RESTAURATEUR Michelle Loielo hopes to set a legal precedent preventing state premiers from having the powers to declare a curfew like the one Victorians are under during the COVID-19 restrictions.
Her decision to challenge the power of the Premier Daniel Andrews in the Supreme Court has led to widespread support, and condemnation.
Ms Loielo’s legal team last Monday (14 September) filed a motion in the Supreme Court against Michelle Giles, who is Victoria’s Deputy Public Health Commander, for the curfew to be declared “unlawful and invalid”. A further Directions Hearing was scheduled for Monday (21 September) this week.
Ms Loielo, whose Unica Cucina E Cafe is in Point Nepean Road, Capel Sound, has been taken aback by threatening posts on social media.
She says her action is to ensure that her children do not grow up under an oppressive regime as experienced by her father and his parents who lived under Mussolini’s fascist regime in Italy.
However, people were showing little tolerance or understanding of the issue, with one post on Facebook threatening to make sure she would not make it alive to the polling booth at the next election. The post has been reported to police.
The 9pm to 5am curfew and five kilometre from home travel restrictions are expected to stay for another four weeks, even if the seven-day average number of COVID-19 cases keeps dropping.
A member of the Liberal Party for three years, Ms Loielo, who lives in Frankston South, makes no secret of wanting to win the party’s nomination for the seat of Nepean at the 2022 state election. She says this has nothing to do with her decision to fight the curfew in court.
That decision was the result of a fortuitous meeting of minds over a coffee with her solicitor and barrister. “The universe brings people together. We all have a passion for the law and simply want the law defined.
“I’ve been given a very big opportunity in life; it was a light bulb moment.”
Her solicitor, a longtime friend, has a Polish background – “a martial regime” – and also wanted to set a legal precedent to make sure curfews could not be imposed without legal backing in the future.
“I’ve voted Liberal for 22 years, so I’m not new to the party,” Ms Loielo said. “If a little piece of law is set [as a result of her anti-curfew action] it will mean a little piece of me will continue on.”
Ms Loielo hopes a hearing yesterday, Monday will direct her case to the Appeals Court.
She is also critical of a decision not to fine people in the latest outbreak in Casey for travelling more than five kilometres to visit family.
“This sets a precedent and is another example of decisions being made on the run,” she said.
“It is suffocating to think that inch by inch these [restrictive] decisions are being made. I would oppose them no matter which political leader or party was making them – leaders need to be accountable.
“There is no such law guiding [the premier] now. The decisions could be being made by anybody.”
Ms Loielo said that two of her staff and herself were receiving JobKeeper payments, but her chef was not eligible.
She said her challenge to powers of the Premier were not about making money or publicising her business.
“Far from it, but our takings on Friday night equated to more than the previous week’s total,” she said.
Her restaurant was offering take-away and home-delivered meals, but that was now jeopardised by threats on social media.
“I refuse to engage with negative comments. People are so off target; they’re not reading about what I’m really doing.
“You can’t argue with someone who will not address the point you a making.”
The publicity had led to fake reviews on social media, although she had not made any postings about anything but food on her personal or business websites.
Ms Loielo said her business had been under siege by the media late last week but she managed to avoid the cameras by arranging for her mother to pick her up from the rear car park. “Thank God for masks, no one recognised me.”
One TV show had called at 4am and then broadcast images taken from social media of her and her late husband. “It was disgusting for my children to see that as they ate breakfast.”
She said her life had been “turned upside down” following the death of her 37-year-old husband from cancer in September 2017.
Ms Loielo said she had purposely avoided speaking directly with the metropolitan media which had “made the Liberal connection very early on”. The court challenge was announced in a media release from state Opposition leader Michael O’Brien.
“I’m not trying to make money, just a point of law.”
Ms Loielo, who has a background in human resources and business development, predicted “most” restaurants in the area near hers would not reopen when the curfew and other restrictions are lifted.
The news release from Mr O’Brien said the Liberal Nationals welcomed Ms Loielo’s the legal action as “never before have five million Victorians been locked in their homes under government edict”.
The release quoted Ms Loielo as saying that if the curfew continued for much longer, “I have grave fears for both my business and my ability to provide for my three children”.
The release said there had been no public health justification made for the curfew, “despite it being imposed under public health legislation”.
It stated that the Chief Health Officer or Chief Commissioner of Police had “called out Daniel Andrews by stating the curfew was not their idea”.
The director of NOH Legal, Omar EL-Hissi, who is representing Ms Loielo, said the case would challenge the validity of the curfew.
“Ms Loielo claims that her human rights of liberty and freedom of movement have been impacted by this arbitrary decision,” Mr El-Hissi said.
“She seeks to overturn the curfew so that she, her three young children can gain some of their life back.”