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Border disorder: the legality of extending current controls

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Article image for Border disorder: the legality of extending current controls

Premier Mark McGowan came under fire from the Opposition today after he floated the possibility of extending WA’s border controls to stem the flow of illicit drugs into the state.

Answering questions at a press conference, the Premier said if Labor won control of the senate, the first thing he’d like to do was extend WA’s State of Emergency for another six months.

He went on to say he’d had discussions with the Police Commissioner about extending border controls to stop the transportation of drugs.

The Premier later clarified his comments to say he wouldn’t seek to keep the G2G pass after the pandemic was over.

“When we talk about extending the system, it’s about extending the checks on the border to prevent the flow of meth, and heroin and cocaine from the laboratories in the east… I think that’s worked very well and that’s the sort of thing we’ll consider in the future.”

But constitutional law expert Anne Twomey doesn’t believe the border controls can be extended to stop drug trafficking.

“You can’t really piggyback on the existing legislation the high court has upheld.”

The University of Sydney Professor explained the emergency legislation was closely linked to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“Preventing drugs from entering the state, while a very important thing, doesn’t fall within that category.”

Professor Twomey also said the state of emergency measures introduced in the wake of the pandemic can’t be extended forever.

“Once that emergency passes, then any of the restrictions that are based on it will also have to go.”

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Former WA Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan weighed in on keeping tighter border controls.

“One of the things about COVID-19 is that it’s given us an extraordinary opportunity to get evidence about the fact that restriction of movement across Australia of course does restrict the flow of drugs… the question is how far you want to go to create that restriction.”

Mr O’Callaghan explained at the moment police have the power to stop everyone as they come through the border because of the emergency laws, but normally that isn’t the case.

“They just can’t stop anyone and search them for drugs, they’ve got to have a reasonable suspicion to do that.”

The former commissioner admitted the movement of drugs in vehicles over the border was a huge problem – but there wasn’t an easy solution.

“The is a lot of resource implication for doing this if you’re going to have some effect.”

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