This bill makes two important changes to the Emergency Management Act 2004: firstly, to allow a fee to be charged to arrivals from interstate and overseas for their hotel quarantine and to further incorporate the inclusion of a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment for those who have found to have breached a direction of the Coordinator.
The Hon. A. Koutsantonis: What a good idea.
The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: All of them, not just your weak one. Dealing first—
The SPEAKER: Order!
The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: —with the hotel quarantine, quarantining—
Mr Malinauskas interjecting:
The SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will have an opportunity to put some thoughts on the record.
Mr Patterson interjecting:
The SPEAKER: The member for Morphett is called to order.
The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: Dealing first with the hotel quarantine, quarantining returning Australians from overseas for a period of 14 days has been a vital part of Australia's and South Australia's approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the current Emergency Management (Cross Border Travel No 9) (COVID-19) Direction 2020, all people arriving in South Australia from overseas must reside and remain at a place determined by an authorised officer for a period of 14 days. All Australian jurisdictions currently enforce similar quarantine arrangements for overseas arrivals.
Australia's peak decision-making committee on health emergencies, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), has recently reinforced their advice that this measure is a key part of Australia's successful response to COVID-19. In a public statement on 26 June 2020, the AHPPC reaffirmed their recommendation that all international travellers continue to undertake 14 days' quarantine at a supervised hotel.
Of more than 1,200 Australians who have arrived into South Australia from overseas, three have tested positive for COVID-19 from the Air India flight from Mumbai on 27 June 2020 and, from all the positive COVID-19 cases in South Australia, the vast majority have been acquired from overseas. This demonstrates the importance of a strong and sustainable quarantine process to reduce the spread of the virus into the South Australian community.
South Australians have demonstrated an incredible willingness to play their part in the state, national and international response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I do acknowledge how challenging this has been and once again thank the people of South Australia for their efforts thus far. However, a global response pandemic is far from over, and South Australia must continue to play its part in the national effort to allow Australian citizens to return home. More than 77,000 Australian citizens have returned to Australia and been subject to quarantine measures since 28 March 2020.
As COVID-19 emerged, one million Australians were estimated to be living or travelling overseas, so it is anticipated that thousands more Australians will seek to return home over time. Victoria is currently not allowing international arrivals. New South Wales has a cap of 450 international arrivals a day, with a maximum of 50 per flight. Western Australia has a cap of 525 international arrivals per week, and other jurisdictions are looking at caps also. These interstate caps are likely to place an increased demand on South Australia to take additional arrivals.
The South Australian government currently has capacity for approximately 1,035 people in quarantine across three hotels, and the government covers all costs associated with this. To date, South Australia has incurred approximately $3.5 million in costs to quarantine returning overseas travellers. Interstate, both Queensland and the Northern Territory charge individual fees to partially or fully cover the cost of their mandatory quarantine period. The Western Australian government and New South Wales have recently announced that they will be following suit.
Some jurisdictions are also beginning to utilise their supervised hotel quarantine program to manage arrivals from current COVID-19 hospitals in Australia. South Australia has a strong hotel program, and that has been well managed by SA Police and SA Health. It has been and continues to be an important element of the government's COVID-19 response strategy.
To ensure the ongoing sustainability of these arrangements, and to allow South Australia to continue to accept and quarantine those returning to this state, the Transition Committee has recommended that South Australia commence a charging regime based on a portion of the cost of the period of quarantine. The Emergency Management (Quarantine Fees and Penalty) Amendment Bill 2020 amends the Emergency Management Act to allow for the charging of a fee to recover costs associated with providing quarantine services in relation to the emergency declared under that act.
Under the amendments, this power to determine a fee will be vested with the State Coordinator for the emergency or delegated to an assistant state coordinator. The bill provides for flexibility for who the fee will apply to, and this will be determined by the State Coordinator. Cabinet has agreed, pending a formal decision by the State Coordinator, that Australians returning to South Australia from overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic should be asked to cover the cost of their 14-day hotel quarantine. This will ensure sustainable quarantine arrangements are in place going forward.
SA Health will coordinate the hotel quarantine scheme based on the following cost structure: one adult will be charged $3,000, additional adults $1,000 each, additional children $500 each, and a child under three no additional cost. These charges will apply for any international arrival who has entered hotel quarantine from 12.01am on Saturday 18 July 2020. This will not apply to travellers who purchased their tickets before 12pm on 13 July—I think that should be 18 July—2020. Waiver arrangements will be available for people currently in quarantine and for people experiencing financial hardship or vulnerability, and payment plans will be made available.
The bill introduced here today supports a sustainable approach to maintaining South Australia's strong quarantine arrangements and ensures South Australia plays its part in the national effort to allow citizens to return home without increasing the risk in the community. The bill keeps South Australia as safe as possible by ensuring that any person who breaches a direction will face up to two years' imprisonment, beyond the currently available monetary penalty, and of course the on-the-spot fines which have already been approved by this parliament.
I thank the State Coordinator, the control centre and public health for their continued work in ensuring our borders are secure and that South Australians are kept safe. I add, to make it absolutely clear, that the provision in relation to the first reform does apply to those South Australians who are in South Australia who disobey a direction and are required to be detained in hotel accommodation. Under the bill, they will also be required to make this payment.
I commend the bill to the house and seek leave to insert the explanation of clauses without my reading it.
Explanation of Clauses
This clause is formal.
The measure operates from assent, except section 4 which operates from 18 July 2020.
These clauses are formal.
Part 2—Amendment of Emergency Management Act 2004
4—Insertion of section 25AA
New section 25AA is proposed to be inserted:
25AA—Fees on designated arrivals during declared emergencies
The State Co-ordinator is authorised to require a liable person (which is defined to include a prescribed arrival (being a person who arrived in SA from the commencement of the section) and a designated person (being a person who refused or failed to comply with a direction or requirement to quarantine or isolate and who is directed to reside at a place determined by an authorised officer)) to pay a fee (determined by the State Co-ordinator by notice under the section) relating to their quarantine or isolation at a place in South Australia. A notice under the section can provide that it has effect from a date earlier than its publication. Delegation to an Assistant State Co-ordinator is provided for.
5—Amendment of section 28—Failure to comply with directions
Imprisonment for 2 years is added to the penalty provision in section 28(1).
Mr MALINAUSKAS (Croydon—Leader of the Opposition) (11:12): I would like to thank the Attorney-General for her fundamental change of position that the government announced overnight and in this morning's Advertiser. We acknowledge the fact that the Attorney-General, last week, expressed substantial resistance to the idea that those people who compromise the safety of our state in both a health sense and an economic sense should not be subject to a prison sentence. That, of course, is inconsistent with our view that we have been rather explicit about and consistent on ever since the events of the stowaways emerged in the community last week.
It is important to bring some context to this debate, because the truth is that out in the community people who are doing the right thing and obeying the law, trying to make sure we keep South Australia safe, are not so much interested in whether or not the Attorney-General has changed her position a few times or whether or not I, as the Leader of the Opposition, proposed this first. What they are interested in is the outcome.
We are in the midst of an extraordinary crisis, and I think we are all conscious of that. There are currently 190,000 South Australians who are either unemployed or underemployed. That has an extraordinary real-world impact on so many good people in our community who are simply trying to do the right thing by their families, by themselves, by everyone else in society. They want to work hard, they want to contribute to make this state a better one.
That is difficult when we have such a high level of unemployment and underemployment, which is why it is absolutely imperative that those in charge of the state—and that is principally the government, but really parliamentarians as a whole—do everything we possibly can to ensure that we keep our state safe from COVID and protect our economy in the process.
