Territory Stories

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




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Debates and Questions

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES AND QUESTIONS Friday 24 April 2020 8351 The bill makes a technical amendment to the offence in section 56 of the act to fix obvious errors in the way it is currently drafted. The offence refers to contravening a declaration made by the Chief Health Officer, which is nonsensical as it is the minister who makes the declaration. It is also not possible to contravene the declaration. The offence also refers to contravening a Chief Health Officer direction made under section 52(3) but this is an error because the power to make Chief Health Officer directions comes from section 52(1). The bill also amends Regulation 102 When infringement notice may be given to include an authorised officer in addition to the Chief Health Officer. This is beneficial for operational reasons as the way the provision is currently drafted requires a delegation of the Chief Health Officers powers, which is unnecessary. The amendment brings the regulations into line with other similar legislation. The Chief Health Officer and the people supporting him and acting upon his declarations have been doing an amazing job. We acknowledged them earlier in debate. They are out there across the Territory in hot conditions during the day with flies and bugs. It is probably getting a lot cooler at night, now. They have literally set up camp; we have been getting resources to them. They are out there to secure our borders and make sure that anyone coming to the Northern Territory goes into quarantine. The reason for that is we want to stop the spread of Coronavirus which, as we know, has killed many thousands of people, but it starts off potentially for some people as a very mild illness. They might only have the loss of taste. They might be so mildly unwell that they do not realise it and at that point can be sharing this virus. That is why we want to stop this virus in our community. Stopping people who potentially have Coronavirus from coming into the Territory and making them quarantine for 14 days gives time for the illness to become apparent. We have seen that with the cases where in the quarantine period they become ill and then we can care for them. Hundreds of people have not become ill and are able to go out and be part of our community. These measures stopped community transmission, which is where we do not know the source of the Coronavirus. All cases to date in the Northern Territory have come from someone who has travelled overseas or was a close contact of someone who has travelled. We know the source of the Coronavirus. Community transmission is where we do not know the source. That poses a huge risk to our community. There are people potentially moving about who do not know they are carrying the virus; the symptoms can be so mild that they can pass on the illness before being aware that they are sick. We have been working with the federal government on testing. We have conducted nearly 4000 tests. We expanded the tests to include teachers, educators, police officers, prison officers, paramedics and people in the community who come into contact with lots of people. If they have a slight symptom they will be tested. We also started sentinel testing. An example of that is in the eastern suburbs of Sydney where they have community transmission and outbreak. If you live in that postcode and have the symptoms of a respiratory illness you will be tested even if you have not been overseas or do not think you have been in contact with someone who has. We became aware that the northwest of Western Australia in the Kimberley region had an outbreak of Coronavirus. They managed to isolate and quarantine the individuals but we did not know if it had gone from person to person and community transmission had started. Our health practitioners have been keeping a very close eye on people with any sign of respiratory illnessthen sentinel testing will take place. The bill not only gives the direction to charge that quarantine fee but also inserts a new offence into the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 to criminalise intentional coughing or spitting on or at workers, including police officers, emergency workers and pharmacy assistants, who deal with members of the public during the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some important points to these changes. It is disappointing and appalling to see there has been an increase in this sort of behaviour across Australia including here in the Northern Territoryin the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen police officers, health workers and supermarket workers all fall victim to deliberate and disgusting acts committed by a very small group of people. Most Territorians and Australians are acknowledging this hard work. Through social media we have seen the things people have done to show those who are working that they care. We have seen people coming together