High-profile Mornington Peninsula restaurateur Julian Gerner, pictured, is launching a High Court challenge against the State Government’s “aggressive and heavy-handed” COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Lawyers acting for the Sorrento restaurant operator filed documents with the High Court yesterday. Mr Gerner’s barristers, Bret Walker SC and Michael Wyles QC, argue that the crippling lockdown restrictions “lack any legitimate purpose that is compatible with the constitutionally prescribed system of federation”. Government restrictions also breach constitutional freedoms that allow people to move freely, his barristers said.
Mr Gerner owns Morgan’s Beach Shack and adjoining Wine Store and Ale House in Sorrento. His challenge also argues that restrictions including the 5km rule, a night curfew and worker permits are a disproportionate response to the pandemic.
“The Victorian Government has engaged in an unnecessary lockdown of the state and the economy, denying our basic freedoms as Australian citizens under our Federal Constitution, including our right to freedom of movement,” Mr Gerner said in a statement.
“We will apply to the court for a declaration confirming these freedoms and to set aside the disproportionate and unreasonable responses and restrictions imposed by the Victorian Government.”
The State Government argues that restrictions are based on public health advice and will be eased when requirements are met.
State Department of Health and Human Services data indicates the Mornington Peninsula Shire has no active COVID-19 cases; Frankston City has nine active cases, but no new cases over the past 24 hours.
Tourism and hospitality operators on the Peninsula have been hit hard by the restrictions. Mornington Peninsula Regional Tourism Board chairwoman Tracey Cooper previously told Breaking News the situation was so dire that the sector was “on its knees”.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council figures indicate the impacts of the pandemic are likely to be greater in the region than Australia overall, with:
• Gross regional product down 21 per cent, compared with 6.9 per cent overall for Australia;
• 5900 jobs lost; and,
• An 11 per cent reduction in employment opportunities.
According the State Government, tourism is a critical industry for the Peninsula’s economy. Figures indicated tourism was worth $10 billion to the region’s economy in 2017-18.