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
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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 8359 protected by this sort of legislation. We should all have that sort of safeguard knowing that if someone deliberately coughs, spits or expectorates on us, and we are likely to feel concerned or fearful that there may be a disease transmitted to us, we would be protected by this sort of provision. It was interesting to hear in the briefing that, without this legislation going through, this behaviour is included under general assault legislation. If it happened today, with the exception of coughing, people would be charged with assault. Coughing is not currently an offence. The legislation, from what I construed, is adequate; it already covers this despicable behaviour. With the Coronavirus and the current extraordinary circumstances, this is an opportunity to strengthen the legislation and the penalties for this behaviour. I do not have a problem with any of this. There are some questions I would like answered. I look forward to the debate. Ms FYLES (Health): Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, I thank members for their contributions to the debate on the Public and Environmental Health Legislation Amendment Bill and I thank them for their indication of support. I will try to address the questions; I apologise if I do not get to them all. Member for Spillett, thank you for welcoming the offences to protect our workers and support of the legislation. The Member for Nelson, has questions, as always. I thank him for his support. The fee is prescribed by the Chief Health Officer. The NT has procured the hotels and pays the hotels and, in turn, we charge the fee. The person arriving in the Territory pays the fee to the Northern Territory, and it is a debt recoverable by the Territory. That was in relation to the first part of your questions. The offence is an additional tool for police and the DPP, specific to COVID-19 and for the fear of transmission. That provides the infringement notice. The Criminal Code does not specifically cover coughing. Has anyone been charged with the offence at section 56(1) that has been declared null and void because of the drafting errors? My understanding is no. That was all your questions. I thank the Member for Stuart for his support of the bill. The current arrangement for fee is legal and valid but not within the deed. It is a voluntary contract. We knew when we entered into that it was not enforceable. That is why there are retrospective changes. The new power for the Chief Health Officer to charge a fee is enforceable and recoverable as a debt. It was a way to roll that out. If people decide not to pay under the existing deed, they will be charged the fee. I hope that provides clarity. I acknowledge the Member for Araluens indication of support. She raised an important point regarding the regions; I touched upon that in my speech. Community concern regarding the Ross centre was also raised by the Members for Braitling and Namatjira. For people listening in, the Ross centre is designed to be similar to the Howard Springs facility. If we were to see an outbreak it would put pressure on our health and hospital resources. Not everybody who comes down with Coronavirus needs an acute hospital setting. They say around 80% of people have a moderate to mild illness. Under health advice, clinicians would make this decision. They would have some people in the acute hospital beds and some in a facility such as that where they could be cared for. It has not been needed as yet but is still there. There is a long way to go in this pandemic. The spitting and coughing offences are for workers who are disproportionately affected by the threat of it. I hope that answers all of your questions. This bill provides the effective management of our public health emergency response and adds further protections for Territory workers during this pandemic. We believe in taking every action necessary to protect Territorians lives and health. We have acted swiftly and assertively to reduce the threat of COVID-19. So far, our actions have been successful. We have limited the number of cases to people who have acquired the disease from overseas or interstate travel. I am pleased to inform the House that we have 20 people who have recovered from Coronavirus. We have had 28 cases and 20 have recovered. We wish the remaining patients, and those who had the illness, well. We saw some of them speak out in the local media earlier this week. But we cannot become complacent. We have seen instances overseas where they had shocking tolls and now are seeing what appears to be a second wave. We thank every Territorian for their cooperation and
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