We know that there are people out there who would do the wrong thing and compromise all that, and we have seen it occur in three different instances just in the last week alone, or thereabouts. We saw the stowaways last week: individuals jumping on a train and coming across the border, knowingly breaching the law, compromising everybody's safety and compromising our whole economy. We saw in the last few days an instance of people crossing the border under the guise of needing urgent medical attention only not to receive it, and we have just heard reports this morning of other people trying to cross the border from Victoria.
In each and every one of these cases, people are doing the wrong thing, potentially carrying COVID-19 themselves and compromising everybody in South Australia, which is why it is just so important that we send the strongest and clearest message to those people who would do the wrong thing that we will not tolerate it, that they will not be able to get away with a simple slap on the wrist or even a fine and that they could potentially be subject to a prison sentence, which is why we proposed it last week.
The Attorney-General has been resisting that every step of the way. I was very heartened to hear on ABC radio yesterday morning that the police commissioner, the State Coordinator, the person who has been in charge of our health response as a state that has stood us so well with phenomenal leadership, backed Labor's proposition for a two-year prison sentence being an option available to the courts. Of course, we saw more resistance from the government, but then last night the government changed its position.
I thought it was incredible to read in the paper this morning from the Attorney-General that somehow her position is different from Labor's position when we now know, having seen the bill, that it is exactly the same. I understand the Attorney-General has been embarrassed and she is desperately trying to save face, that somehow this is a different idea, but the proof is in the pudding. We have the bill now.
What was telling in this little saga was that this morning, having read about the bill last night on Adelaidenow and then seeing it on the front page of the paper this morning, the opposition had not been provided a copy of the bill. In fact, we had been waiting for it all morning, and only a few minutes before parliament commenced did we receive the bill, literally only a handful of minutes. Labor has had its bill prepared for some time. We obviously provided a copy of that to the government, as is appropriate. We have now, just in the last few minutes, seen a bill and it is more or less in this regard exactly the same as Labor's, so of course we are going to support it.
I think what matters to South Australians most is that they see leadership, that they see a genuine commitment to keeping people safe, that we send the strongest message in the clearest possible terms to anyone who wants to compromise our safety, to anyone who wants to put more South Australians out of work through a reckless act of crossing a border and breaching a quarantine regulation, that it will not be tolerated and they could be subject to gaol time.
Our message is clear. Our proposition is simple. That is why we are advocating for it, and that is why we have put a position of leadership forward, making the argument. I welcome the police commissioner's support on radio yesterday morning. I welcome the fact that the Marshall Liberal government have fundamentally changed their position. It is in the interests of the state more broadly, and I acknowledge that. I want to thank the government for yet again taking up our proposition because that is the way politics should operate.
We should see continuous examples of the Labor Party in opposition putting on the table constructive ideas and then the government following and accepting them, whether that be around gaol terms for those doing the wrong thing, whether that be mandatory testing for people coming across the border, whether that be for border closures in the first instance—all these ideas that we have bowled up. We are very grateful for the fact that the government is following our lead and adopting them accordingly because ultimately it keeps our state safe, and that is our objective.
We do not want to see any more South Australians out of work than needs to be the case. We do not want to see people losing loved ones to COVID-19 unnecessarily. That is why we will continue to advocate for every last possible measure aimed at keeping the state safe. I welcome the fact that the government has changed its position in this instance.
I would encourage the Premier that the next time we bowl up a constructive suggestion or idea, rather than ruling it out of hand and then having to be dragged to the table days or weeks later, again and again, to consider it on its merits. Do not be too proud and just say no. Consider it on its merits and that way we can have these sorts of matters dealt with expeditiously, which is for the benefit of everybody, most importantly for the citizens of our state.
We support this bill and we support its passage as quickly as possible. That will not come as a surprise to those opposite, considering most of it is our idea. Let's get it through the parliament as quickly as possible and let's make the job of police easier if we can.
The final point I will conclude on is that, at the moment, we have hundreds of police officers stationed across the border with Victoria and New South Wales. They are doing an exceptional job. They are away from their families in many instances, serving our state around the clock. They deserve to be commended. It looks as though more quality police work has been undertaken this morning with the capture of other people coming across the border. I want to thank South Australia Police for that effort and I would ask that the Minister for Police, present in the chamber, pass on that thanks if possible. It obviously enjoys support across the parliament.
Our task as parliamentarians is to do everything we can. Police are doing everything they can and we have to do everything we can. That is why we have to pass this law. That is why we have to send a message to anyone wanting to do the wrong thing that if they do that, they could potentially face gaol time. We think that is a significant deterrent that will hopefully start to dissuade people from doing the wrong thing.
Ms LUETHEN (King) (11:21): I rise to support the Marshall Liberal government's and Attorney-General's move to amend the Emergency Management Act 2020. People in my electorate agree there must be harsher penalties for COVID-19 rule breakers.
The Marshall Liberal government will amend the Emergency Management Act to insert a maximum penalty of up to two years' imprisonment for those who defy our strong border restrictions. The Attorney-General said that after discussions with the police commissioner, Grant Stevens, the government would strengthen the penalty for breaches of the act. Gaol time for people caught flouting the state's tough COVID-19 restrictions comes after discussions with the police commissioner, who has advised the government he hoped to be adding imprisonment as a penalty and that that will help to deter people from breaking the rules.
As a government, we want to send the strongest possible message to those who break the law. We cannot take chances when it comes to protecting our state from the second wave of coronavirus, which our Victorian neighbours are currently facing. It is great to hear the opposition are also jumping on board to support this. South Australia has come too far to have reckless people coming into our state illegally and unwinding our good work. From the very beginning of this pandemic, we have always followed the advice of our health and law enforcement authorities. This is no exception.
As soon as the police commissioner expressed his support for a term of imprisonment being added into the Emergency Management Act, our government acted. We had already planned to open the act up to ensure that Australian citizens returning home have to pay for their hotel quarantine, so adding this term of imprisonment to section 28 of the act at the same time makes perfect sense. The safety of South Australians is our utmost priority and we hope the addition of a term of imprisonment will deter anyone from thinking about crossing the border illegally and putting our state at risk.
On the weekend and last night, when I asked for feedback on how we are managing the state and coronavirus, my King community told me they agree with these harsher penalties. The need to deal more strongly with and have stronger consequences for people defying the state's order came up when I was doorknocking in One Tree Hill on Sunday. This week, constituents have made additional comments about their views and told me that we need to get tougher. Denise Harris said, 'I hope the courts follow through and gaol them.' Sheila Dennis said:
Good. These people are absolutely without a social conscience. They deserve a prison sentence with NO remission for an early guilty plea. They don't care if South Australians get sick and die.
Andrew Ford said, 'What? A maximum penalty? Why not a minimum of two years' imprisonment?' Janet Young said, 'It needs to be enforced rigorously. The courts cannot do the usual "poor you" attitude.' Maria O'Callaghan said:
Great news but let's hope that they actually enforce it and not just end up with a slap on the wrist. A minimum sentence would be more appropriate.
Naomi Porter said, 'Great news.' Scott Gilbert wants these people to go to gaol. So support for this amendment and tougher penalties is clear: there must be harsher penalties for COVID-19 rule breakers.
In addition, the Emergency Management (Quarantine Fees and Penalty) Amendment Bill 2020 will amend the Emergency Management Act 2004 to allow for the charging of a fee to recover costs associated with providing quarantine services in relation to an emergency declared under that act. Under the amendments, this power will determine a fee which will be vested with the State Coordinator for the emergency or delegated to an assistant state coordinator. The bill provides flexibility for who the fee will apply to, and this would be determined by the State Coordinator.
The government have determined that, pending a formal decision by the State Coordinator, Australians returning to South Australia from overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic should be asked to cover the cost of their 14-day hotel quarantine. This will ensure sustainable quarantine arrangements are in place going forward. SA Health will coordinate the hotel quarantine scheme based on the following cost structure:
one adult will be charged $3,000;
additional adults, $1,000 each;
additional children, $500 each; and
children under 3, no additional cost.
