Time Limits — Statement by Leader of the House
HON SUE ELLERY (South Metropolitan — Leader of the House) [2.11 pm]: I advise the house in respect of the Public Health Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Bill 2020 that maximum time limits for each stage of the bill, pursuant to the temporary standing order made on 31 March 2020, are: second reading, 140 minutes; Committee of the Whole, 200 minutes; adoption of report, five minutes; and third reading, 15 minutes.
Resumed from 12 August.
Comments and speeches by various members
HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [3.19 pm]: I rise as the lead speaker for the Greens on the Public Health Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Bill 2020. This, of course, is yet another COVID bill that has not received a huge amount of time before coming on for debate, yet it deals with a lot of issues that have been brought to the attention of a number of our offices, mine included, by concerned constituents and affected people. We received a consultation draft of the bill and the explanatory memorandum on Monday, 10 August, and a briefing the next day. The final version of the bill plus the EM and the second reading speech were introduced in the other place only a matter of hours later.
I note that the bill is obviously a response to COVID, but it needs to be pointed out that it is not drafted to apply only to COVID and it does not contain a sunset clause for when this pandemic is finally over. It is a bill that will apply more generally if it is passed. Having said that, I really hope that the community will never again have to face such a thing as the current pandemic, certainly not within my or my children’s lifetime.
The bill does a few different things, all of which will commence upon proclamation. It introduces the concept of an infectious disease extreme circumstance, or IDEC, declaration, which will be written. It can be made by the minister if, having considered advice from the Chief Health Officer, the minister is satisfied that a potentially notifiable infectious disease will constitute a severe and immediate threat or will cause harm to human health on a significant scale, and it is reasonably necessary as a result to quarantine people for more than 24 hours to make sure they are preventing or controlling its entry into or spread within Western Australia. An IDEC declaration, as prescribed within the bill, can apply to all the state, or any part or parts of the state. The effect of an IDEC declaration is that if a person is given a direction to quarantine themselves due to the particular disease, that direction is not reviewable 24-hourly, which is something the act normally requires the Chief Health Officer to do whenever a quarantine direction is made. However, there is no change to a person’s rights to seek a review of their health and welfare needs.
At the briefing, I asked what exactly that right is, and I was told that people have a natural right of review to the Supreme Court on those matters. I note that it is very expensive to go to the Supreme Court; in fact, it is pretty much beyond the means of most people, so I am not quite sure how effective that is as a measure. I note that this right is separate from their right to complain to the government or, of course, to their local member, the media or anyone else as they see fit. An IDEC declaration lasts for three months and is extendible in three-month bursts, effectively indefinitely. The grounds for extension are the same as for the original making of the declaration. I note also that an IDEC declaration is revocable at any time by the minister.
The minister is required, as soon as practicable, to publish notice twice each time an IDEC declaration is made, extended or revoked. The purpose of the first publication is to get the information out into the community and can be via whatever method the minister considers appropriate in all the circumstances. The additional publication will be in the Government Gazette, which will provide both a formal record and a repository. I note that failure to publish notice does not affect the declaration’s validity. An IDEC declaration or extension is judicially reviewable for jurisdictional error, but a court or tribunal cannot order an interim stay of its effects. I ask the minister, or the parliamentary secretary in this instance, to please provide examples of jurisdictional error in this context. I also ask for an explanation of what will happen if a court or tribunal finds that jurisdictional error has occurred. Will the court set it aside or will the minister be asked to revoke it?
This bill will also enable the various public health directions that can be issued under the act to individuals or concerning particular premises to be made to classes of people or premises. Normally, when a direction is made to a person, it is made individually, and the person to whom it applies must be given an explanation in language that they are likely to understand about why the direction has been made, their right to seek legal advice and their right to seek review of the direction by the State Administrative Tribunal. However, under this bill, if the direction is made to a class of persons, it does not have to be given to each person directly accompanied by an explanation unless it is a direction to undergo medical observation, examination, treatment or vaccination. I note that that sort of direction will still need a personal explanation. I ask the parliamentary secretary to confirm that my understanding of that is correct. Instead, the direction must be published in whatever way the minister considers suitable in the circumstances. I ask the parliamentary secretary to confirm that all directions will be published by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet website and that the explanation can be set out in the direction itself. I recognise that giving and explaining directions in this general way rather than to each person is much more practicable because we are talking about a lot of people. However, I hold some concerns that there may be people amongst the class of peoples who have been prescribed who do not effectively receive that message. I am particularly concerned, for example, that non-English speakers will probably not receive an accurate and complete version of it unless efforts are explicitly made to provide the direction in their own language. I understand from the briefing that those efforts will be made to ensure that an adequate explanation will be provided in all appropriate languages. I understand that interpreters will be at the airport and hotels to convey the message when people arrive in Western Australia. I understand that interpreters will be made available at other premises where a class direction is made—for example, at aged-care facilities or a block of apartments. However, I ask the parliamentary secretary to please confirm for the record that that is the case. These are the assurances that I was given in the briefing and I would like to have that on the record, please—certainly that that is the expectation—because if at a later date people seek to appeal certain decisions, I would like to know that this is one of the grounds on which it is expected that people would be able to do that.
