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  • Attorney-general has warned that Aussies can be detained under biosecurity laws

    Author: AAP

Under new biosecurity powers, health authorities can detain and question coronavirus-positive Australians, the attorney-general has warned.

Australians who test positive for coronavirus could be legally detained and questioned over their travel and contact history under biosecurity laws.

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Attorney-General Christian Porter told parliament on Monday the laws - which were effective from the official "listing" of the coronavirus on January 21 - could also bar people or large groups going to shopping centres, schools or work.

"These are challenging times going forward and these will be some of the first times these important powers may be used," Mr Porter said.

Mr Porter alerted Australians the government may be forced to use the laws under the Biosecurity Act in the months ahead.

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Authorities would also be able to restrict people with coronavirus to remain in a certain place or undergo quarantine.

It would also allow the government to declare a "human health response zone", such as that activated for the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Unauthorised people would be banned from leaving or entering these zones for up to three months, with the zone applying to "the whole or a part of a specified building", according to the laws.

The Law Council said at the time the biosecurity laws were being debated that, while modernisation of quarantine controls was justified, they should also better consider Australians' rights and the rule of law.

For a control order to be made there is no requirement for a person to actually be infected or for the officer to even reasonably believe or suspect that the person is infected.

As well, the health response zones could be the size of a small city or large rural area, and could be in place for up to three months.

The laws also enable entry to premises without consent in situations of emergency or serious danger to public health.

Australia has had 30 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with one elderly Perth man on Sunday being the first person in Australia to die of the virus.

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