I am pleased to introduce the COVID-19 Emergency Response (Expiry) Amendment Bill 2021. Measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are fundamental to our ongoing response and keeping our community safe.
The declaration of major emergency, in place since 22 March 2020, provides the authorising context for the important social distancing and public health measures issued by the State Coordinator through directions. I thank all South Australians for their ongoing cooperation with these directions and indeed their care and respect for others in the community with their compliance. Clearly, it helps to keep South Australians safe and strong.
As the Premier and the Coordinator have already publicly stated, work is now undertaken on the next stage of our legislative response as we transition out of the major emergency into more of a management phase. A bill will be brought to the parliament shortly for consideration in that regard.
The COVID act itself amends other South Australian legislation to temporarily adjust some legislative requirements that are difficult to satisfy during a pandemic. The act came into effect in April 2020 and will expire on 6 February. This bill proposes to extend the operation of the act to 28 days after the day on which the relevant directions related to the outbreak of COVID-19 within South Australia have ceased or 31 May 2021, whichever is the earlier. This 28-day transition period will allow ministers and agencies to make the necessary arrangements.
Extending the COVID act is crucial to continuing our business while maintaining physical distancing. It contains provisions that are necessary for the ongoing management of the risk of COVID-19 in South Australia. Those provisions that are no longer necessary for the purpose of a COVID-19 pandemic have already been expired by me as Attorney-General under section 6(1) of the COVID act.
I will now deal with each of the provisions of the act that are being extended. Sections 8 and 9, which deal with residential tenancies, residential parks and rooming house agreements, will be extended. These provisions inter alia provide a temporary moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent applied across tenancies impacted by severe rental distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The following other provisions will also be extended:
section 10, which contains protection for residents of supported residential facilities;
section 10A, which allows certain community visitors to visit by audiovisual or other electronic means;
section 14, which allows the Governor by regulation to extend any time limit or term of appointment by up to six months;
section 16, which allows the Governor by regulation to suspend or modify requirements relating to the preparation, signing, witnessing and other treatment of documents;
section 17, which allows meetings to take place by audiovisual or other means;
sections 18, 19 and 21, which provide for service of documents, regulations and transitional provisions;
section 22, which deals with Crown immunity from civil or criminal liability; and
schedule 1, which contains special provisions relating to the detention of certain protected persons during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schedule 2 of the COVID act, which modifies the operation of a number of acts, will also be extended. Firstly, the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee Act 2003 and the Parliamentary Committees Act 1991 are amended to allow standing committees to meet by audiovisual or audio means. The Bail Act 1985 is amended to reverse the presumption of bail for certain offences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 is amended to expand the offences against prescribed emergency workers to include people working in pharmacies and providing pharmacy services. The Development Act 1993 and the Planning Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 are amended by reducing to 15 business days the time for council to respond to applications for Crown development and, in the case of the Development Act 1993, Crown development and public infrastructure. The act also amends the Development Act to increase the threshold from $4 million to $10 million for referral of Crown development and public infrastructure to public consultation.
The Emergency Management Act 2004 is amended to clarify the scope of directions given under section 25 and provides that expiations can be issued for failing to comply with these directions and compliance with a direction is required despite any obligation to maintain secrecy or other restrictions on disclosure. The Emergency Management Act 2004 is also amended to allow for directions in relation to the transmission or distribution of electricity when an electricity supply emergency has been declared. It also clarifies the directions that can be given to the market participants.
The Environment Protection Act 1993 is amended to allow container deposit refunds to be refunded electronically. The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (South Australia) Act 2010 is amended to allow pharmacists to attend by the internet or other electronic communication in certain circumstances. The Governor is empowered to make regulations to modify the National Electricity Law to protect the reliability and security of the South Australian power system. The Public Works Committee processes under the Parliamentary Committees Act 1991 are modified.
The South Australian Public Health Act 2011 is amended to clarify how an order made by the Chief Public Health Officer is to be given effect and to provide how orders requiring detention are made and enforced to allow the Chief Public Health Officer to authorise the disclosure of personal information. By extending the operation of the COVID act the regulations that have been made under it will also be extended.
