Debates and Questions - Day 1 - 24 April 2020
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
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES AND QUESTIONS Friday 24 April 2020 8352 as a community, offering to share resources if someone needs it. But a very small number have been intentionally coughing and spitting at workers and saying that they have COVID-19 to create fear. It will now be an offence to intentionally cough or spit at a police officer, an emergency worker or a worker in circumstances where it is likely the conduct will cause a reasonable person to fear that COVID-19 will be transmitted to the worker. The maximum penalty will be 100 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months, and the regulations will be amended to allow for an infringement notice for 35 penalty units or a $5495 on-the-spot fine to be issued in respect of this offence. The offence will protect not only the emergency service workers such as police officers, paramedics, firefighters, medical or health practitioners, but a broad range of workers who may be exposed to intentional spitting or coughing in the course of their work. I just mentioned a pharmacy assistantthe people who work at our supermarkets. They never imagined they would be putting in place measures such as physical distancing, making sure people disinfect their hands as they go in and having to limit the number of products people purchase. They too have copped abuse. This is for all workers. We are taking this very seriously and are protecting workers from all areas from this potential risk by using the existing definitions from the Criminal Code Act. This includes a person carrying out their employment-related activities as an employee, contractor, apprentice, work experience student, volunteer or self-employed person. There are a number of offences that a person can be charged with in the Criminal Code Act and Police Administration Act such as assault on police or common assault for really serious cases. This new offence is designed to give police an additional fit-for-purpose tool in relation to COVID-19something they asked for. This offence has been welcomed by the Northern Territory Police. I acknowledge the Northern Territory Police Association led by their President, Paul McCueI have spoken to him a couple of times about this billand St John Ambulance paramedics. I visited their Casuarina headquarters last week to see the work they are doing. The Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 is the legislation we are reliant on to alleviate the public health emergency. Through these amendments today, it enables us to remain agile to respond quickly and decisively to this rapidly evolving pandemic. The Australian National Cabinet is leading the response to contain the virus and further reduce transmission in our community. The National Cabinet is taking advice from the national health protection experts, which is the Australian Health Protection Principal Committeeall jurisdictions Chief Health Officerswho are monitoring and responding to the situation daily. As the minister, I made the declaration of the public health emergency under the Public and Environmental Health Act. The declaration enables the Chief Health Officer to issue directions under section 52, which are necessary, appropriate and desirable actions to alleviate the public health emergency. To protect and save lives, these directions are updated regularly when the National Cabinet, the HPBC and Health COAG meet. The Chief Health Officer makes the decision, updates the directions and shares them with the community. These include guidance on gatherings, restrictions at Territory borders, mandatory quarantine and the closure of businesses. It is an offence to contravene the CHO directions. To date in the Northern Territory these measures have been successful. Yesterday, the Northern Territory News said that the Northern Territory is the envy of Australia. We must not become complacent. I fear that from comments of some of those opposite. We have extensive pandemic plans across the Territory. On the weekend I was at the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centrea team we are lucky to have based in the Territory. Because Territorians accepted those evacuees a couple of months ago from Wuhan in China and the cruise ship, it taught our health professionals and logistic experts how to manage Coronavirus and care for people in that situation. We learned from that. The National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre stands ready to help all Territorians, whether from Central Australia or a remote community, and to back up our hospitals if we start to see numbers.
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