The McGowan Government will introduce new laws into the State Parliament today that will specifically address COVID-19 challenges.
The Emergency Management Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Bill 2020 will enable authorities to compel someone who is directed to self-isolate, and fails to comply, to wear an electronic device or direct that an electronic device be installed at a person’s residence.
Anyone who fails to comply or removes or interferes with the electronic device without a reasonable excuse, faces a penalty of a $12,000 fine or 12 months’ imprisonment.
The urgent legislation will also introduce $1,000 on-the-spot fines for individuals and $5,000 fines for businesses who disobey self-isolation and gathering directives.
Other amendments will provide more clarity over the direction-making power of the State Emergency Coordinator.
The Criminal Code Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Bill 2020 will be introduced to create an offence for anyone who knowingly has COVID-19, or says they have COVID-19, and assaults, or threatens to injure or harm a public officer.
This includes police officers, doctors, nurses or anyone working in a hospital or health service, firefighters, SES and ambulance officers.
Penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for assaults and seven years’ imprisonment for threats or other harm will apply.
These extraordinary new laws will only be used during a State of Emergency and will be repealed after 12 months.
In addition to these new amendments, the Government will also seek to urgently progress several Bills currently before the Legislative Council that will assist in Western Australia’s response to COVID-19.
The Small Business Development Corporation Amendment Bill 2019 will enable investigations where people face exploitation from businesses and individuals acting improperly.
Examples of impropriety include price gouging, withholding payments or even denying insurance claims amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
Such activity will impact on small businesses and the Government needs to be equipped to appropriately investigate and act on reports of exploitation.
Other Bills needing urgent attention now include splitting the Family Violence Legislation Reform Bill 2019, which is currently before the Upper House.
Expediting the most urgent elements of the Bill will help better protect people who may be more vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As stated by Premier Mark McGowan:
“Parliament returns today, in a slightly different format, but one that allows us to continue to do our job on behalf of the WA community.
“Important COVID-19 legislation will be introduced and debated, to help Western Australia tackle this pandemic crisis.
“Unfortunately we have seen a number of distressing reports of people across the country claiming they have COVID-19, deliberately coughing or spitting on innocent people who are simply doing their jobs.
“Our frontline staff in essential and emergency fields are working tirelessly around the clock at great personal risk to themselves and others to keep our community safe.
“We need to do everything we can to support and protect Western Australians who do the right thing.
“People who deliberately show disregard by putting our frontline workers at grave risk or fail to self-isolate as required and putting others in the community at risk, will not be tolerated and will face the full force of the law and harsh penalties.
“We are in extraordinary times and we need to take extraordinary measures. This means changes to our laws that can be applied to a State of Emergency upon us right now and into the future.
“It’s vital these amendments are passed urgently and I ask for all Parliamentarians to consider these amendments on their merits to ensure these changes can become law swiftly.”