The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s Regional Programme Australia and the Pacific recently initiated a rule of law dialogue between Germany and Australia with the aim of extending it to New Zealand and the South Pacific. KAS Australia seeks to contribute through its Periscope series to the ongoing rule of law debate, including current issues such as the proportionality of coronavirus measures and the interaction between law and politics as well as opportunities and limits of rule of law states. We would like to connect Germany and the European Union with Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific in an endeavour to increase mutual understanding and to foster idea and knowledge sharing between policy makers, legal experts and other stakeholders. 

2020 will be remembered for disruptions both of national and global scale, from the Australian bushfires to the coronavirus pandemic. Given KAS Australia’s mandate to foster public debate and to promote theme-focussed dialogues, publishing a Periscope edition on the coronavirus measures from a rule of law perspective was an obvious choice. This edition includes reflections on the approach taken by various countries to protect public health. Our contributors from Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa provide an overview of their respective country’s response to the pandemic to date and analyse the specific measures as to their proportionality and compliance with the rule of law. The contributions were submitted between mid-July and mid-August 2020 and reflect the situation in the aforementioned countries at that date.

While the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, described the temporary interference with citizens’ fundamental rights as an “imposition on democracy”, others labelled the coronavirus measures a challenge to the rule of law. But the pandemic also represents a challenge for democracy in a different respect. More precisely, the measures resulted in disinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories used by political extremist groups. They are indeed a test for liberal democracies. Thanks to the strong and stable foundation of the German political system and that of our like-minded partners, however, they never posed a real threat. Nevertheless, a discussion of how far a state may go to contain a pandemic is a legitimate expression of any democratic culture. 

The complexity of the pandemic made extraordinary measures temporarily necessary and required comprehensive trust both in experts and governments. Dealing with the crisis is not only the task of medical experts and politicians alone: we as responsible citizens must also tackle the challenge to public health, and at the same time uphold the values our liberal democracies are built on. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it like this prior to the second lockdown in November this year: I have faith in the power of reason and responsibility in a democracy.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the authors cordially for their insightful and incisive contributions and the co-editors for their well-rounded efforts. It is my hope that this publication is thought-provoking for lawmakers, experts and other stakeholders alike and will further promote the discussion.

Dr Beatrice Gorawantschy

Director
Regional Programme Australia and the Pacific
Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

Canberra
31 October 2020

Endnotes

  1. Quote from a press conference, <www.cdu.de/corona/merkel-warnt-vor-notlage>
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Dr Beatrice Gorawantschy

Director KAS Regional Programme for Australia and the Pacific

Biography

Dr Beatrice Gorawantschy is the Director of the KAS Regional Programme Australia & the Pacific. Her vision for PERISCOPE is to be a focussed instrument and platform to further “build thematic bridges” and “overcome geographical distances” between Europe and Australia and the Pacific Region.

Beatrice holds a PhD in Political Science from the Saar University in Germany. She has been working with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) since 1992 and served on postings for the  Foundation to Ankara, Manila, Bangkok, Paris, New Delhi and Singapore and also headed the Department of Asia and the Pacific of KAS Headquarters in Berlin. Her research and work in the field of international relations in the past 30 years  focussed on politics in the Middle East and Asia – South and  South East Asia (including the regional organisations ASEAN and SAARC) in particular – and these regions’ relations to Europe. In the beginning of 2017, the new KAS Regional Programme Australia and the Pacific, based in Canberra, was established under her directorship. Having been posted to various offices of KAS’ international network, it is an exciting challenge and great privilege for her to shape this programme on a new continent. Beatrice’s various assignments in Europe and Asia always made her reflect on how to bring the different regions closer together. This is best summed up by the recognition that what is happening in the Asia Pacific region matters to Europe and vice versa – and the Covid-19 Pandemic has made this even more obvious.

Introduction

Analysis

Conclusion