Flight Centre threatens legal challenge to WA borders

Flight Centre has threatened a Federal Court challenge to WA's closed borders.

Flight Centre has threatened a Federal Court challenge to WA's closed borders. Photo: Getty

Flight Centre has flagged a legal challenge to Western Australia’s “unreasonable” border rules, with the state still months away from reopening to the rest of the country.

Chief executive Graham Turner said the company was consulting lawyers and tourism businesses – including some in WA – about seeking a potential judicial review of the closed borders in the Federal Court.

“It has affected a lot of people quite badly from a business point of view, particularly in travel, tourism, airlines and airports, but also, you know, I’ve really feel for the people who haven’t been able to see their close relatives, their parents, grandparents for quite a long time,” Mr Turner told the ABC on Monday.

“There is a whole range of different issues that come with closed borders and lockdowns, much more so than just COVID infection, which luckily we’ve got a very effective vaccine.”

Mr Turner said Flight Centre felt it had a good case to challenge WA Premier Mark McGowan’s decision to keep his state’s borders closed until 90 per cent of over-12s had been vaccinated – which is not expected until February.

‘It is not necessarily going to change the world if we win, but it certainly will change the interstate travel in the short term,” Mr Turner said.

It came as Prime Minister Scott Morrison also took a swipe at WA’s hard line on borders on Monday. He said the plan, revealed by Mr McGowan last Friday, would do “more harm than good”.

“The modelling done by the Doherty Institute makes it very clear and that’s what was agreed in the national plan, not just once but twice, and that is once you hit 80 per cent, double dose vaccination rates, then you’re able to move forward,” he said.

Mr McGowan dashed any hopes of Christmas reunions for separated Australian families with his conservative plan on Friday. He will not set a specific date for reopening until WA reaches 80 per cent vaccination, expected in the first half of December.

Last year, mining magnate Clive Palmer lost a High Court bid to have the WA border stance declared unconstitutional. Mr Turner said that was why Flight Centre was examining the potential of a judicial review, rather than a constitutional challenge.

“It is a significant difference,” he said.

“The other difference is there is widespread vaccinations now of not only the vulnerable people but everyone over 16. The circumstances have changed dramatically, for the better, obviously.”

He said the company was most focussed on WA because it seemed “the most unreasonable”. But it might also look at Tasmania, which has also set a 90 per cent vaccination rate to open up.

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