When a direction is breached and contravention proceedings are brought, the act provides for a defence of reasonable excuse. If a person was not reasonably able to understand a direction, they should be able to—I understand they may be able to—attract that particular defence, so I ask the parliamentary secretary to confirm that for the record. Of course, it is far better that people understand the direction in the first place, because it is important for everyone’s safety that they comply with the direction. Unlike IDEC declarations, a direction to a class does not need to also be published in the Government Gazette.
I think the reform in the bill that has been most publicised and the one that I initially expressed the most concern about when I was advised that this bill would be forthcoming is the one that transfers liability for the cost of hotel quarantine from the state to the person who is quarantined. It applies to people who enter Western Australia from outside the state on or after 17 July this year, being the date specified when the reform was announced on 10 July, and who are directed to go into hotel quarantine. At the moment, not all arrivals are directed to go into hotel quarantine; there is still some capacity for people to self-quarantine if they arrive from interstate, with the notable exception of Victoria. People arriving from Victoria or from overseas will be directed to go into hotel quarantine. This part of the bill does not provide for people to be removed from where they are currently living in our community and put into a hotel and charged fees. It will apply only to people who enter this state from elsewhere. I think that limitation is appropriate. The bill allows the definition of “hotel” to be expanded by regulations, but the second reading speech made clear—this is really important—that it will not be expanded to include hospitals, and people will not be charged under this provision for their hospital or medical services. I, obviously, welcome that distinction, which would have been an absolute deal-breaker for the Greens.
The bill will make people liable to pay a fee prescribed by regulations, and no cap or calculation method for the fee has been specified in the bill. I note the previous speaker’s concerns about how the figures that have been arrived at have been calculated. I understand the intention is that the regulations will provide for a flat fee, which I have been advised will not be for full cost recovery. The fee will be $180 a day for each room with an additional $60 a day for each person who is aged over six years who is sharing that room. I think it is important that any children under the age of six years who are sharing a room will not be charged. The state will initially pay the full cost of accommodation and meals during quarantine. It will be responsible for that up-front cost and will seek to recover the flat fee from the persons afterwards as a debt due to the state.
I note that the fee will be waivable, in whole or part, on the grounds of financial hardship—I have some questions about that—or other reasons that the Chief Health Officer considers appropriate. The nature of those other reasons is not stated in the bill, but I understand from the briefing that the grounds will be matters such as low income, financial hardship, whether that person is an asylum seeker, and whether that person has suffered domestic violence. I further understand that this is not intended to be a closed list of reasons for a waiver. I am pleased to hear that waivers will be able to be made on a case-by-case basis in other meritorious circumstances. I need to make it clear that, in principle, the Greens do not have a problem with the idea of cost recovery for compulsory quarantine in many cases. Certainly, if people decide that they want to go on a holiday overseas at this time, I think it is fair and reasonable that they should have to factor in that, upon their return to Australia, they will be expected to accept the costs of two weeks of hotel quarantine. Likewise, I recognise that many people in the community are well-placed to be able to afford coming back and paying for their own quarantine measures. It is broadly understood, I think, globally and not just here in Western Australia, that quarantine is becoming a fairly normal occurrence in many countries. I recognise that, but like other members, I am aware of individual cases in which it is not clear that exemptions to those fees will be applied, but I think that any fair reading would make one think that they should be. I also have heard many of the cases that have been reported on the radio. Some of them raise a great deal of concern about the number of personal reasons that people need to go interstate or overseas and then come back. Sometimes they are dire circumstances. It is greatly concerning that we would be adding to their distress and stress levels by charging them for hotel quarantine when, effectively, they have had to address emergency situations.
