Canberra International Airport has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to quash a mandatory face mask rule for most staff and passengers inside the airport terminal buildings.
Stephen Byron, the airport’s chief executive said the airport was suing the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) because he believes the face mask mandate breaches the Human Rights Act.
“It is a discrimination with no legal basis, there’s no health basis, there’s no data or evidence that requires this, everyone knows and agrees that,” Byron said on Tuesday after a deadline ultimatum for the ACT government to drop the mandate passed.
Face masks are no longer required in nearly all indoor public settings such as shopping centres, restaurants, gyms and other social venues across the ACT. They are, however, still mandated in high-risk healthcare settings, as well as all forms of public transport including at Canberra airport and on domestic flights.
The ACT government also says anyone entering a public indoor venue is “strongly encouraged” to wear a face mask even though they aren’t legally required.
“There is no evidence the airport terminal is any more infectious than going to any nightclub or shopping centre in Canberra,” Byron told the Daily Mail.
“The mandate is appalling, unnecessary, completely discriminatory and not based on any scientific evidence,” he raged.
Byron fears the mandate is harming business because travellers are led to believe that entering the airport to go on holiday is more dangerous than other social pursuits.
“The last thing we want to be doing is telling people air travel and tourism is more dangerous than going to the shops, footy or the pub,” Byron said.
The airport is currently only interested in lifting the airport mask mandate and is not challenging the federal government’s mask mandate for domestic and international flights.
Canberra airport enforced mask-wearing relatively late in the pandemic when masking rules were introduced in January 2021 but despite a vaccination rate of 97.3% aged five and over, the ACT shows no sign of loosening the restrictions anytime soon.
On Tuesday, the ACT passed new long-term powers that will give the Minister for Health the authority to issue face mask mandates. The existing public health emergency declaration isn’t set to be reviewed until August 11.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.