Governance during Covid-19

The impact of Covid-19 has been felt throughout Australia and the world.

The different forms of governance of each nation often determines how those in power impose sanctions to limit the spread of the virus. At times, such sanctions may be a cover to gain more power and erode the rule of law.

As a result, it is prudent to consider whether the rule of law is being upheld during these times and whether our human rights are being permanently and unreasonably impacted.

People are more likely to obey burdensome laws if they accept that the law is fair, has been properly scrutinised and found to be necessary in the circumstances, and applies to all. We need people to obey the laws in order to stop the spread of COVID-19, so taking action to satisfy them that the laws are fair, necessary and have been properly and democratically scrutinised is a key element in dealing with the pandemic.

– Constitution Education Fund “The rule of law during the coronavirus pandemic”

Rule of Law where Special Powers are introduced during Covid-19

Listen to leading human rights lawyer and Director of the Internationl Bar Associations’s Human Rights Institute, Baroness Helena Kennedy discuss the  Rule of Law in the time of Covid-19  . Baroness Kennedy highlights that special powers given during Covid-19 need to:

  • Be limited in time
  • Have clear ways of review of the exercise of those powers; and
  • Have special rules for Parliament so there can be monitoring of the use of power.

In addition, she highlighted warning signs of potential abuse of power in countries such as Hungary, Russia and India where there have been:

  • Additional powers taken without time limit or opportunity to monitor
  • Lack of freedom of expression with no reliable information available from trusted sources or the internet switched off to control information
  • Overly harsh punishments for breaching special rules

Pandemic Scenario

Using the above podcast, imagine a society where a pandemic wipes out all people over the age of 20.  Without a functioning police force or government, there is anarchy.  Total lawlessness has overwhelmed the community.  The attached scenario helps students contrast different rules and governance that occur during crises and how peace and safety can be returned to the community.

COVIDSafe App and the Rights of the Individual

The rule of law requires agencies to enforce the law using powers that remain controlled, monitored and transparent. These requirements maintain public confidence and ensure those who have the power to track citizens do not abuse this power.

The attached worksheet provides questions for students and helps them decide whether the COVIDSafe app fairly balances government power and public interest with our individual rights.

Technology and the Rule of Law

Look back at the Government’s track record and consider the issues raised with metadata under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.

In the past, how has the government balanced their investigative powers and the rights of the individual?  Have they slowly gained more powers and access or have the restraints in the legislation provided sufficient protections?  Read our resource to learn more.


Stage 3 Resource  on democracy versus totalitarianism

Origins of Governance

Stage 3 resource on the origins of governance

The Magna Carta

The foundation of the rule of law. How has it influenced ideas about freedom and human rights today?