distressed and unable to obtain information about their loved ones.

It is important for those impacted by current restrictions to stay in contact with aged care facilities, their management teams, and make sure you have access to information about your family member and their wellbeing.

Businesses Affected by Border Restrictions

Technically, there are no restrictions for any Tweed Shire or Northern NSW residents to cross the border into QLD. You are permitted to travel into QLD at any time, provided you have the required current declaration. Likewise, for anyone from QLD travelling into NSW, you have the right to return provided you have the required declaration and do not come into contact with any hot spots or someone suffering from COVID-19, etc. With declarations required to be renewed every seven days, many people are simply forgetting to do so, which is resulting in Police having to run through the declaration requirements every time. This contributes to the long delays being experienced at check points. For people who live on one side of the border and work on the other, this has become a big problem due to the build-up of traffic queues at checkpoints particularly at peak hour times.

Attwood Marshall Lawyers are lucky in that we have offices located in Coolangatta and Kingscliff, which means our staff continue to offer the same exceptional service and accessibility to our clients. Our staff and clients can attend the office which is most convenient to their residence location, without having to run the border gauntlet.

Signing of Legal Documents

For anyone unable to attend one of our offices, The Electronic Transactions Amendment (COVID-19) Witnessing of Documents Regulation 2020 (The Regulations) and the Justice Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response – Documents and Oaths) Regulations 2020, allows clients to have their Will, Power of Attorney and Appointment of Enduring Guardian documents signed and witnessed by video, which means these are still legally valid documents and can be signed via Zoom, FaceTime, or a similar application in either State.

We still prefer to witness documents face-to-face where possible, as it is important to be in the presence of the person to check their capacity and make sure the document they are signing correctly reflects the client’s instructions.

How can Attwood Marshall Lawyers help?

Attwood Marshall Lawyers have implemented an approved COVID Safe Plan to ensure our staff and clients wellbeing are a top priority. We continue to offer phone, Skype or FaceTime appointments to clients as an initial form of communication. Subsequent meetings requiring document signing are conducted following all health protocols in our spacious meeting rooms which are meticulously cleaned and sanitised after every meeting.

Our convenient office locations either side of the QLD/NSW border in Coolangatta and Kingscliff allows you to visit whichever office you prefer and not have to run the border checkpoint gauntlet! We also have offices at Robina Town Centre and Brisbane City in QLD.

If you would like to speak to our team today, call any time on 1800 621 071 or email info@attwoodmarshall.com.au

UPDATE!

07 August 2020 – QLD Borders closed to NSW, ACT and VIC as states declared hot spots.

From 1.00am on Saturday 8 August 2020, Queensland will close its borders to NSW and ACT, in addition to VIC, as these states are now declared hot spots. COVID-19 hot spots continue to be updated regularly.

Border zone residents (anyone who lives in a community on the Queensland New South Wales border) will be able to cross the border for any purpose so long as they remain within the border zone. Queensland border zone residents cannot travel outside the border zone in New South Wales, and New South Wales border zone residents cannot travel outside the border zone in either Queensland or New South Wales. Residents will need to obtain a new Queensland Border Declaration Pass to cross the border even if they are a returning Queenslander. Satisfactory evidence of identity such as a driver’s license or Medicare card will need to be provided when crossing the border.

Changes have also been made to who is classed as providing an essential activity. To view the list of essential activities click here.

This came after another person tested positive to COVID-19 after crossing the border, and more reports of “continuous breaches” of the border by Queenslanders lying to get back into the state.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has advised all visitors will be denied entry into Queensland, except for rare exemptions, and returning Queenslanders who will be required to pay for 14 days mandatory hotel quarantine. Queensland currently has 12 active COVID-19 cases, with 7 people in hospital.

Read our COVID-19 statement here
Read the latest Border Restrictions Direction (No. 11) here

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Jeff Garrett

Jeff Garrett

  • Legal Practice Director
  • Direct line: 07 5506 8201
  • Mobile: 0419 304 174