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Bar owner launches lockdown legal action

Former Pub Group director Julian Gerner has launched legal action against Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown.

Gerner currently owns Morgan’s restaurant and bar in Sorrento. He is also is a leader of the “Unlock Hospitality” group, a collection of hospitality businesses pushing for easing of restrictions.

Premier Daniel Andrews extended Victoria’s state of disaster for another four weeks on Sunday and said it was highly unlikely the October 19 reopening of retail in Melbourne would occur.

The government has decreed that Melbourne needs to average five or fewer positive test results per day for a fortnight for the present stage four restrictions to be eased. Melbourne recorded 12 new cases on Sunday and one death, with 14-day average of 9.3 cases.

Gerner has engaged top silks Bret Walker SC and Michael Wyles QC to represent him. A writ of summons against the state of Victoria and a statement of claim from Gerner is expected to be filed in Melbourne’s High Court registry this week.

In a statement to The Age, Gerner said: “I am the Plaintiff and reside on the Mornington Peninsula where I own a restaurant and bar located in Sorrento. I will be represented by Bret Walker SC and Michael Wyles QC who will argue that 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.

“We will apply to the Court for a declaration confirming these freedoms and to set aside the disproportionate and unreasonable responses imposed by the Victorian Government. Being locked at home for 23 hours a day (now 22 hours), not being allowed to travel more than 5 kilometres from home, needing permits to work and travel, being denied the ability to see friends and family or work or go to school.

“This is not what we signed up for and is inconsistent with a free society, representative democratic government and civilised living. Aggressive and heavy-handed enforcement of these restrictions has also alarmed most fair-minded people.”

A draft of Gerner’s statement of claim seeks a High Court ruling on the validity of directions by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act, arguing they are contrary to constitutional rights to implied freedom of movement within a state.

A group of 500 medical professionals have penned an open letter calling for Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to end the state’s lockdown.

The Australian Covid Medical Network argues: “The current restrictions are unnecessary, disproportionate and must be lifted.

“The response to the virus will cause more deaths and result in far more negative health effects than the virus itself.”

Doctor Eamonn Mathieson was among doctors who signed the letter. He told Sunrise he believed the lockdown had caused “a massive collateral damage in health and mental health”.

“There (is) a growing number of doctors who are gravely concerned about the impact of this lockdowns and we are calling for them to cease,” he said.

“We believe that they are disproportionate and unscientific. We have the evidence to back this up and we will be presenting at on our new website and calling for more doctors to join us.”

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