Waiver arrangements will be available for people currently in quarantine and for people experiencing financial hardship or vulnerability, and payment plans will be made available.
As background, under the current emergency management direction 2020, all people arriving in South Australia from overseas must reside and remain at a place determined by an authorised officer for a period of 14 days. Of the more than 1,200 Australians who have arrived in South Australia from overseas, three have tested positive for COVID-19, and of all the positive COVID-19 cases in South Australia, the vast majority have been acquired from overseas.
More than 77,000 Australian citizens have returned to Australia and been subjected to quarantine measures since 28 March 2020. As COVID-19 emerged, one million Australians were estimated to be living or travelling overseas, so it is anticipated that thousands more Australians will seek to return home over time.
Victoria is currently not allowing international arrivals, New South Wales has a cap of 450 international arrivals a day with a maximum of 50 per flight, Western Australia has a cap of 525 international arrivals per week, and other jurisdictions are also looking into caps. These interstate caps are likely to place an increased demand on South Australia to take additional arrivals.
The South Australian government currently has capacity for approximately 1,035 people in quarantine across three hotels, and the government covers all costs associated with this. To date, South Australia has incurred approximately $3.5 million in costs to quarantine returning overseas travellers. Interstate, both Queensland and Northern Territory charge individuals fees to partially or fully recover the cost of their mandatory quarantine period. The Western Australian and New South Wales governments have recently announced they will be following suit.
Some jurisdictions are also beginning to utilise their supervised hotel quarantine program to manage arrivals from current COVID-19 hotspots in Australia. South Australia has a strong hotel program that has been well managed by SA Police and SA Health. It has been and continues to be an important element of the government's COVID-19 response strategy.
I support the introduction of amendments to the Emergency Management Act to allow for the charging of a fee to recover costs associated with providing quarantine services in relation to an emergency declared under that act. I support harsher penalties for COVID-19 rule breakers and I thank all South Australians for their great efforts to date to keep us safe. I commend the bill to the house.
Dr CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (11:29): I would like to speak briefly about this matter because I feel impelled to speak up on behalf of Victorians because of some of the criticism I have heard of these good fellow Australians in the press. Victorians themselves are not the problem. Although I have been amused, as everyone else has no doubt, by some of the memes, particularly the ones relating to the Spice Girls and reflections on whether the Spice Girls were better without Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham), the truth is that we are dealing with a virus that does not care about nationality, creed or location inside Australia or anywhere else.
In fact, I believe the Victorians have had a lower R rating than some other states, which means that their efforts at social distancing and spatial distancing have, by that measure, been superior to those of some other states. They have, however, had the terrible fate of having the virus get loose within their community; therefore, I utterly support very strict border control. I do not think that should be done on the basis of criticising individual states and people from those states by virtue of them being from Victoria or from any other location in Australia, but I do think it is appropriate that we all observe every measure possible to deal with this virus.
Victoria is not the enemy, but we do have two enemies; one is the virus itself, which is, of course, an unthinking enemy. It does not care. It just wants to replicate. It will be very interesting to see what we determine through the WHO review and report into how this virus came to get loose within the world, the extent to which environmental destruction and exploitation of wildlife may or may not have been complicit in making that virus jump from one species into our own and also the review into the extent to which we were prepared for such an eventuality, although it has always been understood to be a possibility.
But the second enemy is one that we have under our control—that is, complacency. Complacency can be exhibited at the person-to-person level of not adequately responding to directives from health office officials about being distant, hand hygiene, and mask wearing in public in Victoria and some other places, but it can also be complacency at a governmental level. I would say that my observation has been that South Australians and Australians have tended to be slightly ahead of their governments in managing this virus.
Although I have no criticism of the decisions that governments at both levels have made, they have often seemed to me to be a day or two, or even a week or two, behind the sentiment of Australians and, in our case, South Australians. It has been clear that we have needed a harder border for some time. The government is now responding. It was clear early that we could not possibly meet that 20 July date, and eventually the government agreed with that.
I appreciate that governing is hard and that there are many pieces of advice provided gratuitously as well with good heart, but I would like to echo the leader's observation that sometimes the opposition is capable of coming up with an idea that has merit that should not be discounted simply on the basis that we are not sitting on the government's side of the chamber, and that complacency can reside within a government that assumes it is naturally better at making decisions than the people who happen to sit on this side of the chamber.
We are all in this together. The virus does not care how we voted at the last election. The virus does not care where we were born or where we reside, so it is important that we use the only weapon that we have, which is to shut down interaction between people who may have the virus and not allow any degree of complacency or arrogance to prevent us from adopting the procedures, processes and approach that would make a difference to halting this virus.
In South Australia, we have come very close to being able to say that the virus is not within our community and will not come in unless we let it in from outside, and that is something that is very precious and ought to be responded to and respected with greater alacrity than I think there has been a risk of from the government benches. With that, I support the bill.
Mr PICTON (Kaurna) (11:34): I rise to speak on the very swiftly renamed Emergency Management (Quarantine Fees and Penalty) Amendment Bill 2020. Up until not that long ago—less than an hour ago—the 'and Penalty' was not a feature of this bill when it was provided to the opposition yesterday. This has very much been a last-minute change by the government to incorporate Labor's proposal, which we had drafted and were about to introduce to the parliament, to introduce a maximum two-year penalty for somebody who breaches the COVID-19 regulations under the Emergency Management Act.
There is a very clear reason why we have been promoting this over the past week: we need to keep our state safe. We need to keep South Australia safe. We only have to look across the border to see the difficulty and the outbreak that is happening there. We need to make sure that South Australia's health system, our people and our economy are safe, and the border restrictions have been absolutely pivotal in doing that.
Over the past week, we have seen a number of people clearly breaching the law and getting around those restrictions. The maximum penalty that we had in place was only a fine of up to $20,000. What we saw last week was exemplified when four people stowed away on a freight train. Excellent credit to SA Police for being able to detect those people as they came into our state. They did not just want to give them an expiation notice; they wanted to send a message to the community, so they brought them before the magistrate to face the fullest extent of the law.
The magistrate said, 'I have no ability to provide a prison sentence, so I can't do that. I don't think there would be the ability for these people to repay the fine, so I am going to let them out on a bond.' I think South Australians were pretty outraged when they saw that result coming out of the court. I think it was a message to the whole community to say that we have a law where, as the magistrate said, there is a deficiency and an inability to add a sentence to this element.
We swiftly announced our support and willingness to introduce legislation to provide a penalty of up to two years in the case of somebody breaching those directions under the Emergency Management Act. The government did not say, 'We will do that.' The government did not say, 'We will support the proposition that Labor are introducing.' The Attorney-General went on Leon Byner's radio program and dismissed the idea.
The Attorney-General said that this was a bad thing to do. The Attorney-General said that she was not interested in pursuing this matter because she did not think that these people deserved to face any potential prison penalty for an extreme breach of these directions. We strongly disagreed with that proposal. We have spent almost a week talking about the need for this law to be changed to make sure that we have the strongest penalty in place for somebody who would go out of their way to breach these directions.
I think it really hit home yesterday, when police commissioner Grant Stevens—State Coordinator under this pandemic emergency and the person who is effectively running the response to this pandemic in South Australia under the Emergency Management Act—said very clearly on radio that he would support these laws. Commissioner Stevens said he would support the changes we proposed. These are the changes that the Attorney-General had dismissed and argued against only days before.
We welcome the fact that we now have this legislation before us, introduced by the Attorney-General, which is exactly the same as the legislation we had drafted. Here we have the government's legislation and the legislation that we had drafted; they are exactly the same in terms of the penalty to be provided.