I also wish to take this opportunity to address an issue that has been raised as a matter of concern by members of the public and, indeed, members of this house, which is how government has been treating personal information collated for contact tracing purposes through the use of the QR codes under the Emergency Management (Public Activities No. 18 COVID-19) Direction 2020. The previous versions of this direction and approved contact tracing system, namely, the COVIDSafe check-in, is required to capture relevant contact details of persons who enter particular places.
Information provided under a COVIDSafe check-in is protected by the confidentiality provisions of section 31A of the Emergency Management Act 2004, which provide that medical information or information, the disclosure of which would involve the disclosure of information relating to the personal affairs of another, must not intentionally be disclosed unless the disclosure is made (a) in the course of the administration or enforcement of this act, (b) with the consent of the person, or (c) the disclosure is required by a court or tribunal constituted by law. Contravention of this provision is an offence, with a maximum penalty of $5,000. The information privacy principles also govern the use of private information provided in the COVIDSafe check-in.
Aside from the legislative protections, the government has made public assurances that the data provided in a COVIDSafe check will only be used for contact tracing purposes. This public undertaking is far narrower than the provisions of section 31A, particularly as members of the public—and I am sure this would be of importance to you, Mr Speaker, the legal profession—understandably have raised concerns about the use, storage and deletion of data. I give the assurance, the government's assurance, to the house, together with section 31A of the Emergency Management Act 2004, that the Information Privacy Principles adequately regulate the collection and use of personal information provided under a COVIDSafe check-in.
Further, for the information of South Australia, I confirm that QR-related data is deleted and continues to be deleted on a rolling schedule. All personal information collated from 31.3 million check-ins from between 30 November and 4 January has been deleted, with data held for 28.2 million check-ins from 3 January to midnight (last night) 2 February for contact tracing purposes. The undertaking has been given, the effect of which is underway, and 31.3 million check-ins—that is, every time a South Australian goes in and out of a cafe or a shop, all the obligations we currently have—have now been deleted.
Our emergency response to date, with the valued and appreciated support of South Australians, has helped to keep our state and our South Australians safe and strong. I indicate my appreciation to the opposition for their support in relation to these special measures around the protection and provision of support to South Australians that has been encompassed in our COVID act and the amendments to date.
I understand that there is an indication from the opposition that this further amendment to extend most of these provisions to 31 May this year is with their support and, in anticipation of that, I thank them. I have a short explanation of clauses, which as you can imagine is very short given there is only one clause—and that is to extend it to 31 May, but I am happy to seek leave to table it for the record.
Mr PICTON (Kaurna) (11:16): Mr Speaker, welcome back to 2021. There are brand-new screens. It is all very fresh. Thank you to the Attorney for the introduction of this very short piece of legislation. The substantive part of this legislation is really one date change, one line to change the date of expiry to 31 May 2021. It all fits neatly on one page. I have to say that it is a little bit surprising that we do not have a more fulsome proposal from the Attorney-General for this parliament to consider, given that we are a very long way through this pandemic and given that there has been substantial discussion about the need to change those arrangements.
I should indicate that I am the lead speaker for the opposition, and also that the opposition will be supporting the passage of this bill through this chamber, and that obviously we will be, as we have consistently done through this pandemic, supporting the government in relation to a whole range of legislation that has passed this parliament often in very quick measure where we suspend the usual parliamentary processes and waiting times to make sure that the government has the ability, the powers that it needs, to deal with the pandemic.
In relation to this legislation, in the other place we are happy to consider amendments that may be put up by the crossbench and we may well be considering proposing some amendments in the other place, but we will be passing this bill through this house without amendment. That indicates the level of support that we have seen from the opposition in relation to the government's actions through the whole COVID-19 pandemic.
As has been noted, it is now over one year since we had our first positive case here in South Australia. We are getting up to one year in which there has been a state of major emergency declared in South Australia, which started as of 22 March 2020. As all members know, it is completely unprecedented that we have been operating under a state of emergency for so long in South Australia.
