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Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020



Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020

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Parliamentary Record 27


Debates and Questions for 13th Assembly 2019 - 2020; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory




Debates and Questions

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES AND QUESTIONS Friday 24 April 2020 8349 compatibility with human rights as defined in section 3 of the Commonwealth Human Rights Parliamentary Scrutiny Act 2011. I move that the bill be now read a first time. The purpose of this bill is to amend the Public and Environmental Health Act and regulations to address specific issues that have arisen to protect the public health during the management of the public health emergency of the Coronavirus. I do not think I need to put this into any context for Territorians. They understand how very real the threat of Coronavirus is. We are here today for a special sitting of parliament with one focus, which is to pass legislation that aims to protect Territorians from Coronavirus. We have seen 2.7 million cases diagnosed in the world. Medical professionals will say that it will be higher because that is diagnosed cases. Tragically, we have seen 190 000 deaths. These deaths are around the world in countries where we have family members: Italy; America; and around the world. In Australia we have seen 75 deathsfrom the information I have before me. I hope that does not rise but we have seen more cases. Through strong measures in each state and territory in Australia, working together with the National Cabinet, we have seen the slowdown of Coronavirus. These are not normal times. That is not to say that any other issues brought to parliament are not important, but this is not a normal parliamentary sittings. People are on teleconference in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Arnhem Land, listening and providing their votes. That is a first, I think, for the Northern Territory and perhaps any parliament in Australia. There is no set time for us to finish today. We may be here quite late if we keep seeing suspension of standing orders issues, but we will keep doing the work we need to do. This bill empowers the Chief Health Officer to charge fees during emergencies. It creates a new offence of intentionally coughing or spitting on or at a worker where the conduct is likely to cause fear of potential spread of COVID-19 to the worker. It also addresses technical issues and operational improvements. On 18 Marchthat seems like many months ago but it was just over a month agoas Minister for Health in the Northern Territory I declared a public health emergency under section 48 of the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. We watched the Coronavirus in China. Here in the Territory we knew about it firsthand. We cared for repatriated Australians in Howard Springs and provided resources to Christmas Island. Then we took care of Aussies from the cruise ship. We experienced Coronavirus but we watched it from afar. I do not think any of us in January or February realised the impact it would have on our lives just a few weeks later. During the March sittings we passed legislation on urgency to extend the duration of the declaration from five days for up to 90 days to cater for the extraordinary circumstances with the global pandemic. It became clear that a lot of our legislation was based on a natural disaster which usually has five-day allotments. Sadly this will not be over in five days and it may not be over in 90 days. This was to give the Territory community and all businesses clear and consistent advice to manage throughout this very difficult time. As you know the declaration of a public health emergency gives the Chief Health Officer broad emergency powers for actions he considers necessary, appropriate or desirable to alleviate the public health emergency stated in the declaration. This may include restrictions on movements, seizure of property, restricting mass gatherings, requiring a person to undergo a medical examination and other matters specified under section 52 of the act. Since that time the Chief Health Officer has made a series of directions to alleviate the public health emergency of the pandemic. These directions have been informed and regularly updated by decisions of the National Cabinet and the Northern Territory Government based on the national expert health advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. That committee is made up of the Chief Medical Officer of Australia and the Chief Health Officers around Australia. They have been meeting regularlyvery long meetingsrobustly looking at these issues and making decisions in the best interest of Australians, that they know will have an outcome of life or death, not just good or bad. That is how serious these decisions are that AHPPC have been making.

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