I think it is a bit galling for the people of South Australia that the Attorney-General cannot bring herself to say, 'We will listen to all ideas. There was a good idea put up by the opposition and we will support it.' She is completely incapable of listening to and agreeing with other ideas, so she is trying to pretend now that this is some sort of different idea even though they are absolutely exactly the same drafting, exactly the same piece of legislation.
For the people of South Australia, the benefit is the same. The benefit is that we will have this in place now; we will have this legislation passed. The worry I have is, if it was not for the police commissioner being interviewed and being asked about this repeatedly on radio yesterday, that we might not have this penalty in place, that we might not have this deterrent or this message sent to the community, this message sent to people who want to do the wrong thing that not only could they potentially face a fine but, in a case determined by a court, they could face a prison penalty for a significant breach of COVID-19 regulations.
This is not something we do lightly; these are extreme times. Of course, the directions that this is in breach of do not go through the parliament: they are determined by one person, that one person being the State Coordinator, the police commissioner, who determines those directions and a breach of them will now result in a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment being faced. But that is proportionate to the risk that we face as a state.
It only takes one person doing the wrong thing for our state to go backwards. This whole worldwide pandemic only came from one person to begin with. The outbreak in Victoria likely came from one person doing the wrong thing there. We do not want to have a situation where one person doing the wrong thing in our state sends us backwards from the position that we are at.
Over the course of this pandemic, we have been providing our support for measures to keep our state safe. Over the course of this pandemic, we have been backing a series of legislation after legislation, including very extreme powers that this parliament has passed very quickly, including massive budget approvals that we have passed very quickly, to make sure that South Australia is safe. We have done that with the full support of the opposition, but where we have instances where there are things that need to be raised that are not been raised by the government, it is our duty to put them on the agenda and make sure they are being pursued to keep our state safe.
It started back when we first had the government dismissing the idea of border restrictions and closing the border; we promoted it. Our leader, the Leader of the Opposition, the member Croydon, put it on the table and it was swiftly followed by the government putting it into action. Even this week, we were continually promoting the fact that we need to have mandatory testing in place for people who have come across the border. We need to make sure that they are all being tested. For a good week, the government were dismissing the need for mandatory testing—absolutely dismissing it for 10 or 11 days—until they eventually changed their mind and, as of the weekend, brought in the provision that there is now mandatory testing in place.
We still do not know how many people have been followed up. We still do not know what the results of all of that follow-up have been. Have there been people who have not had the test? We do not know that because the government will not release any of those figures in terms of who has actually been followed up. The police commissioner was asked about it and said, 'Well, the police aren't following it up. Go talk to Health.' Health were then asked at the same press conference and they said that they did not know about it either. I think there is a big question mark over the follow-up, but at the very least it was an idea that we put on the table and the government changed their mind on it after a week of dismissing it.
It is a good result, and here we have another good result, where we have put an idea on the table that has been followed. There have been countless other examples that have happened over the course of the pandemic. You only have to look at the free car parking that we put on the table and the expansion of testing. There are further things that we should be doing that we have put on the table as well, chief among them is that, if you look at our testing regime, we are currently making people get a doctor's referral to go to a drive-through testing site.
In other states, you can go to a drive-through testing site and get a test. That is what we are encouraging people to do: to get a test as soon as possible. Here in South Australia, for our two drive-through testing sites in Adelaide, you have to ring your doctor, get a doctor's appointment, go to the doctor's appointment and get a referral that has to be faxed to SA Pathology. They have to then book in the appointment, which apparently takes up to a couple of days, and then you have to go to get your test done. It is an unnecessary delay—an unnecessary delay in the sense of this pandemic.
People clearly want to have drive-through clinics; they are very popular. They are a very anonymous, easy way of getting a test, but to go through that rigmarole to do it is completely unnecessary. Why would that be in place? One thing that has been put to me is that, if you get a doctor's referral to get the test, the commonwealth government will give the state government a fee under the Medicare Benefits Scheme. If there is no doctor's referral, there is no fee provided by the Medicare Benefits Scheme.
So here we have a situation, in the middle of a global pandemic, where we are adding days of delay for people to get testing, potentially because we want to receive a payment from the commonwealth government. Let's just sort that out without delaying things unnecessarily so that we can get some more money from Canberra. In the middle of a global pandemic, that does not seem the priority at the moment, particularly when you look at our testing rates, which have gone from being the highest in the country to being the lowest in the country.
Over the past six weeks, every other state has had a higher testing rate per capita than South Australia. So we have gone from the highest testing rate to the lowest testing rate. We have done a great job as a community, but we cannot be complacent. We need to keep a very high level of testing to make sure that, if there are going to be cases that potentially come across the border, we can detect them as soon as possible.
The sooner you can detect them, the sooner you can put in place contact tracing and the sooner you can put in place proper restrictions around those people to make sure that they are not going to spread it to other people in the community. I would encourage the government to consider that further suggestion, to make sure that we can improve our testing rate and make it as easy as possible for people.
If you look at some of the data in terms of what has happened over the past week, I think there are some concerning elements with respect to what is happening with our border provisions. The government is saying that we have a hard border in place, and the figures reported in the Sunday Mail show that 6,700 people have come from Victoria into South Australia in the 10 or so days since that hard border was put in place. That is a lot of people.
That is potentially a higher rate of people coming into South Australia than over the 10 days before those restrictions were put in place. We are actually seeing an increased number of people coming into South Australia from Victoria. That is a level of concern, but I think the even greater element of concern is that we have a situation where the police who are doing checks on people are finding a higher level of noncompliance than they have been finding throughout the course of the pandemic.
Over the course of the pandemic, quarantine noncompliance has been happening among people who have been checked on by police. This is obviously very concerning because we do not want to have any of these people causing an issue in our community. About 7 per cent of the checks that the police have done have been noncompliant.
In the week since the hard border closure, from Sunday to Sunday, there have been 444 cases of noncompliance. That is over 10 per cent of the times that SA Police have contacted somebody and gone to check on them that they have been noncompliant. That is a very high level of noncompliance. We had the health minister, Stephen Wade, on the radio last week, saying that he thought the level of compliance was in the high nineties. Well, apparently compliance is less than 90 per cent. That is a concern.
Another element of this piece of legislation—for which we were given some notice, not quite 24 hours' notice, and which was given to us yesterday afternoon without being offered a briefing as per the usual practice—is around hotel quarantine fees.
By and large, most people think it is reasonable, particularly given the timing we are at now, that people who are coming back to Australia and being put into hotel quarantine should have to repay an amount—maybe not the full cost recovery but certainly an amount—for some of the hotel quarantine that has been put in place. It is likely that we are going to have this system in place for some time to come. It is hard to imagine a situation in which we are going to open our international borders any time soon, and so this will be in place for some time.
We have seen, obviously in Victoria, very significant breaches of hotel quarantine and we need to make sure that does not happen in South Australia as well. We have been lucky, to some extent, in that we have not had the significant number of international arrivals that New South Wales and Victoria have had to manage. There have been a much lower number of arrivals coming here, even on a per capita basis, than other states. That has meant we have been able to have a greater level of oversight of people than if suddenly there are not two or three hotels operating but five, six, seven or more, when it becomes a larger and larger operation.
We have had some allegations, in fact confirmed by Stephen Wade in the other place, that at least one private security staff member has been stood down during the hotel quarantine for not wearing a mask while at work. That is concerning because we have heard clearly the allegations about private security staff in Victoria. There has been very little detail provided about who those private security staff are in South Australia, who has been engaged, what company has been engaged, how much we are funding them and what level of oversight is in place.
In the Attorney's contribution earlier, I thought it was interesting that she said there were 1,035 places for people in hotel quarantine in South Australia.
The Hon. V.A. Chapman: No—available.
Mr PICTON: Available right now, so you are saying that does not include the ones currently being looked after. The police commissioner, Grant Stevens, said that there were 1,200 spots in South Australia for hotel quarantine, so we question whether there has been a reduction in that number or whether it implies that 165 people are currently in hotel quarantine in South Australia.
