Regulating Space

In a liberal democracy, it is rare for our movement and spaces to be so openly controlled and restricted by our governments. The current situation has raised concern over the balance between emergency laws, surveillance, and our personal freedoms and rights. On the other hand, the novelty of the COVID-19 restrictions for some of us, was already a daily lived reality for others. Migrants and refugees, the homeless, people of marginalised races, genders, ability, and sexuality were all restricted and regulated before COVID-19 and the crisis is exacerbating these pre-existing disparities. An awareness of different perspectives and experiences will be integral to designing a fair and sustainable post-COVID-19 future.


Policy Insights

  • Discussions concerning the future of human mobility post-pandemic should include a wide-range of innovative, and high-level thinkers. This will enable governments to develop a thorough understanding of key issues and advance policies to address them. Read more.
  • Support for the working class will be essential to re-building and maintaining the economy post COVID-19, in order to avoid increased demand on welfare, continued market damage, and the fuelling of social unrest. Read more.
  • Identifying how to overcome the digital divide, and improve digital literacy and cybersecurity, are prerequisites for the protection of privacy and other rights. Read more.
  • Government-led public infrastructure projects will be key to building community cohesion post COVID-19. Read more.
  • In light of the drastic steps taken to shut down borders during the pandemic, policymakers have an opportunity to reassess the basis on which we permit entry to Australia from different countries, and to ensure that the system is as equitable as possible. Read more.
  • Public debates about how police powers are being used and monitored in times of crisis must be informed by comprehensive data, in order to ensure accountability and transparency. Read more.

Discussions concerning the future of human mobility post-pandemic should include a wide-range of innovative, and high-level thinkers. This will enable governments to develop a thorough understanding of key issues and advance policies to address them.

Associate Professor Alan Gamlen

What is a key policy challenge facing governments right now (and into the future) that has emerged or been exacerbated by COVID-19?

The major disruptive effect of the COVID-19 lockdowns is the sudden freeze on human mobility and migration of almost every kind, from walking to the shops, to commuting to the office, to visiting another country. Societies and economies depend on this mobility. Governments are faced with massive policy challenges in terms of (1) stopping mobility, (2) keeping society running without the mobility it needs, (3) deciding what kinds of mobility contributed to the crises and should not be allowed to resume, and (4) resuming all other kinds of mobility as soon as possible.

Who (or what) is missing from discussion of the policy challenge you have described?

It would be helpful to have a high-level discussion about how the future of mobility and migration should look after the 2020 Pandemic. Such a discussion needs to include major decision makers and opinion shapers across politics and policy, universities, think tanks, industry and civil society. There should be a focus on including innovative and high-level thinkers, rather than establishment gatekeepers who in some sense have led us into this crisis.

If a key government decision maker (e.g. a Cabinet Minister) asked you for advice on how to address this challenge, what would you say? Why?

My advice to government decision makers regarding migration and mobility would be to form an agenda of key issues arising from the pandemic. This agenda should then be refined through rigorous, high-level cross-sectoral debate and research, leading to a thorough needs analysis.


Support for the working class will be essential to re-building and maintaining the economy post COVID-19, in order to avoid increased demand on welfare, continued market damage, and the fuelling of social unrest.

Dr Ali Alizadeh

What is a key policy challenge facing governments right now (and into the future) that has emerged or been exacerbated by COVID-19?

The current crisis has taken a devastating toll on Australian workers. Many have lost work while others have been forced to forgo many of their rights in the name of saving businesses. The Government must ensure that jobs and the rights of workers are restored.

Who (or what) is missing from discussion of the policy challenge you have described?

Grassroots worker organisations, particularly those that represent workers that are non-unionised, such as most casual and contract workers, as well as workers in industries that are not largely unionised, such as hospitality.

If a key government decision maker (e.g. a Cabinet Minister) asked you for advice on how to address this challenge, what would you say? Why?

The recovery of the economy cannot come at the expense of Australian workers becoming jobless and destitute. This would be highly immoral, anti-social, and also very bad for the economy, with dire political consequences. By privileging the interests of investors, business owners and bosses -- which has largely been the case thus far -- the Government runs the risk of creating a large and perhaps permanent underclass of people with neither the ability to contribute their labour power to the economy, nor to consume. This would dramatically increase Government expenditure on welfare, damage the domestic market, and result in major social antagonism and unrest.

Additional resources

Mirowski, P. (2013) Never let a serious crisis go to waste: How neoliberalism survived the financial meltdown. Verso Books.

Klein, N. (2007) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Knpof.


Identifying how to overcome the digital divide, and improve digital literacy and cybersecurity, are prerequisites for the protection of privacy and other rights.

Dr Lennon Chang

What is a key policy challenge facing governments right now (and into the future) that has emerged or been exacerbated by COVID-19?

The government's reliance on apps to inform the public and to trace infections has exacerbated the challenges of the digital divide, digital literacy, online safety and cyber security. The most impacted cohort, those aged over 70, are least able to use these technologies and widespread working and learning from home have left society increasingly vulnerable to cybersecurity threats.

