A woman who filmed herself confronting Melbourne retail workers over the store's policy around face masks claimed, in the now viral video, that her human rights were under threat.

But when it comes to mask-wearing, the rights of "Bunnings Karen" are no greater or less than the rest of the humble law-abiding citizens.

Here's a look at her arguments and why they don't stack up.

The woman filmed herself telling Bunnings workers that their rule stipulating one must wear a mask in order to be allowed in was "an unlawful condition of entry".


The CEO of the National Retail Association Dominique Lamb disputed this, saying businesses do indeed have the right to turn people away for not wearing masks.

"It is a private premises they are able to control who comes in and comes out," she told the Today show. "They can't enforce it in terms of giving a fine or anything like that. Certainly they can ask people to leave and ask people not to enter a store based on whatever it is – the qualifications for coming into the store. They have the right to call the police as they have done."

They're all quoting the same script, but are anti-maskers'
They're all quoting the same script, but are anti-maskers' "human rights" really under threat?. Photo / Supplied

Lamb added that human rights "have nothing to do with being asked to wear a mask", and said the woman's actions were "inconsiderate and inappropriate".

"At this time it is about safety, consumer safety and retail worker safety," she said. "What they're asking you to do is comply with a direction that has come from the government and that particular direction can be enforced by police within Victoria."

Experts from the University of South Australia made similar points, noting that businesses can legally set conditions of entry.

Writing in The Conversation, legal experts Professor Rick Sarre and Juliette McIntyre said entry and safety requirements were "nothing new" in Australia.

"Australian law, quite simply, says that private landowners or occupiers can take reasonable steps to protect themselves, their employees and people on their property," they said.

"So it would be legal for businesses — including cafes and supermarkets — to make it a condition of entry that customers wear a mask and sanitise their hands."


"Bunnings Karen" used the UN charter in her defence — which is ironic, given there are UN treaties that specifically contradict her claims.

As The Conversation notes: "When it comes to businesses making customers wear a mask, there are important occupational health and safety considerations as well. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights notes employees have a right to 'safe and healthy working conditions'.

"The United Nation's 2011 Protect Respect and Remedy Framework also emphasises the need for businesses to take adequate preventive measures to ensure the health and safety of workers."


The woman told workers at Bunnings' Narre Warren branch that not letting her in without a mask was a "breach of the 1948 Charter of Human Rights", referencing a United Nations human rights document.

The document — which lays out a common standard of achievements for all peoples and first nations — was written three years after World War II ended to outline a universal right to protection from such atrocities as genocide and global war.

It's understood that requesting people wear face masks for 10 minutes while idly browsing for pot plants was not on the UN's list of priorities at the time.


The woman appeared to be referring to article seven, which states: "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination."

Spare a kind thought for literally all retail workers when an anti-masker walks into their store. Photo / Supplied
Spare a kind thought for literally all retail workers when an anti-masker walks into their store. Photo / Supplied

But while she claimed she was being "discriminated" against, mask-wearing has been compulsory in coronavirus-hit Melbourne and the adjacent Mitchell Shire since July 22.


The woman also berated a worker at an Australia Post centre, advising him to "update yourself on what the Department of Human Services have put on with regards to masks and who needs to wear them".

On Victoria's Health and Human Services website, literally the first sentence is: "From 11.59pm Wednesday 22 July 2020 if you live in metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire you must wear a face covering when leaving home unless you have a lawful reason for not doing so."

The site goes on: "A face covering needs to cover both your nose and mouth. It could be a face mask or shield.


"Even with a mask, you should keep 1.5 metres distance between you and others."

The rule does not apply to children under the age of 12, but news.com.au understands the woman is indeed an adult, despite her behaviour.

The website does note there are a few exemptions for adults to not wear a mask, including medical reasons, vigorous exercising, and if it stops you from doing your job, such as working in a call centre.

"Requesting stamps", strangely enough, did not make the cut.


To be clear, Victorian authorities have stressed several times that mask-wearing is now mandatory in coronavirus-hit Melbourne and the adjacent Mitchell Shire.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the new rule was "commonsense" and "relatively simple".


"We're going to be wearing masks in Victoria and potentially in other parts of the country for a very long time," he said.

Anyone in Greater Melbourne or Mitchell Shire caught without a mask or face covering will be fined $200. Photo / Getty Images
Anyone in Greater Melbourne or Mitchell Shire caught without a mask or face covering will be fined $200. Photo / Getty Images

Despite this, scripts have been circulating among internet conspiracy theorists for dealing with police who enforce the mask rule.

The documents, seen by news.com.au, advise them to avoid identifying themselves, bill them for every minute they are questioned, and in some circumstances claim they feel "threatened for their mortal life".

As one example, the document instructs them to request the name, rank and place of duty of the questioning officer in writing. It then instructs the anti-masker to request that another officer arrest the first one if they don't provide these details in writing.

But according to the relevant Crimes Act, officers do not have to provide these details in writing:

"A person who is requested by a police officer or a protective services officer under subsection (1) to state his or her name and address may request the officer to state, orally or in writing, his or her name, rank and place of duty."


Andrews criticised the conspiracy theorists during today's press conference, saying such views "have no basis in science or fact".

"The thing with conspiracy theorists, the more you engage in an argument with them, the more oxygen you are giving them," he said. "Ultimately, I think people can judge for themselves the efficacy, the credibility of people who are running those sort of key lord warrior campaigns.

"Seriously, one more comment about human rights — honestly. It is about human life."

He added: "Their views have no basis in science or fact or law. Don't focus on them. What with should be focusing on is appealing to every single worker — don't go to work if you have got symptoms."

Health experts — almost universally regarded as the people who should be leading these debates — have agreed mask-wearing is integral to preventing the spread of the virus in areas that are now hot spots.

Adrian Esterman, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of South Australia, said masks should be worn in Victoria for the general public and elsewhere for health professionals but not yet rolled out around the country.


"Community transmission is pretty much zero in all places except NSW and Victoria."

University of NSW Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, who is a member of a WHO advisory panel on Covid-19, has also stressed the importance of wearing masks.

She said if authorities wanted to ensure full compliance with rules around face masks, they needed to provide masks to encourage rapid acceptance and uptake.

McLaws pointed out that in Europe, free masks were being provided at train stations, bus stations and shopping malls.

"Medical grade masks stop working once they are damp and if it is dirty that's a good indication you need to change masks," she said.

"It's only reasonable to provide a supply freely so people can change their masks.


"If you've got a fabric mask you have to wash it at night, you may want a government mask to use so that while it's drying you've got a mask."

Andrews said wearing a mask was "not a human rights issue".

"This is not about human rights," he said. "There are 10 families that are going to be burying someone in the next few days. Wear a mask — it's not too much to ask."