Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay has slammed the limited scope of the Government’s proposed Covid inquiry.
She said the Prime Minister’s decision to prevent the inquiry from examining the actions of State and Territory leaders was wrong.
Australians had endured some of the most severe restrictions in the world during the pandemic and they needed to be “rigorously reviewed to avoid unnecessary suffering in future”.
Finlay’s comments come in the wake of Albanese’s decision to appoint a panel of three to examine the federal government’s Covid response.
Critics have said Albanese should have called a Royal Commission and given it the power to examine all parts of the pandemic response, from lockdowns to school closures.
Finlay said state police enforcement of lockdown rules had been clearly too harsh.
“Australian people deserve to have those stories told,” she said.
“There were so many examples where it really divided us and eroded trust in public institutions. It’s important to start addressing that.”
The Prime Minister refused to answer questions about his Covid inquiry when he held a press conference about the Voice in Sydney on Sunday.
When a Sydney Morning Herald journalist asked, “Prime minister, could we just get you on the Covid inquiry?” the PM replied: “No, we’re doing this, mate.”
Finlay said Albanese was right to say the pandemic was the most significant crisis Australians had faced in decades.
“And that’s why it deserves a comprehensive inquiry,” she said. “Nothing should be out of scope, and the fact there are quite significant carve-outs is quite concerning.
“Secondly, human rights need to be front and centre. And they aren’t even expressly mentioned in the terms of reference at all.
“The enforcement of public health measures was done at state government levels. Those key decisions may be entirely outside the scope of this inquiry, and they had a really significant impact on people’s lives.
“Only a royal commission jointly established by the states, territories and Commonwealth governments would be able to show us that full picture and put us in the best position to prepare for future emergencies."