That major event declaration means that police commissioner Grant Stevens is the State Coordinator and has very expansive and massive powers to be able to deal with the pandemic through his role as the police commissioner. I think that the police commissioner, Grant Stevens, has done a sterling job, an amazing job, and I think all South Australians share that view.
He has been ably advised and supported by the Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier, who has also done an amazing job for the people of South Australia. We have been very well supported by those officials who are in place and making those decisions, it should be noted, independently of the government. These are not decisions that go to the Premier or the cabinet for approval. These are decisions that are made by the State Coordinator as advised by the Chief Public Health Officer. They are the decisions of the State Coordinator, the police commissioner himself.
It is very clear in the legislation that was passed some 10 to 15 years ago in this parliament that in the issue of an emergency we would place those powers not in a politician but in the police commissioner to handle. I have to say, I think there are probably some places in the world where you would not want the police commissioner to have those sorts of powers and where people would be quite nervous about that, but I think in South Australia people have had tremendous confidence in the decision-making ability and fairness shown by Grant Stevens in the way he has made those decisions.
Having said that, it is a significant burden that has been placed upon him to make some very complex and difficult decisions. I think it is becoming quite clear, at the very least from his own public commentary, that the police commissioner is looking forward to a time when the Attorney-General brings to this parliament her proposal for how we move beyond an emergency stage of managing the pandemic and brings in a range of legislative proposals that would take it out of the Emergency Management Act and put it into some other form for managing what are some quite complex arrangements. They are all being done under the banner and powers of the Emergency Management Act and the decision-making of the police commissioner, Grant Stevens, alone.
We have not seen that. We have not seen the Attorney-General bring those proposals here. In fact, I thought they were going to be brought the last time we debated this legislation. I remember raising this during the committee stage of one of the pieces of legislation we dealt with with the Attorney, saying, 'We are very happy to meet with you. We would like to talk them through before they get to parliament. We understand these are going to be big things to consider in how we get to a different stage.' But on several occasions now we have just had an extension of this date, a kicking the can down the road, without those proposals being brought from the Attorney-General to the parliament to consider how these are put in place.
Look at what Grant Stevens says. As late as this morning, he was on FIVEaa and they asked him about these matters and the fact that he effectively has been managing the state for most of the past year. David Penberthy said:
…there's been some discussion about how long you're going to continue to hold the authority bestowed upon you through the Emergency Declaration, do you have any thoughts as the bloke who has had the ultimate say for the running of South Australia for a very long time now as to how much longer you should continue to hold that authority?
The police commissioner, Grant Stevens, said:
I'm only too willing to hand over the baton as long as we have a mechanism that meets the health requirements for South Australia, some of these baseline requirements we've put in place like COVID marshals, COVID safe plans, QR codes, you need a mechanism that requires people to do that so if I revoke the Emergency Declaration we have in place at the moment which is the mechanism that gives me the authorities then all of those things fall away because there's no ability to require people to participate in those activities so if the parliament can consider a bill that allows those baseline level of restrictions to be in existence for the duration of COVID then I no longer have to do the work that I'm doing as the State Coordinator.
That is very clear from the police commissioner. He is looking for parliament to enact something that allows him to no longer continue that emergency declaration but without losing all those very important baseline measures such as COVID marshals, COVID-safe plans and QR codes, all those measures that we are going to need for some time in the future. That is what I think many people were expecting the Attorney to be bringing to the opening of parliament this year, but I do not think we have a proper explanation as to why that has not happened yet or when that is proposed to be coming to the parliament to debate.
Certainly, from the opposition's perspective, we are very keen to work with the government on all those sorts of measures. We look forward to having conversations. We look forward to having briefings and discussions before the next parliamentary sitting to hopefully get to a stage where these things can be debated and discussed in the parliament. I am very surprised that that has not occurred to date. Even going back to 28 January, the police commissioner, Grant Stevens, was asked similar questions in a press conference by journalists, and I quote:
As we approach this COVID normal, does that mean we're starting to get to a point where you may step aside as the state emergency controller, are we getting to that point now do you think?