I think it would be helpful to get some explanation in terms of how this process is going to roll out. Are exemptions going to be provided for any of these fees and on what basis will those exemptions be provided? What is the manner in which we are going to be able to recover this funding from people, particularly if many coming here have an onward destination to another state, which might therefore make it more difficult to follow up on them? What will happen if they do not pay these fees? We would like some details around exactly what the situation is in regard to the hotels being run in South Australia at the moment, including what private security guards are being engaged, what companies are being engaged and what parameters and protections are in place for those staff. We need to get this right. We need to make sure that our state is as safe as possible.
We welcome the fact that the Attorney-General has completely backflipped on this issue. We welcome the fact that the Attorney-General has done a complete 180 on her complete dismissal of the proposal of a two-year sentence from last week. We welcome the fact that it is now in the government legislation and, with our support, it will become law before the end of the week and serve as a good deterrent for people coming into South Australia.
Hopefully, the message out of this for the Attorney is to listen to ideas that are being put forward. She is not the fount of all wisdom, as much as she would like to believe, and she should listen to other people, including the police commissioner, including the opposition, including people in the community, when they have a good idea and take it on board, rather than doing what she did last week—that is, her standard approach: that anybody who puts up something alternative she dismisses immediately, even if that means she will have to do a complete backflip three days later.
Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (11:54): I rise to make a few comments on the Emergency Management (Quarantine Fees and Penalty) Amendment Bill 2020. I would like to start by saying that of course the health and safety of South Australian residents must be our primary concern, and I think it is. I think throughout this pandemic it is going to be a very interesting test case, with the Australian Constitution in mind, particularly section 92, which provides:
…trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.
Section 117 of the Constitution, which deals with discriminating against nonresidents of a state, also highlights:
A subject of the Queen, resident in any State, shall not be subject in any other State to any disability or discrimination which would not be equally applicable to him if he were a subject of the Queen resident in such other State.
Down the track, I assume that there will be some ongoing challenges to or determinations from the Constitution.
The concern I have is the amendment of section 28—Failure to comply with directions, and the imprisonment of two years. I say that because the commissioner already has extraordinary powers to detain under the Emergency Management Act. Of course, when you talk to people and residents of a community, they would like to see those who are doing the wrong thing punished for putting the safety of South Australia residents at risk, but to insert a two-year imprisonment as a penalty, when the commissioner already has extraordinary powers to detain anybody doing the wrong thing, is probably a step too far for me and something I will not be supporting.
In the context of how this bill has come before us, it has been done in a pretty quick and, I would say, rushed way. The normal process would be to have a briefing and to tease these things out in confidence, where you could ask questions and receive information. In our democracy, I will not be giving such extraordinary powers without the bare minimum of safeguards for people, or at least without an explanation of what those safeguards would be, because to imprison somebody for two years could and will have an extraordinary effect on that person's future in terms of a criminal record and all the negative connotations and effects that imprisonment can bring.
Quite frankly, I do not think we need those powers in the legislation when the commissioner already has the ability to detain. The ability to hold somebody and take away their liberties under the current Emergency Management Act, in my opinion, gives that ability to keep our community safe and act as a deterrent, as we have heard here a number of times. As a parliament, it would be taking the extraordinary step of now giving more power, in a very rushed way, without proper consultation, without the proper safeguards or the explanations I would require to satisfy myself that they are needed.
Living in a cross-border community, I see some issues arise where it is not just for work purposes that people are crossing over the border. We have had a number of cases where a mother is in the final stage of her life and people are desperate to get across to sit at her bedside and to be with that loved one for her final hours. You could say they could just get an exemption. I will tell you about an example from yesterday when an eye surgeon from Portland has been refused entry into South Australia to operate at the Mount Gambier hospital on patients requiring eye surgery, which has needed to be cancelled. We have not been able to get an explanation or a reason why last week that was fine but as of yesterday it is not fine.
There are many reasons for people coming across the border. I do not believe everybody is flouting the law to put South Australians at risk. For those who do, the current act has more than enough ability to forcibly detain a person who does not comply with a direction currently. For me, this is a step too far without the proper safeguards or explanations included.
As to the fees on designated arrivals, I know this is very popular—and certainly even my own family has been talking about this for a period of time—but I am really looking forward to the committee stage when we can tease some of this out. For example, what are the exemptions? Are we putting South Australians at risk who are overseas but who feel they cannot afford the $3,000, so they stay in a place even though they would love to come home because they cannot afford the fee associated?
Are there other options available instead of staying at five-star hotels? Are there other ways that the South Australian government could keep our community safe and accommodate people who do not have the financial means to pay the thousands of dollars? Could there be alternative arrangements made, maybe at some of the other centres in South Australia which are not five-star? Those who might be needing to come across for domestic violence or other issues are trying to do the right thing but the fee is a prohibitive measure.
Let me say that overall I am very supportive that those who can afford to pay for their isolation here should be doing so. I am not trying to say that we waive fees for everybody. I think that a very good point was made that the COVID-19 crisis has been with us for a while now and those who have not returned have had ample opportunity to do so, in some cases; that is, of course, without knowing people's individual circumstances.
I rise to indicate that I will not be supporting an imprisonment of two years. I think it is draconian. I think we run the risk of handing too much power to the State Coordinator when in actual fact they have all the mechanisms and all the power they need to forcibly detain somebody doing the wrong thing at this point in time. I will be listening with interest to the debate around the designated fees for those who are arriving. With those comments, I look forward to the debate.
Ms WORTLEY (Torrens) (12:04): I want to speak in support of the bill and, in doing so, want to highlight a few of the points that have been raised by my residents who have been concerned about the flow of people coming across the border and the impact it may have. There is no doubt that this bill before us sees some severe penalties, but it is a severe situation.
Who would have thought that going into 2020 we would be standing in this chamber speaking on a bill that would see our families and friends across the border possibly being subject to a penalty if they were to cross the border into South Australia? As far as the COVID-19 virus goes, it is as the opposition leader said: it targets anyone; it is something that is absolutely devastating to our community. You only have to switch on CNN at night and see the tens of thousands of people who are dying around the world each day.
I take on board some of the comments made regarding the cost of staying in hotels. That is significant. I have residents, Australian citizens, who are overseas at the moment and want to return. I know the airfares have gone up and the accommodation costs would be significant here, but we have, in essence, been left with no choice but to implement such severe penalties, which would see people possibly gaoled for crossing the border.
I encourage the government in this instance, if this bill is passed, to ensure that it is used as a deterrent and that we do not have to see people being faced with these penalties down the track. It needs to be seen as a deterrent, through the government advertising and the media promoting the fact that this bill will now apply to anyone who is in breach of COVID-19 isolation regulations who crosses the border into South Australia.
The Hon. S.C. MULLIGHAN (Lee) (12:07): I rise to make a few brief remarks on the bill that the Attorney has brought to the house, the Emergency Management (Quarantine Fees and Penalty) Amendment Bill, which largely, I think, reflects the concerns of the broader community about some of the implementation of the state's response to the current coronavirus pandemic. I preface my comments by saying that I am a very strong supporter of the political system that we have in Australia because I think it comes up with a very particular way of ensuring that the community's concerns can be not only ventilated but well represented in this place.
We have a large, and largely expert, bureaucracy that is responsible for the administration of government and the delivery of services to the state, and in this case, relevant to the discussions that we are having today, we have a police commissioner who can be provided with exceptional and extraordinary powers to respond to an emergency like the coronavirus pandemic. All of us, in this place at least, are elected by our local communities to reflect their concerns and views in here, and I would like to think that over the decades, and even today, many of us do a pretty good job of that.
