Motorsport Australia believes that “many events are in a position to continue” despite impending legislation against organised mass gatherings in Australia, and the postponement of the Australian Rally Championship opener.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison today announced that state and territory governments will move to enact legislation tomorrow which bans gatherings of over 500 people, having only issued advice last Friday.
Next weekend’s National Capital Rally has been postponed to an as yet unspecified date but a comment from Motorsport Australia contained within today’s release states that the ARC decision does not necessarily have implications for other motorsport meetings.
“Motorsport Australia also acknowledges the Federal Government’s announcement today regarding the restriction on public gatherings, but believes at this time many events are in a position to continue, based on the restrictions in place,” reads the release, in part.
Prime Minister Morrison stated that the state/territory legislation will apply to “static, non-essential gatherings of persons”, and follows the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) to the National Cabinet, which consists of Morrison and state premiers/territory chief ministers today.
“The AHPPC’s advice is for static, non-essential gatherings of persons, that they should not go ahead if there are more than 500 people who would be in such a gathering,” said the Prime Minister.
“A static gathering is when you’re sitting, as you (assembled media) are here in this room, for prolonged periods.
“That would occur at a stadium, it would occur in a theatre, it would occur in events such as those where people are together in close proximity for a sustained period of time.
“The advice is that those gatherings should not continue at that scale.
“The AHPPC (advice) includes how you can mitigate those events. If they are in much larger rooms, that obviously that reduces the risk; if the gathering is outdoors in much more open gatherings, well obviously, that reduces the risk.
“So, what the National Cabinet has agreed today is that we will adopt that recommendation and we will be preventing non-essential, static gatherings of more than 500 people occurring across the states and territories.
“The states and territories will be moving to put in place the appropriate arrangements under their state-based legislation to ensure that that is supported.
“That legislation is a matter for the states and territories, they’ll be working on that promptly, but from here on in, from Monday, it’s important that people act in accordance with that advice.”
It remains to be seen exactly how that legislation could affect motorsport events, and whether or not events of some scale would be allowed to proceed while larger meetings might not be.
While other sporting fixtures may be conducted in somewhat enclosed stadiums, motorsport meetings are generally held at expansive venues and patrons often spectate from open areas.
The Prime Minister also advised that enforcement of the legislation would be carried out using existing policing resources.
“The states and territories, wisely, are not going to create event police or social distancing police, or things of that nature – that would not be a wise use of police resources around the country,” he added.
“But, the legislation impact would mean that if a person did fail to observe the 14-day self-isolation (regarding arrivals from overseas), or if an event was organised, that would be contrary, once those provisions are put in place, to state law, and there’d be nothing preventing, I’m sure, the states from ensuring that was dated from Monday.
“But they will be specific details that the states would naturally work together on and ensure as much consistency as possible across their jurisdictions.”
All people arriving in Australia from overseas will now be required to quarantine themselves for 14 days, consistent with New Zealand’s announcement yesterday.
Motorsport Australia also advised in its National Capital Rally announcement that it is liaising with governments and has formed an internal working group which is meeting ‘regularly’ to discuss the impact of coronavirus-related restrictions on all motorsport disciplines.
“Each motorsport event is very different when it comes to the number of competitors, spectators and the locations, so this decision certainly doesn’t mean that all other motorsport events need to be postponed at the present time,” said its Director of Motorsport & Commercial Operations, Michael Smith.
“Motorsport Australia is closely monitoring the situation and will continue to provide updates on its website and to members, competitors, officials and event organisers as required.”
The Canberra-based rally, scheduled for March 21-22, has been postponed in consideration to the logistical needs of competitors coming from as far flung locations as Western Australia.
Smith explained, “We were contacted by event organisers who told us they felt it was no longer possible to guarantee that the event could go ahead next weekend if there were further restrictions placed on events and the community in the coming week.
“Given the logistical challenges involved in having teams across the country travel to Canberra, including those travelling long distances such as those crews from Western Australia, the decision to postpone the event was made with enough time to allow teams to avoid any unnecessary travel.
“All rally fans will be disappointed that the event cannot go ahead, but unfortunately it is a challenging time for events across Australia and around the world.”
The next scheduled ARC round is Busselton’s Forest Rally on April 17-19.
The meeting which includes Round 1 of Australian Formula Ford at Winton on the same weekend is also currently going ahead, pending talks with Motorsport Australia early this week.