Then Grant Stevens said:
We are providing advice to the government in relation to what those options might be that see the requirement for a major emergency declaration to be revoked. At this point in time, this is the only mechanism that we have that gives us the ability to require people to participate in QR code activity, to have marshals on board, to have one person per two square metres, all of those things are contingent upon some ability to require people to do that, that's the major emergency declaration. The government is having a look at how we can replace that with another mechanism that provides that same level of accountability to the community and, until that's developed, I'll continue to operate as the State coordinator.
So we have heard very clearly from the State Coordinator, the police commissioner, that recommendations have gone to the government on this, that the government have in their hands recommendations from the police commissioner, the police, presumably from SA Health, as to how to put in place a new mechanism going forward. But there has not been a decision. There has not been a proposal brought to the parliament. I think that is (a) surprising but I think (b) that South Australians will be looking for answers as to when that is going to be happening and why that has not happened to date because this is so important.
I think even the Premier was asked about this as well. On 4 January this year, InDaily reported that the Premier and authorities have been considering how to return the state's emergency decision-making to cabinet government. The Premier said, and I quote:
We are looking at that at the moment. We were looking at it very carefully in November—before the Parafield cluster…We don't want to keep SA in a state of emergency for an extended period of time. But whilst we've got border restrictions in place, if they're not done under the Emergency Management Act they need to be done under another act, and we're looking at the best way to do that.
So those were the Premier's comments almost a month ago on 4 January. Yet, between 4 January and now, here on 2 February we have not had any action to bring those supposed measures to parliament, which is quite interesting.
Also interesting, I think, was the Premier's comment that we do not want to keep SA in a state of emergency for an extended period of time. I think it has been 10 months now, which is a very extended period of time when you consider that prior to this the record for the previous state of emergency was four days. I am not sure what the government is waiting for. I am not sure if there are divisions in the government about how this should proceed but certainly from the opposition's perspective, as we have been on all things, we stand willing to work with the government to make sure that the best possible arrangements are in place.
In relation to those arrangements, I think there is one area that the Attorney touched on in her speech, which has certainly had some public commentary, about whether there are additional legal protections that could be put in place, and that is in relation to the use of QR codes. We very clearly support the use of QR codes on this side of the house. We have been promoting them. We want all South Australians to use them. They are obviously very important from a contact tracing perspective. It is disappointing that we did not have them in place before the Parafield cluster because obviously that would have helped in a significant way but it is great now that we do have them in place and we are absolutely supporting their use in dealing with this pandemic.
However, it has been noted by a number of people, particularly the Law Society, who have raised concerns in relation to the legal basis and legal protections around the use of QR codes and basically the lack of any legislative safeguards whatsoever. There was an article in the InDaily over the past few weeks, entitled 'Law Society warning over COVID QR check-in data privacy', which stated:
South Australia's mandatory COVID-Safe check-in system lacks 'legislative safeguards', with personal information at risk under the current laws of being used for purposes other than contact tracing, the state's Law Society president has warned.
In a letter addressed to Premier Steven Marshall and published on the SA Law Society website yesterday, outgoing society president Tim White warned that the State Government needed to adopt 'greater care' when handling personal information collected by its mandatory COVID-Safe check-in system.
The technology was introduced on December 1 to track the names and contact details of people who visit businesses with a COVID-Safe plan, to help contact tracers contain the spread of the coronavirus in the event of another SA outbreak.
It goes on to say:
…White wrote that despite assurances from authorities, the society's Human Rights Committee could not find any provisions within the COVID-19 emergency management directions which restrict the use or disclosure of the information.
'We are concerned about the lack of legislative safe guards in place to manage the collection, storage, use and disclosure of personal information of persons,' he wrote.
'This is particularly so given that a person is compelled to provide their relevant contact details to the COVID-Safe check-in in order to go about their day to day lives.'