I would like to bring the house’s attention to the matter of a person I know who has been battling with this situation. This is a friend of mine, who I am very pleased will finally be coming back this Saturday. She has been living overseas with her family, undertaking a work contract. She is the sole breadwinner for the family. She needs to come back to Australia because the contract has finished and her husband does not have dual citizenship so was looking at having to be deported and returning. Apart from the fact that it was an incredible headache for the family to get permission to come back to Western Australia, where they have a home that they are paying the mortgage on and that they are Australian citizens and are no longer able to stay in the country where she has been working for the last 18 months, by the time she finally got permission to come back in, this provision had been announced. She realised with horror that when she came back, she would have to look at a compulsory quarantining and having to pay for the privilege. I point out that when she booked to return to Australia, no announcement of any sort had been made suggesting that people were going to have to pay for quarantine. Members might think that it is tough luck and that she signed up for it by coming back to her home country when she was going to get kicked out of the other one anyway. However, even if members decided to be that callous, which I suspect members would not because members, of course, are not callous, they would have to acknowledge that that was not an expense that was factored in by her family. I have already mentioned that she is the sole breadwinner. When her husband is in Australia, he is ordinarily on a disability pension. She is a recognised carer with one dependent child. She has another child who is back in Western Australia now, who is studying at university and will join the family. The question remains whether this family will be eligible for a hardship exemption. Ordinarily, they would be in receipt of a partial Centrelink benefit and would have a Health Care Card and all those things, but because they have been out of the country for 18 months they are no longer in the Centrelink system. When the family comes back, the first thing they will do is apply for that, but at the moment I am not even sure whether the family will be considered under any sort of hardship provision. As someone who knows them, I can confirm that this family does not have a lot of money. They are not wealthy people, and have a home that they want to return to. Worse than that, because of the husband’s disability, he will struggle with being in hotel quarantine. I will say that post-traumatic stress disorder is directly related to his disability. However, they have not been able to get any comfort that they will be given the opportunity to quarantine in their own home, which will be sitting vacant, and not be charged for staying at a hotel.
I am picking up on the concerns that other members have raised. We are looking at implementing a legislative change that is retrospective. The criteria for how people will get exemptions or how people will be determined to be suffering hardship are spectacularly unclear. From what I can tell, it has, effectively, been devolved to a public servant. The level of opaqueness around how those decisions will be made is absolutely baffling. I have tried to find out the answers that pertain to this family’s situation. I would like to know whether there is a clear hardship policy. If there is, can it please be tabled? I and other people would like to know what will be involved. It is very concerning that people will be kept in hotel quarantine when they may be better suited to quarantine in their own homes, and will also be charged for the privilege when they cannot afford it. I want to get some clarity around that. At the same time, I cannot make it clearer that I and the Greens completely support the need for people to quarantine and to have a strict quarantine arrangement for those 14 days or, indeed, longer if anyone is subsequently found to have COVID-19. There is no question about that. However, we need to know exactly how this will impact on people.
As I said, I note that the bill will give the Chief Health Officer the power to delegate functions regarding hotel quarantine cost recovery to a public servant in a department. I understand that it is intended that assessment of waivers will be delegated to the Department of Communities. I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary whether, if an application for a waiver is refused, she can please explain for the record what review process there will be. As the bill is currently presented to us, no review process is outlined. I understand the process will be that the fee may not always be charged, and that it is discretionary. It is indicated on page 6 of the explanatory memorandum that even without a waiver, fees may not be charged at all for small, localised incidents in which hotel quarantine numbers are negligible. It is also indicated that upon arrival at a hotel, people will be advised that they can apply for a waiver and that they can make that application immediately. In the absence of any waiver, an invoice for the fee will be issued and each adult will be jointly and severally liable to pay it within 30 days. For children in hotel quarantine, their parents or guardians will be liable for the cost of that invoice. A person can still apply for the waiver after they have received an invoice, but they will also need to apply for an extension of time to pay while their application is being decided. I note that the time for payment is extendable, that there is no limit on how many times it can be extended, and that the regulation-making power allows regulations to be made to allow for payments to be made by instalments. It also allows for regulations to be made for interest to be paid in the event of late payment or non-payment.