Who (or what) is missing from discussion of the policy challenge you have described?

Once government agencies have tasted the power of tracing apps, and the public have become relaxed about forgoing privacy in the national interest, can the genie be put back in the bottle? Will there be calls for paedophiles to be tracked and will police want the option to get a warrant to track criminal suspects [using information from these apps]?

If a key government decision maker (e.g. a Cabinet Minister) asked you for advice on how to address this challenge, what would you say? Why?

Society cannot ignore new technology. The opportunities it creates - for example, to communicate public interest messages and to fight crime - are powerful, but these come with risks to freedoms and privacy. It is important that public debate leads to a balance being struck between individual freedoms and rights, and societal benefits. How to overcome the digital divide, and improve digital literacy and cybersecurity, are prerequisites for the protection of privacy and other rights and should be part of the conversation and action agenda.

Additional resources

Chang, L. (2020) Coronavirus, cybercrime and the parasitising of a pandemic. Monash Lens.


Government-led public infrastructure projects will be key to building community cohesion post COVID-19.

Professor Guy Geltner

What is a key policy challenge facing governments right now (and into the future) that has emerged or been exacerbated by COVID-19?

How to recover economies and societies in a way that will fight inequalities, not deepen them, and create cohesion, not fragmentation.

Who (or what) is missing from discussion of the policy challenge you have described?

By definition, voices that are marginalized in tranquil times are even easier to ignore under crisis. Without structural change, women, the poor, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities will continue to bear the brunt of this crisis.

If a key government decision maker (e.g. a Cabinet Minister) asked you for advice on how to address this challenge, what would you say? Why?

This epidemic, along with other environmental challenges we face, exposes society's seams. Yet it also highlights how healthy social relations, and not just advanced science and technology, are a key to prevention, curing and healing. There needs to be a balance between the desire to recover the economy as soon as possible, and the urgent need to fix social ills by bringing more people into the conversation than ever before. It's one thing to celebrate service givers on an epidemic's (or a fire's) front line, it's quite another to provide them with sustainable solutions to their pre-existing problems: inadequate pay, job insecurity, educational and medical inequality, racism, classism, xenophobia, sexism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and hetero-normativity, to name a few.

People who do not feel they belong but have paid the ultimate price so that others could carry on, are less likely to feel solidarity in the future. Government can deliver on this, and public infrastructures are a major part of the solution, since building and maintaining them creates community cohesion. By contrast, privatizing and outsourcing infrastructures erodes public confidence, limits access and deepens divisions.

Additional resources

Geltner, G. (2011) Social Deviancy: A Medieval Approach in Why the Middle Ages Matter: Medieval Light on Modern Injustice, ed. Celia M. Chazelle, et al. Routledge, 29-40.

Collier, S. J., Mizes, J. C., and von Schnitzler, A., eds. (2016) Public Infrastructures/ Infrastructural Publics. Limn.


In light of the drastic steps taken to shut down borders during the pandemic, policymakers have an opportunity to reassess the basis on which we permit entry to Australia from different countries, and to ensure that the system is as equitable as possible.

Associate Professor Leanne Weber

What is a key policy challenge facing governments right now (and into the future) that has emerged or been exacerbated by COVID-19?

Controlling movement across both national and state borders has been a key biosecurity measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Re-opening borders in an equitable way that also protects public health will be a challenge into the future.

Who (or what) is missing from discussion of the policy challenge you have described?

When the national border was being selectively shut down in the early weeks of the pandemic to prevent entry from particular countries, there was noticeable variability in the response to rising cases in different countries. This arguably exposed underlying inequities in the government's risk-based approach to border control more broadly.

If a key government decision maker (e.g. a Cabinet Minister) asked you for advice on how to address this challenge, what would you say? Why?

The drastic steps taken to shut down borders during the pandemic offer an opportunity to reassess the basis on which we permit entry to Australia from different countries, and to ensure that the system is as equitable as possible.

Additional resources

Weber, L. (2020) Could the COVID-19 re-bordering of Australia change it for the better? Monash Lens.


Public debates about how police powers are being used and monitored in times of crisis must be informed by comprehensive data, in order to ensure accountability and transparency.

Associate Professor Leanne Weber

What is a key policy challenge facing governments right now (and into the future) that has emerged or been exacerbated by COVID-19?

Police in virtually every state of Australia have been granted extraordinary powers to enforce new physical distancing laws, quarantine requirements and other biosecurity measures. The immediate challenge is to ensure the powers are used appropriately and in ways that do not damage police-community relations.

Who (or what) is missing from discussion of the policy challenge you have described?

In order to ensure accountability and transparency, comprehensive data is needed to inform public debates about how these powers are being used.

If a key government decision maker (e.g. a Cabinet Minister) asked you for advice on how to address this challenge, what would you say? Why?

Monitoring data on use of special powers should be published regularly, and accessible mechanisms should be provided in each state to challenge inappropriate issuing of infringement notices or other misuse of powers.

Additional resources

The COVID-19 Policing In Australia website has been established to collect public reports on use of powers.


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