Clearly, a concern has been raised, and the government could well have decided to take some action in relation to this one page of legislation, to put in place some legal protections around the use of QR codes. That is not to say that anybody is raising concerns about the need for these, nor even to say that people are saying they are being abused. They are saying that when you are dealing with such an important and highly sensitive range of information about everybody going about their daily lives and where they have been and their contact information, let's make sure that there are safeguards around that.
Even putting aside the IT component, which I think is clearly one of the areas where we do need safeguards, obviously businesses have to have a check-in list, where, if you do not have a QR code, if you do not have a phone—which many people do not—you write that down. I have, anecdotally, heard reports of some people breaching people's confidence by looking at the details that have been written there and contacting people on the manual COVID check-in list because they did not have the COVID QR code.
It is outrageous that somebody would use that information for another purpose, but there is no legal protection against that at the moment. There is no way of stopping somebody doing that, but it would not be particularly hard for us to put in place a safeguard to stop that happening. I am surprised that the Attorney-General, the member for Bragg, has not sought to put in place a protection here, which could have easily been done. Parliament would support some protections around the use of that information to make sure that if somebody did abuse that there would be appropriate consequences for doing so.
Lastly, I would like to talk a bit about some of the COVID issues generally. I think it has been noted a number of times—and I have certainly spoken about it in this parliament before—that we should congratulate the people of South Australia on the tremendous job that they have done in following the directions and working together as a community, making sure that we have done a great job in South Australia. I think really across the whole country we have done so well in Australia in managing this, particularly when you look at what is happening around the rest of the world and how disastrous this has been in countries such as the UK, Italy and the USA.
Clearly, though, among the strongest provisions that we have to protect us are the international border provisions, the ban on travel for people unless they get an exemption—and I think there are questions as to whether too many exemptions have been granted for people to leave or not. Certainly, the provisions around stopping outgoing and incoming travel as much as possible and the protections around making sure appropriate quarantine is in place have really done us a tremendous service, particularly when you look at other countries around the world.
When you compare us to another island, that being Britain—and there may be good arguments for why they did not bring in place stronger travel provisions—that clearly has had a detrimental impact there when you compare it to Australia, when you compare it to New Zealand, when you compare it to Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and other islands that have put in place strong travel provisions that have led to much greater success in those countries.
That means that we have to do everything we possibly can to put in place strong safeguards when people do come here because any leakage out of our hotel quarantine, our medi-hotel system, can be devastating. We saw that very clearly here in South Australia in November with the very significant impact upon South Australian's lives of the outbreak from the Peppers hotel where a security guard contracted the virus and spread it out into the community.
We have also seen similar breaches in hotel quarantine in other states, and clearly Western Australia is dealing with one at the moment. We need to do everything we possibly can to protect our hotel quarantine system to make sure that our medi-hotels are secure and that we do not see a repeat of what happened at the Peppers hotel. Part of that clearly revolves around the workforce there. This is a workforce that significantly relies on private security guards, where there are hundreds of private security guards employed across our medi-hotel system. Clearly, the leakage, the first contact that happened in our Peppers hotel outbreak, has now happened in Perth, where there was a private security guard who contracted the virus as well.
We need to make sure that those staff are tested daily. There was a national cabinet agreement on 8 January that said that all quarantine workers, whether they be people involved in transport, whether they be people involved in hotels, whether they be private security guards, police, nurses, cleaners—you name it—the national standard would be that they should all be tested daily. That was agreed and endorsed by all governments, including our government, on 8 January. What was revealed yesterday was that the South Australian government had not put that in place. They put it in place for one subset of workers—nurses—but not for private security guards, not for police, not for hotel staff, not for transport staff and not for cleaners.
All those people are at high risk. We should be putting a very strong testing regime in place involving daily tests for all those people (a) for their benefit and (b) for the community's benefit. That has not happened. It is only now that this has been exposed by media questions that the government are saying that they are going to bring this in next week. There will be a full month after this was agreed as a national standard. I hope that is brought forward as quickly as possible because we need that protection. It is frankly inexcusable that that was not in place beforehand.