I turn now to the issue of recovery of cleaning and disinfection costs. The Public Health Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Bill 2020 also provides for the recovery of any costs incurred by the state for the cleaning and disinfection of premises, in accordance with a direction made under this legislation or the Emergency Management Act. Like other members, the example that was given to me was the cleaning and disinfection of the Al Kuwait live animal export vessel, on which there were COVID-infected crew members. I certainly concur that it is disappointing that the vessel was not charged for the cleaning that was involved. Such a direction, however, can apply to any premises. It could, for example, apply to a restaurant or shopping centre in which there has been a COVID-19 outbreak, but there will always be the option for those responsible for the premises to arrange themselves for cleaning and disinfection rather than having the state carry it out and then repaying the cost. Again, during the course of the briefing, the example used was of the Perth Concert Hall after a COVID-infected patron had attended a West Australian Symphony Orchestra concert. I ask the parliamentary secretary to please confirm, for the record, that this option is always going to apply and that, in the first instance, a premises will be able to determine for itself whether it is best placed to take on responsibility for cleaning or whether it will need to be charged by the state.
Unlike hotel quarantine fees, these decontamination costs are recoverable in full, and we are not talking about a flat fee. There is no waiver process in the bill, but the Chief Health Officer is given discretion over whether to recover the costs. I note that the bill has at least allowed some wriggle room in that regard. In particular, it is made clear in the second reading speech that the state will not seek to recover decontamination costs from hotels that provide hotel quarantine services. As with hotel quarantine cost recovery, the Chief Health Officer’s functions are delegable to a public servant in a department. Those costs and expenses are recoverable jointly and severally from various parties, including the owner, the occupier or the person in possession at the time, unless the premises are a vehicle. If the premises are a vehicle, it includes the owner, the operator, the lessee or the charterer.
I suspect that, in practice, this could result in quite some debate about how much each party should be expected to pay. I anticipate that we will see court cases to decide the proportion that each should bear, particularly if we are looking at very large costs. Under the hotel quarantine fee scenario, people who are jointly and severally liable to pay a particular invoice are likely to be from the same family, but under the cleaning and disinfection scenario, those who are jointly and severally liable to pay are most likely to be in commercial relationships with each other. I imagine that their contracts may not resolve the question of proportion. For example, if it is a situation of a commercial landlord and a tenant at a shopping centre, some parties may not be Western Australian or even Australian, as could be the case with a ship. I ask the parliamentary secretary to please explain how the government anticipates these sorts of issues to be resolved.
The definitions of “emergency officer” and “authorised officer” are expanded in the bill to personally include the Chief Health Officer. Currently, those terms refer to people who are authorised by the Chief Health Officer, but not the Chief Health Officer personally. I understand the policy reason behind this reform is that because other parts of the bill allow emergency officers and emergency officers to make directions in respect of whole classes of persons or premises, making the Chief Health Officer one such officer will enable those powers to be exercised personally, or directly overseen, by the Chief Health Officer.
Currently, section 203 of the Public Health Act allows for “just and reasonable” compensation to be payable for any loss or damage a person suffers as a result of the exercise of its powers, except insofar as the loss or damage would have happened anyway, can be compensated via insurance or has been contributed to by the person. This bill will narrow that entitlement so that it will apply only to loss or damage from directions for the destruction or disposal of something; an emergency officer taking control of, or making use of, premises or property; the removal or destruction of an animal, vegetation, substance or thing; or the removal, dismantling, demolishing or destruction of any premises. Amongst other things, that means that compensation will no longer be claimable, which authorises the use of reasonable force to ensure compliance with the direction. Of course, I expect confirmation for the record that the use of excessive force will not be captured by clause 15 and will continue to be compensable. Lastly, the bill creates a general offence of knowingly giving false or misleading information, with a maximum penalty of a fine of $50 000.
The Greens have a lot of questions on this bill, particularly about how it is intended for certain provisions to operate. As I said, we recognise that these are extraordinary times that require extraordinary measures, but we also recognise that a lot of people in the community are doing it really tough, and we want to make sure that people who otherwise would and should not incur these sorts of costs for the management of this public health crisis will not be in even worse financial straits than they are now. We also recognise that a lot of businesses are doing it tough, and the lack of clarity in the bill unfortunately opens the door for a number of commercial operations to potentially be liable for a range of costs that they otherwise would not necessarily incur, and in fairness should not incur.
I hope we can get answers to those questions. I, like others, will further examine the bill through the course of Committee of the Whole House.
Comments and speeches by various members
Question put and passed. Bill read a second time.
The Chair of Committees (Hon Simon O’Brien) in the chair; Hon Alanna Clohesy (Parliamentary Secretary) in charge of the bill.