I do not think it is a stretch to say that all of us would have been aware, from people contacting our electorate offices, for example, that people have concerns not just about the coronavirus pandemic and the threat that it poses to our community or to the state or to the nation but about some of the implementation of the state's response to it. In the last week there have been issues about whether taxpayers should be footing the bill for people who are required to go into quarantine, and under what circumstances taxpayers should be footing the bill, and also whether punishments are sufficient for those people who come into South Australia against the restrictions that have been legally placed on them.
I would have thought it was pretty obvious, either from listening to those communications to us directly through our electorate offices or from the conversations we were having directly with our constituents, if not just listening to talkback radio or reading the morning paper, that people are becoming increasingly agitated in particular about the case of a carload of people coming over from Victoria or people jumping on a train and smuggling themselves in, or making themselves stowaways, and coming across the border from Victoria into South Australia and, when caught, what penalty should be imposed on them for their flagrant disregard of the legal restrictions placed on people's movements at the border of Victoria and South Australia.
And might I say that they are very necessary restrictions for people not to be able to cross the border unless of course the movements are deemed necessary. As we know, that was certainly not the case in those two instances we saw over the last seven days: firstly, the movement of people by train and, secondly, the movement of people by vehicle. With that in mind, it was pretty obvious I think to most people that, despite us having considered only in the last months some laws to provide penalties to people who are acting in a manner contrary to a legal direction provided either to them directly or to the community at large, when those four people were apprehended after stowing away on a freight train and taken to the Magistrates Court and given a fine only, there was a very strong community desire for the parliament to—
The Hon. V.A. Chapman: They were given a bond.
The Hon. S.C. MULLIGHAN: A bond, they were given a bond. So perhaps we can denigrate the sentence that was meted out even further, then, rather than something more punitive. Something more punitive could have been either a much larger fine or, as we find ourselves today now considering, some sort of a custodial sentence. That would have met the expectations of a very nervous community at this point in time, when people are genuinely worried about their own health, the health of their families, their friends, their neighbours and other people they know in the community and also, largely, their livelihoods and the threat to both their health and their livelihoods from people coming into South Australia against those legal restrictions put in place by the police commissioner.
When the government was asked about this late last week, it was a surprise, I think, that even though the Premier had responded to a question from the journalist at a press conference he agreed with the community sentiment of some outrage about the insufficiency of the penalty imposed on these train stowaways. When asked, the Attorney-General initially said on the Friday that this was a consideration of cost, that we did not want to be putting the kind of people found guilty of an offence in the Corrections system because it might cost in the order of $100,000 a year, I think was the figure she used.
In the conversation she had on radio FIVEaa with Leon Byner last Friday morning, the Attorney insisted on this issue of cost until she said, 'Look, everything the police commissioner has asked for we have given him legislatively in the parliament.' I thought it was very surprising that the Attorney was holding out in the face of what was pretty clear and overwhelming public opinion about the insufficiency of these sentences, or the insufficiency of the legislation that could provide for these sentences.
Yesterday morning, when the police commissioner was asked whether he would support tougher penalties and a custodial-type penalty being available for those people found guilty of breaching these legal directions, he said that, yes, he would be open to that being an option and that that would be a good thing.
Here we are, nearly 28 hours later, with a bill that has had to be hastily amended by the government. They were moving, I think with some credit, on the issue of fees being charged to people who are required to go into quarantine and put up in a separate facility, a hotel, which had previously been at taxpayers' expense, and a number of other matters, which both the Attorney and the member for Kaurna talked about in terms of the role of pharmacists and pharmacies, etc. This is a very hastily cobbled together amendment to the government's bill, folded into this bill so that it can be discussed to avoid any further embarrassment to the government.
It seems that it has not been the purist execution of the benefits of our parliamentary system, where we are all attuned to and aware of the concerns of our community and we can immediately reflect them in here, but I am glad that the pressure from the opposition and the media has caused the government to rethink the position that it held on Friday morning so that here we are, only a handful of days later, able to do what the community expects of us and make more stringent penalties available for those people who are found to break the law. I wholeheartedly support that.
As I said earlier, our community is at great risk if people carrying the coronavirus come into this state. More to the point, our community feel at great risk in terms of both their own health and, as I said, the threat to their livelihood as well. If we are able to make harsher penalties available, then hopefully that will send the right message that for a group of young blokes it is not just a lark to jump on a freight train in the dead of night and make their way across the border; that for a bunch of blokes some historic ankle injury is not sufficient reason to come across the border in a car under patently false pretences.
The penalty should be a deterrent. Not only may they be apprehended here in South Australia, not only may they be required to enter into quarantine, but they will be required to do that at their own expense, and if they are found guilty of breaching a direction from the State Coordinator or the police commissioner, then they might face a very strict sentence indeed. Rather than fleeing Victoria to come to South Australia to try to enjoy a more open, more virus-free environment, which presumably they were seeking to do, they might end up at the end of a very onerous and expensive punishment that denies them their liberty from the rest of the community. I support the bill.
The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Premier, Attorney-General) (12:18): I thank all members for their contribution to the debate and for the consideration of this as an urgent matter and therefore its progression before the other business of the day, recognising that COVID-19 is a new and challenging aspect in our community now that we need to address frequently on an urgent basis.
The contributions made to this debate illustrate the diversity of views in terms of how we manage this issue. We always have a tension between protecting the community and isolation and restrictions that have been imposed on one side across to those who need to have special consideration. This includes travellers who, for different reasons, require the commissioner or his panel to consider exemptions to cross-border travel.
This is particularly the case for someone like the member for Mount Gambier, who has an electorate smack on the boundary of Victoria, the hotspot at the moment. The tensions are there, and there are very practical day-to-day reasons why people need to traverse our borders, and distress and concern arises about rejections or applications that are denied.
As to the question of penalties that might apply for the breach of a direction, again the contributions have been diverse. To illustrate the significance of what we are talking about in the context of directions issued by the Commissioner of Police as Coordinator, under the Emergency Management Act—and there are a number of these that are still extant and continue to operate—perhaps most media attention relates to gatherings and cross-border restrictions. However, there are a lot of others published and members have, of course, been receiving them on an almost weekly basis.
The question in our emergency management laws as to appropriate penalty if someone breaches one of those directions has been a matter of discussion throughout COVID, and I want to remind members that there was a time when they were asked to consider the police commissioner's request to allow an on-the-spot fine to be available as a means of penalty. This parliament, at the government's request in presenting a bill, acquiesced to that consideration.
Members would be aware of the frequency with which that has been used—I think effectively—in dealing with a breach of the number of people who might be at a gathering, and it is an appropriate tool, one the Coordinator pointed out that he would need. It has been an effective one, and one that has validated the advice he gave us as a government as a basis for legislative change.
Around the country there has been continuing discussion about the whole question of detention and imprisonment: how we manage that, who pays for accommodation in detention, etc. That is another complex area but members ought to be aware, given the contribution of a number of our members about the issuing of an imprisonment term as an option in breaches of COVID directions, that the opposition's expression and demand of our government to consider and implement this as a necessary tool is not a new idea.
It is, in fact, already operating in other jurisdictions. I remind members it is up to six months' imprisonment or a fine of $11,000 or both in New South Wales; Queensland and Tasmania have similar provisions, and in Western Australia they have up to 12 months' imprisonment for breach of an order. At the commonwealth level, up to five years' imprisonment can be applied for a breach in relation to their Biosecurity Act.
When it came to the government's consideration of the Coordinator's request yesterday that we do add this in in this last week of the parliament, obviously we had to give consideration to two very important issues. One was the constitutional validity of the direction base, particularly as it relates to cross-border obligations or directions—and I will come back to that in a moment because it has been raised by the member for Mount Gambier—and also what penalty ought to apply in those circumstances; that is, how much it should be and how it should apply.