Secondly, we need to make sure that all the elements that were announced by the government in relation to their eight-point plan are implemented. After the Peppers hotel outbreak caused a statewide lockdown, the government announced an eight-point plan to deal with the potential for future medi-hotel breaches. Part of that was that they said that we would not start international arrivals until that plan was fully in place. Part of the plan was a dedicated quarantine facility to deal with positive arrivals. As of today, that is still not in place.
The government is now saying that it is not going to be like a hospital, as was originally announced; it is going to be another medi-hotel, and even that is not going to be in place until perhaps next week or maybe even further into the future. Those measures need to be in place as soon as possible to keep South Australia safe.
We still have not seen the report that came out on what happened in the Peppers hotel outbreak. The government said clearly that it would be releasing a report into the investigation as to what happened there and that it would be released publicly. We have not seen that; it has not been released. It is not only important for the public of South Australia to see what happened but it is also important on the basis of making sure that other states, other countries, can see evidence of what happened here and to make sure that we do not repeat those same mistakes.
I think there is still a significant issue in regard to the use of private security guards with insecure work who need to have secondary jobs. This was clearly an issue in Victoria. They have now put in place a system where they employ those workers directly and they contract them and pay them sufficiently to make sure that they do not have secondary jobs that potentially could be a risk. This clearly was an issue here, where we had workers working other jobs, and we had the infamous issue of a security guard and kitchen hand both working at the Woodville pizza bar.
This is now an issue in Perth, where one of the security guards who tested positive also had a secondary job as a rideshare driver. We are a wealthy enough country, a wealthy enough state, that we can make sure we look after those employees, that we can provide them with adequate compensation, that we provide them with adequate employment and contract with them to make sure that they are not working other jobs.
The Western Australian Premier, in relation to their outbreak, has just announced that they will no longer have these employees working second jobs, and they will make sure through their payments and contracting that that does not happen. That is absolutely something we should be looking at here as well to keep South Australia safe. Every measure possible to protect the hotel quarantine system should be put in place to make sure that South Australia stays safe.
We know through questions during the estimates process that we are using a contract for our private security guards that has allowed subcontracting arrangements to be put in place. Three companies are subcontracting to the primary contractor, which is a number of levels of dispersed responsibility for the staff working in these hotels. We should be taking as many steps as possible to put in place a safe system that will protect South Australia. South Australians have been doing a very good job and I think they expect us in the parliament and the government to do as much as possible to put in place steps that will remove, as far as possible, that risk of a breach from hotel quarantine.
The opposition will support through this house this very quick piece of legislation. I thank the many members of the Public Service for their work. Hopefully, they will not be needed during the committee stage of this debate and hopefully it will be relatively straightforward through this house. Consistently, as an opposition we have taken the approach, since the outbreak a year ago of this pandemic, that we will support measures put in place to keep South Australia safe. That is what the public expects our parliament to do—to work together.
We will certainly put forward proposals and suggestions to improve our response where we see fit, but we absolutely support the work of our public health experts, the work of our police, the work of our frontline workers who have been so instrumental and, particularly in relation to this act, the work of the police commissioner, Grant Stevens, who effectively has been running the state for the past year under these emergency powers.
The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Premier, Attorney-General, Minister for Planning and Local Government) (11:44): May I just place on the record a few matters which were raised in the course of this debate. Firstly, I thank the opposition for confirming its support for the bill.
The matters that had specifically been raised and I would like to address are, firstly, that we have a provision in our sessional orders, I think, to make it very clear that one cannot make comment about the persons who are in the gallery. I have just observed during this debate a tweet asserting that there are multiple people in the gallery who are here to be my advisers in relation to this bill, which I think is both rude and disrespectful and probably in breach of our rules.
Nevertheless, I just place on the record that of course the government will always have some advisers present during the course of the bills to be available for any member of parliament—not just the member for Kaurna, of course, but any member of the parliament—to ask any questions about any of the multitude of issues that are raised, but also there are other bills on the agenda. I place on the record that not only is that erroneous but I think very disrespectful.