Comments and speeches by various members
Hon ALISON XAMON: Further to this line of questioning, because I would like to get some clarity around this as well, I will talk specifically about international arrivals now. If an international arrival does not fit within a certain class of people that the parliamentary secretary has already defined as automatically attracting an exemption, they will be taken to a hotel, but is it possible for them, once they are in that hotel, to make an application to leave that hotel to go to a suitable premises? I am trying to get an understanding of how much flexibility there is, particularly for residents who might have a home here that is vacant and that they are paying a mortgage on, to be able to get back to their home. Examples have been cited in this chamber of people who have been denied that opportunity.
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: I am advised that it is unusual for international arrivals to quarantine anywhere other than in a SHICC—State Health Incident Coordination Centre—hotel. That is a public health measure to ensure that there is no spread of the virus. I am advised, however, that if there are particular circumstances, international arrivals may make an application to the onsite doctor for consideration or may also make an application through WA police; but there is an onsite hotel doctor. I reinforce that the whole purpose of this is public health management, but there is the option that the member has just kind of outlined.
Hon ALISON XAMON: Of course, everyone in this chamber is aware that it is about public health management, which is why we are debating this matter urgently. I want to ask about the particular circumstances to get some idea of the breadth of circumstances in which people might be able to make an application. For example, if someone is likely to experience financial hardship as a result of hotel quarantine, would that attract the possibility of being able to reside in a suitable premises? If there is a risk of mental health issues as a result of —
Hon ALISON XAMON: Sorry, Siri was responding to me talking. Go away! I referred to mental health issues and Siri automatically thought I was talking to her; I was not.
What about if someone is likely to experience mental health issues as a result of staying in hotel quarantine for an extended time, or if somebody has a disability and needs to be able to get back to their home, which might already be appropriately set up for their needs? Can I please get an idea of the scope of matters that are contemplated under this legislation that would enable people to be moved out of hotel quarantine and into quarantine in suitable premises?
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: I cannot comment on individual cases. However, generally speaking, for the category of people wanting to quarantine at home for financial reasons—for example, because they have a mortgage—not being able to pay is not a reason to not quarantine. However, they may make an application to waive the fees.
Hon Alison Xamon: I will come to that.
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: That is right; we will get to waivers later. People with disability need to make an application to the WA Police Force, and WA police will seek health advice on the activities of daily living and managing disability in the home versus in quarantine situations. It is very individual based. Advice will be sought from the Department of Health, but the application goes to WA police.
Hon ALISON XAMON: I asked specifically whether mental health issues would be grounds for consideration and also whether I could get an indication of the scope of other potential considerations that could be undertaken to enable people to move into suitable premises.
Comments and speeches by various members
Committee interrupted, pursuant to standing orders.
Resumed from an earlier stage of the sitting. The Deputy Chair of Committees (Hon Dr Steve Thomas) in the chair; Hon Alanna Clohesy (Parliamentary Secretary) in charge of the bill.
Comments and speeches by various members
Hon ALISON XAMON: This is particularly frustrating and it goes to what I was trying to ask before. The questions pertaining to who can get exemption to quarantine in a place other than one of the hotels is germane to the substance of this bill. If someone can compulsory quarantine anywhere other than in a hotel, they will not be charged, so it is germane to the issue in front of us. I know we are not talking about who can ultimately enter Western Australia; that is quite clear. By the time people have managed to manoeuvre their way through the capricious nature of that process, particularly if they are from Victoria or overseas, they are then faced with being mandatorily detained within a hotel. What I understand Hon Nick Goiran was trying to get to the bottom of is exactly what I was trying to get to the bottom of—that is, the grounds under which people can stay in suitable premises as opposed to a hotel. That is absolutely at the core of this bill because under this bill, people can be compelled to pay for staying in a hotel. One of the key things people will want to know is therefore their eligibility to stay in a suitable premises. We have heard some criteria to date. We have heard that people can stay in a suitable premises as opposed to a hotel where they will potentially incur costs, if they have a premises where they can be appropriately isolated. I take that as meaning an empty home or an empty apartment. They obviously cannot stay where there are other people.
We have heard that mental health or health considerations or having a dependent child will be taken into account. I did not get any clarification about whether a disability would be one of those components. One of the frustrations here is that, quite clearly, there are no guidelines by which the public servant who has been devolved the responsibility to make these determinations will assess that criteria. This is absolutely legitimate. I can see situations in which Australians will be forced into quarantine in a hotel, potentially at their own expense, when, for all intents and purposes, they can be located in their own home, for example, or other suitable premises at no risk to the community or certainly not at increased risk to the community and not at risk of accumulating ongoing costs.
