The Opposition will introduce amendments to ensure the McGowan Labor Government’s contentious new COVID-19 legislation contains appropriate transparency safeguards.
Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Martin Aldridge MLC said the Emergency Management Amendment (Temporary COVID-19 Provisions) Bill 2022 contained fewer safeguards than the existing State of Emergency powers.
“Currently, the Minister for Emergency Services must sign off on an extension to the State of Emergency every 14 days, demonstrating he is satisfied of the continuing need for these extraordinary powers,” Mr Aldridge said.
“This is not the case under the new legislation, with the Minister absolving himself of any responsibility and the State Emergency Coordinator (SEC) given expanded powers without a skerrick of Ministerial or parliamentary oversight.”
Amendments introduced by the Opposition will require the Minister to retain the decision-making power to enact, extend and revoke COVID-19 declarations.
Mr Aldridge said further amendments would introduce appropriate transparency and accountability provisions, in line with the Victorian Pandemic Framework.
“This will include a requirement for COVID-19 declarations and any supporting advice from the Chief Health Officer and SEC to be published and tabled in Parliament within seven days,” Mr Aldridge said.
“It will also allow the creation of a Joint Standing Committee with powers to review COVID-19 declarations and directions, and to make recommendations to Parliament to amend or disallow these orders as required.
“These amendments will ensure the extraordinary powers granted under this legislation can be withdrawn by Parliament if they are found to be inappropriate or as soon as they are no longer required.”
Member for North Metropolitan Region Tjorn Sibma MLC said protections would also ensure personal information could not be accessed by WA Police or other Government agencies.
“Throughout the pandemic, West Australians have given the Government unprecedented access to their private information, including information about their movements, their associates, and their health,” Mr Sibma said.
“Unfortunately, we have seen a number of instances where Government agencies sought access to this personal information for purposes other than COVID-19 management, which is absolutely inappropriate, and betrays the confidence of the public.”
Mr Sibma said it was also concerning the Government blocked attempts to refer the legislation to the Standing Committee on Legislation for further review.
“Although the Legislation Committee is not considering any legislation and has capacity to review the Bill and respond in a short time period, the Government once again used its numbers to prevent this, preferring to ram this legislation through Parliament with as little scrutiny as possible,” Mr Sibma said.