Secondly, in relation to the consideration of a bill that the opposition is seeking to view for what I described in the second reading as the management phase post an emergency, firstly, I do not know why the member, when he was a member of the previous government, in drafting the Emergency Management Act, had not foreshadowed—
Mr Picton: I didn't draft the Emergency Management Act.
The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: —well, in the previous government—the development of the Emergency Management Act, a contingency where it might be a very long emergency. I think it was drafted fairly in consideration of incidents—floods, some catastrophic event like the four-day shutdown around the electricity failure in the state—but, nevertheless, it is with us. I do not blame the previous government for not thinking about this when they presented to parliament some years ago, that they had not considered that, but it is with us. We are in government and we are considering it, and I confirm to the member that, yes, it has been given attention.
The quotes from the Coordinator—that is, our Commissioner of Police, Mr Grant Stevens—reflect the ongoing discussions that we are having with both him and a number of other parties to consider what we present ultimately to the parliament. So, yes, it is being considered, as I indicated. Whilst there seems to be some criticism about why we do not have it now and what explanation we need to give, I confirm that we are having those discussions, including with the State Coordinator, and, yes, he has presented several options to the government, and we will of course consider those—not just us, as a government, but obviously all the other parties who are relevant to the provision of service and protection, including both health and emergency services parties who of course need to be canvassed in relation to this.
I confirm that it is the government's intention that as soon as we have that dealt with we will discuss with the opposition, as an important part of any debate in the parliament, as to what we have in mind to present ultimately to the parliament. That is something that is continuing to be worked on. Meanwhile, it is the Coordinator himself who has recommended to the government that we continue under the 28-day declaration process that, in his judgement, on his application he continue to be appointed as the Coordinator under the Emergency Management Act.
Again, I place on the record my personal appreciation and also the government's appreciation for the work that he is doing, together with members of the South Australian police force and, indeed, a number of our other personnel at the frontline, whether that be a cleaner in a hotel who is managing the very difficult issue of testing, protection and support for people coming into South Australia, or the health service provision particularly.
On the weekend, I met with someone who is providing the logistics of transport between airports and hotels and the like. This is again an area of support in which people are putting themselves in an environment where they may be more vulnerable to the potential transmission of this shocking COVID-19 virus that is with us. We appreciate all that is being done. In the meantime, Mr Stevens has requested, the government has acceded, and the Governor has appointed his continued position as the State Coordinator.
The other matter that was raised may be a situation where the member is just a bit behind the times; I am not sure. He raises a letter that was sent by Mr Tim White, the then President of the Law Society, about their concern that they could not find any protections to deal with the storage, management and protection of personal data. I referred to this in the second reading explanation.
Let me be very clear about this: Mr White did write, as then President of the Law Society. He has had a response from me on behalf of the government in relation to that. As has been pointed out, things such as the protections of the $5,000 fine, except in the three circumstances I have repeated to the parliament today, that someone would face if they deliberately disclosed any such information, have been outlined.
Since that time, a new president has come in for the Law Society, Rebecca Sandford, and I congratulate her on her election. Rebecca has been President of the Law Society since 1 January. She has written to me about priorities she wishes to discuss with me in relation to matters, given her new position. It does not include this issue; nevertheless, they are important issues. I think we are meeting with her later this week or early next week to discuss the issues she has raised. We will of course address this and any other matters that are raised.
Perhaps the member is a little behind the times on this. I am not sure whether he has reflected on the fact that things might have happened since the letter was sent in, I think, November last year. I want to assure him that it has. If he read the rest of the letter sent by the Law Society, which highlights the fact that there is no privacy law in South Australia, then he also might reflect on the fact that his government I think had, for eight years, a recommendation from the South Australian Law Reform Institute that we look at privacy law in this state. They did nothing about it. He might want to reflect on that.
I want to assure the house, as I have publicly indicated, that that is precisely what, as a new government, we are doing. We are having a look at where there are deficiencies in the law and the matters that we need to consider. Yes, we are taking up this issue. We are very conscious of this issue. I cannot explain what the member's previous government, of which he was a member for some time, was actually doing all that time, but they commissioned the report. They asked for it and then they obviously just put it in the bin.