I do not for one minute suggest that sheep that might be contaminated with foot-and-mouth disease are more important than people who might be contaminated with COVID-19. There is not really a comparison. Five years' penalty for a biosecurity risk takes into account, in the ambit of those laws, the significant financial impact—in fact, the collapse of a whole industry—if there is an infection amongst livestock. I do not in any way criticise that. I just make the point that the Biosecurity Act has been called upon and utilised to protect a number of our Aboriginal communities in the state.
I think there are a couple that still remain under biosecurity law for obligations of entry and exit and declaration processes that are to occur in entering some of those properties. I cannot be certain, but I believe that both the APY lands and Yalata remain under biosecurity protection, if I can put it in that general way. Nevertheless, coming back to penalty, when the police commissioner had identified that this was an option and we needed to look at that yesterday, we considered the legal advice and the application of where it is around the country for the purposes of the development of this bill.
Let me first go to the contribution by the member for Mount Gambier because on this point he raises his concern that there would be a punitive approach of a two-year term of imprisonment for breach of a direction. I just want to reassure the member, and other members if they felt this was the case, that this is a provision that allows for a penalty of imprisonment of up to two years, not to be two years, so that is the maximum that is to apply. Sometimes, unless you are reading the whole bill, that may not be evident from the drafting of the bill, but that is very clearly the position.
It is true, as the member for Mount Gambier says, that people do like to see punishment. People do like to be kept safe, and these are very genuine concerns in the community. He has to deal with the very difficult issue of the fact that he is close to the border of an area that is under considerable pressure at the moment, but he presents to the parliament his disapproval of having this provision on the basis that the police already have the power to detain and therefore, in some way, this is not necessary, it has been quick and rushed through, and he will not be supporting it.
He does look to seek some explanation of safeguards. I hope I make it absolutely clear in this regard that this is an option that would be available to the court or magistrate to consider in the event that the police elected to prosecute the matter as a breach and sought to have a punishment of a custodial sentence of up to two years, not a fixed two years. Secondly, there has been no issue about the South Australian police, as authorised officers under the Emergency Management Act, and their capacity to detain people.
There had been some earlier discussion in the first COVID-19 bill that sought to clarify authorised officers' powers and obligations under the act. It did not specifically relate to the power to detain; it related to the question of protection of those officers who are acting under the act having some immunity against claims against them. That was tidied up and I again thank the parliament for doing that.
This is designed to be part of the armoury in relation to a penalty to apply. It is to be a deterrent, as all punishment has an aim to be, and it may be the most appropriate in some cases. The commissioner, as our Coordinator, made it clear to the government that he did not see that the cases that had preceded his confirmation yesterday—for example, the backpackers as stowaways and the Riverland entry in the last few days—were cases he would see necessary to progress to a custodial punishment outcome.
That is his view, but he is a serious player in this process. Of course, he is the Coordinator who sets the directions. He is also head of the police force, which undertakes the investigations of breach, and he is also in charge of the prosecuting division and what action they take. As we have heard, there has been a prolific use of the on-the-spot fine and that is, again, a judgement that we respect.
If the parliament were to have confidence confirmed, it would be the fact that South Australia is in a pretty good situation at the present time. There are a lot of people to thank for that, but one of them is clearly the Commissioner of Police. I suggest that he has progressed a mature approach to the development of what is needed, when it is needed and in what circumstances, taking into account the different prevailing events in other jurisdictions.
It is unsurprising to me—it may not be to others—that there is a different level of advance in relation to what directions currently operate. All jurisdictions now have a process, but under what powers they operate, what they are and whether they are in fact necessary depends on the circumstances that prevail in their state.
I think we have been lucky that we have not had the contagion rate that Victoria and New South Wales have had, or indeed even Western Australia, which did the bulk of the heavy lifting when it came to the return of all our Australians returning home from overseas. I have provided some data to the house in relation to that. We are lucky, in that sense, that we had not carried a heavy load with that. We are taking our share, and there will be an expectation that we continue that, especially given the hotspots and the outbreak now in Victoria and, to some degree, in New South Wales.
We are going to have to pull together on this, and I do agree with the deputy leader's contribution. To paraphrase her contribution, it is not a time to 'kick a Vic'; it is now a time to actually understand that they are a neighbour. It is like any other foreign aid principle: you have to look at the people around you and you have to support neighbours to make sure that you remain safe and protected in your own region.
We do have an obligation to support those in Victoria, and that is exactly what our government is doing; that is, we are sending resources, personnel and equipment to Victoria. We have identified different models of testing to support them in their circumstances at present. We are proud to do that and it is incumbent upon us to do that.
Let me return to two aspects raised by the member for Mount Gambier that I think do need to be considered. Firstly, he raised the question of the constitutional circumstances under section 92 of the Australian Constitution, which protects the freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse between the states.
This was obviously drafted at the time of the establishment of Federation. I am not going to go into the detail of it, but it is pretty obvious: we used to have all state entities, we had colonies, we had the whole customs and excise obligations—it is a pity we could not bring those back! In any event, we had all sorts of state responsibility because we were a colony operating in our own right, and issues of who came into our state were obviously compelling.
Once we all became a part of the federation and we changed the rules, section 92 was important. Section 117, I suppose in the same flavour, ensures that all subjects of The Queen basically are not to be discriminated against, wherever you might live in Australia. I am paraphrasing, but I am trying to get to the nub here. When we have directions which centre around cross-border travel—as it is, in South Australia we are up to No. 9 of the restrictions in relation to that—we have to be really careful to make sure that there is no offending of those constitutional positions.
As most members here would appreciate, the problem is that if we do press up against that and we do offend that, we can be subject to our laws being declared invalid and therefore not being effective. Obviously, when we come here, or when as a government my department in particular gives advice to the police commissioner as to the capacity to have directions and how and when they should apply, this is a very sensitive area.
You do not need to look any further than the fact that Clive Palmer—of some notoriety and certainly a very brief political career—has challenges in the High Court already for directions that have been issued in Victoria and Queensland. He also has a mining company that has taken those proceedings, and that is all on the basis that the directions offend these constitutional protections. For the benefit of members, I indicate that that is a matter that the High Court has referred to the Federal Court to sort out some factual issues, and then it may or may not ultimately come back to the High Court.
That is why it is so important that we get these things right and, when we give advice to our Coordinator, that is, the police commissioner, when making these directions, that we do not offend those principles. We have been very clearly warned, I suppose, of the risk you have if the directions go too far. Again, if I could paraphrase this; I feel rather horrid doing this, but I do not want to butcher what has been very eloquent law on this. Essentially, if we cannot bring these directions back to a demonstrated and provable need in relation to a health risk, then we are going to be in serious trouble when it comes to challenges.
We in South Australia have been very conscious of this. I will point out that we are already a party to those proceedings and we have been since June. I did hear, four weeks later, the Leader of the Opposition scream out that it is necessary for the state government to intervene and that we need to protect the interests of the state. Of course, we had already done it the month before. I do not have a problem with the opposition coming forward to suggest what a government should do; that is their role, but it was a bit rich when, in this last lot of legislation, they came out and said, 'Look, we demand you do this,' as though this was some kind of brilliant idea from them.
This has been a continuing discussion and development of what is necessary in our jurisdictions, and in this state our Coordinator has asked for a number of things. I am proud that this parliament has actually delivered on those requests. He asked for this yesterday and we have obviously done the legwork to make sure that it comes in. I do not want to dismiss ideas coming from the opposition, but do not try and pretend that this is some great leadership from them; this is something that has been around the country.
The Hon. V.A. CHAPMAN: I remind members who are screeching out of the police commissioner's position on the backpacker example last week on which there has been some radio discussion with Leon Byner—I would actually call it a dust-up. Nevertheless, that is not something that the police commissioner wanted to act on. He did not want to be putting people in prison. He did not think it was appropriate. He made that very clear. But what we do need to think about is how we are going to manage in the future if the situation gets more difficult.