I will just make the point that before the member comes in and gives outdated and inaccurate information, he might want to just update himself a bit. What I do agree with him on is that Australia has been, with the excellent leadership of the Prime Minister, protected by very clear quarantine restrictions—in particular, restrictions on travel in and out of our country. As the member quite rightly pointed out, Britain has not been in the same circumstance.
What other countries have done in relation to their restrictions seems to be very late in the piece in terms of what they are introducing. Australia has been very clear about that, as has New Zealand. I think it has added, as the member has said, a level of extra protection for us, in addition to our geographical circumstance.
I appreciate the fact that the member recognises the stewardship in relation to how the states have otherwise dealt with matters, although he still has some concern about the daily testing issue. The outcome is clear: there has been nowhere near the circumstance of distress and death rate that has been incurred in many other countries in the world.
Secondly, I think South Australia has led the way in relation to how to deal with an outbreak; Queensland has followed, and Western Australia is now going through a traumatic time and they have followed. We have to recognise the leadership we have in our state governments and at the federal level and at how this has been coordinated.
When we do sit down in a happier time—it may be a while yet before vaccines are completely rolled out, and that is understandably the current focus—and look at how we got through this pandemic, we have to look at how things worked here and how we might assist others in the world to appreciate the benefits of what we have done and, of course, learn from any mistakes. These are things yet to be considered, but we have been at some significant advantage and are appreciative of the leadership we have had.
However, we are here today to provide for an extension up to 31 May, or 28 days from declaration. In practical terms that means if the commissioner came to us at the end of the current 28-day period and said, 'I don't require this any further. I'm not going to be seeking the Governor's endorsement of an extension,' then it would be 28 days to lapse—which would be a date, of course, earlier than 31 May. That is the effect of this legislation.
For the record, there have been some matters that have not been pursued. As I said earlier, some of them are in the category of where, as Attorney-General, I have power to simply cease their operation. To give an example, there were a number of directions where the Treasurer had power, under the COVID act, to direct the Auditor-General, and it was with the blessing and approval of the Auditor-General that those provisions were developed. They were not used, and the Treasurer wrote to me to say they had not been used and it was unnecessary that they continue. As Attorney-General I have not continued them.
Similarly, the issue of provision around a special arrangement of mandatory mediation before court determinations on commercial leases for disputes in relation to that has, I think, been valued. There have been various models of this presented all around Australia, and the work that has been done, supported by the government, to provide to mediation facilities by the Small Business Commissioner has been valuable in relation to that service. It is no longer needed; it expired on 3 January. Around Australia—if one has some interest in this area—this provision, this special arrangement, is lapsing as we speak, and it is expected to continue to be dismantled, depending on the demand.
For the benefit of the parliament and those who are following that aspect, I can report that the Magistrates Court ultimately made a determination in a case recently as to who and how the formula would work for the sharing of loss in relation to a commercial lease, the loss of rent and the sharing of that between the landlord and tenant. Some people have inquired about copies of that for their information but, essentially, the Magistrates Court took the period for which there had been a reduction in revenue, undertook an assessment as to how that translated into proportional rent and shared that loss between the landlord and the tenant.
It was a sort of fifty-fifty distribution of that loss, and it was a careful analysis by the Magistrates Court. I hope that will be a helpful guide and precedent for others who are supporting people in our commercial and retail leasing world, to assist them in being able to provide advice as a legal team or as a guide to parties, encouraging them to sit down to resolve those issues. We are not out of this circumstance from the point of view of everything returning to normal.
I am very proud of the economic position that South Australia is in under the stewardship of our Premier. Nevertheless, there will need to be ongoing consideration of how we address matters of compensation, how we address matters in relation to support and whether we need any other legislative or regulatory wraparound to assist people to come through this, in addition to those that have been extended by the federal government, provisions such as JobSeeker and JobKeeper. With that, I commend the bill to the house and again thank the opposition for their indication of support.
Bill read a second time.