Let's consider for a moment where it could get difficult. It could get very difficult in the area that abuts the member for Mount Gambier's electorate over the Victorian border. The situation in Victoria is obviously very difficult. We hear a lot about metropolitan Melbourne. Ballarat, Bendigo—who knows how far it will get into the western districts of Victoria?
We have to be able to respond to this and assist in this circumstance and deal with the very issues that the member for Mount Gambier raises—that is, his concern about the application of the exemptions granted under the Cross Border Travel No. 9 Direction. He explained a concern that he had of a medical practitioner who had been denied access as an exemption and the process of it and the need to have that service. I cannot remember the district in his electorate he was referring to where it was needed, but in any event one of his constituents needed to have access to this service and the denial of this particular medical specialist was obviously causing some distress to them.
This is the sort of story that we hear every day. These are the issues that have to be determined by the panel that advise the Coordinator. He has a division. I cannot remember what it is actually called. My adviser is looking at me blankly. There is a particular panel that assesses these requests for exemption.
In light of the fact that we have a very proximate geographic risk and we have a responsibility to support Victoria and Victorians through that for the reasons I have explained, it is not over yet. Who knows whether we are going to have Victorian refugees who want to cross the border at a greater rate? How are we going to manage that best and how are we going to both protect our people and ensure that we have a reasonable approach to exemptions? I want to refer to the situation in South Australia under the Essential Traveller exemptions.
Essential travellers are defined and the current exemptions apply, firstly, under National and State Security and Governance. There is a general provision stopping Victorians but allowing for active military and defence department personnel; members of parliament, including of the commonwealth (although I see they have cancelled their workload in the parliament for the next two weeks); emergency service workers, including firefighters, paramedics and the like; commercial transport and freight services (for obvious reasons, as we need to be fed and provided for and this is important for our own care); remote or isolated workers, which category is very much more restricted than it started with and is largely dealing with fly-in fly-outs; and cross-border community members. I want to bring to the attention of the parliament that it includes:
…persons who are ordinarily resident at, or near, a South Australian border and who have reasonable cause to travel across that border for the purposes of—
(a) employment or education; or
(b) providing care and support to, or receiving care and support from, another person; or
(c) obtaining food, petrol or other fuel or medical care or supplies.
(2) A person who enters South Australia under subclause (1) must not travel further than 50 km into South Australia from the location at which they enter.
This is a daily occurrence between Victoria and South Australia at the moment, so of course it produces some pressure on the border. If we, back here in Adelaide, are looking at how we need to be protected, we also have to understand that the State Coordinator and his police officers on the border, with and the assistance of other agencies, are trying to manage this; it is not easy.
An area that has been brought to my attention by the member for Waite relates to an exemption for somebody who might need compassionate consideration. Under the current direction, there is a provision for a person to travel to South Australia:
(a) to visit a critically or terminally ill member of the person's immediate family; or
(b) to attend the funeral of a member of the person's immediate family.
They speak for themselves. However, what has been raised is the question of how we consider domestic violence victims who might be living in Victoria and what protections we have for him or her—it is frequently a her, but it could be a him—and/or a person, who might be a family member, as a carer of that person. I think it is very important that members bring to the attention of the parliament—and I certainly welcome it—cases where people have made a request and sought to have this protection by coming to South Australia in a domestic violence circumstance. We need to look at those matters.
I am advised by the member that two cases have come to his attention. One was where a person in Victoria had an intervention order and wanted to come to South Australia to provide herself with greater protection, and that was denied. In the second instance, a victim and a relative who wanted to support them submitted an application on compassionate grounds. The victim was allowed to come but the support person was not.
I do not know all the details of these cases, but I accept that people have been knocked back because I hear of lots of people who have been knocked back—not in this circumstance, but in relation to that. Remember, we are trying to balance us all sitting here in metropolitan Adelaide being protected against a situation experienced by the member for Mount Gambier on a regular basis. This is a dilemma. Given the location of the member for Mount Gambier's electorate, it might be called upon for services for the critically ill or domestic violence victims if they were able to come across the border.
We are quite sympathetic to these circumstances. The question of whether we include an extra provision in the act to specifically allow for persons who are victims of domestic violence, or indeed any carer or support person, to be exempt under the act is not a matter which I could come to accept. It has been proposed by the member. We will have discussions with the State Coordinator, as police commissioner, about how this could best be dealt with.
Looking at how the New South Wales directions manage this type of situation, they are more prescriptive as to what circumstances would be covered under a compassionate exemption. Under their provisions, there is no requirement to have a permit if you are a person entering to avoid injury or harm. They do not require one if you are a person entering for medical or hospital services, and they do not require it for a person entering to attend court or to meet other legal obligations. So they have a different process in New South Wales.
I am advised that a number of these matters are dealt with in our directions but, to deal with someone who might be entering to avoid injury or harm—not confined to domestic violence, but may cover a domestic violence situation—as the member for Waite may appreciate, we have victims of crime in very different forms. Again, this would be a matter I would have to discuss with the commissioner, and I am happy to do that, but I foreshadow that at this stage I would not be in a position to agree to the statutory amendment that is proposed, but I do undertake to take that information to the commissioner.
I also want to point out that the member had brought to my attention an article published in The Age upon which there had been some information published in June about the prevalence of domestic violence. It reported on a survey that had been done of a number of practitioners in the field, and its application was relevant to Victoria, and there were some concerning statistics that were reported in this article. Sixty per cent of those practitioners had said that during the pandemic there had been increased frequency of violence against women, half of the respondents said that severity of violence had increased and that there were a number of first-time family violence reports, claiming to have gone up 42 per cent, in this practitioners' survey.
The survey also reported that there was quite an alarming new form of violence reported, including perpetrators demanding that women wash their hands and body excessively, to the point that they bleed, and spreading rumours that the victim had COVID-19 so that no-one could come near them. That is concerning. I have not heard this type of alleged treatment since the days of the HIV-positive AIDS epidemic, when there were very alarming behaviours and threats to transmit the disease. It was a horrible time but we learned some lessons from that and we need to be concerned when we hear this.
I want to reassure the house that this issue of domestic violence in South Australia has been under enormous scrutiny by this government. We have been very active, particularly through my department and the Minister for Human Services and the Minister for Child Protection, to be alert to any level of incidence of domestic violence in this state during this period. I hasten to add that we have also been very alert to and are monitoring very closely the suicide rate in our community. I should also say in respect of that that there is regular consultation with the police, who in both instances are often the front-line people at the scene in relation to these circumstances of either allegation of abuse or suicide.
The incidence of increased online information being sought by a person—we do not know whether it is a victim or an offender or just a neighbour or anyone else—has increased, but the increase in relation to domestic violence cases per se apparently has not increased. We do not seem to have been under the same pressure as that being reported in this article in Victoria in June but that does not mean we should not be ever alert to it.
I want to reassure the house that there can be some terrible things that come about as a result of something like this occurring, and one of them is that the impact on humans to be able to survive the disease is bad enough. The impact in relation to relationships, and how that might translate into a violent situation—and women and/or children are principal victims—is a real worry and we need to be alert to it.
The potential of people to be very distressed in a circumstance of not just isolation but loss of job, loss of capacity to support the family or business collapse, are all things which obviously are heightened for people in health and human service providers, but no less responsible is the governance of the day, and as a government I want to reassure you that we take these things very seriously.
With that, I thank the member for Waite for raising the issue. We will continue to monitor this, and I will speak to the Coordinator about how we might best address that and ensure that we do protect those who might come to our border if they are escaping harm or violence, including in a domestic violence situation. It may be that we do need to look at other protections for people who are victims of other offences. In any event, we will certainly look at that. With that, I commend the bill to the house.
Bill read a second time.