I will ask the question again, which I understand Hon Nick Goiran is trying to also get an answer to. Where is the criteria written down anywhere by which the public servant will determine which ordinary Australians who are not subject to the exemptions as articulated within the quarantine closing-the-borders direction, will be duly considered eligible to reside in suitable premises? I note also with some frustration that some of the people who have been exempted from residing in hotel quarantine in no way fit within paragraph 27 of the criteria that defines an exempt traveller. Clearly, some criteria are being supplied. What is it, please? I think a lot of Australians would like to know so their exemption can be appropriately considered.
The other question related to this is: what possible avenues will people have to appeal that decision if they think it has not been given due consideration?
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: The questions Hon Nick Goiran asked were about which travellers are exempt and where that direction is held. A number of points were made in Hon Alison Xamon’s recent contribution. I will get to the heart of one of them. First of all, the decisions around exemption from quarantine are decisions of the WA Police Force under the Emergency Management Act. Under this bill, once that decision has been made, it will give effect to the cost of the quarantine and waivers under that.
I understand the member’s interest in criteria for assessment for waiving the fees under this bill. That is what I will refer to in most of my response to what the member just asked. The details of the criteria for assessment for waiving fees are undertaken by the Department of Communities. The information I tabled about fees for travellers contains that criteria. In particular, the first criterion is: Australian residents and citizens who might be experiencing hardship and are unable to pay can be considered for that. The applications are not assessed by the WA Police Force but by the State Welfare Incident Control Centre—SWICC—which provides a recommendation to the State Health Incident Coordination Centre on whether there should be a full fee waiver, a partial fee waiver or no fee reduction at all. The application can be made on the day of arrival in quarantine. I know the member has a specific question about whether that can happen beforehand. Nothing in this bill prevents that from happening—nothing.
The criteria for assessment require that the application must contain information about financial hardship, vulnerability and exceptional and serious circumstances. That is necessarily broad because everyone’s case is different. They are the criteria provided to us from the Department of Communities. When the assessments are made, consideration is given to how enforcing the quarantine fee might exacerbate the applicant’s financial hardship and their ability to provide the basic living necessities, such as food, accommodation, clothing and medical treatment— that is, for the applicant and their dependants.
Each applicant is assessed on a case-by-case basis, which is why it is necessary for the criteria to be broad. Some considerations that will be made in the individual assessments are whether the applicant is unemployed; is receiving a benefit such as an age pension, a carers payment or a disability payment; has had their employment suspended as a result of COVID-19; is receiving or has applied for the JobKeeper allowance; has regular employment but their income is under $55 626 for singles, or $89 170 for families; holds a low-income position, is in casual employment or is otherwise vulnerable; is experiencing family and domestic violence; is an unaccompanied minor; is unable to care for themselves; or requires a carer. All that is considered. The criteria are based on similar arrangements in other jurisdictions and informed by the Department of Communities’ current financial arrangements. The broad categories of that information are included in information that travellers going into hotel quarantine receive when they check in. It is also available on the Department of the Premier and Cabinet website.
Comments and speeches by various members
Hon ALISON XAMON: Further to the comments that were just made, I have seen an application for re-entry to Western Australia. I would like members to be aware that people who are trying to get some sort of exemption to be able to stay in more suitable accommodation are being told —
Approval of entry into Western Australia is on the condition that you will go into a quarantine centre for 14 days of quarantine. If travelling direct from an international flight you will be required to quarantine at a hotel arranged by the Western Australian Government. You will not be exempt from a centre direction and cannot apply for an exemption prior to entering Western Australia.
It goes on to say that the earliest a person can even make an application or have this considered is anything from 24 to 72 hours after arrival. Then, and only then, can they even have it considered whether another place is more suitable for them to stay. That is part of the frustration that has been drawn to my attention. The reason I have this is that it has been sent to me by people overseas—residents and Australian citizens who live here—who are paying mortgages and cannot get back into their empty homes because this is the direction that they have been given. They are being told that they are not allowed to even apply to the police. They have tried to apply ahead of time and not even been given that option. They have no way to avoid these costs.
Comments and speeches by various members
Clause 6: Section 157 amended —
Comments and speeches by various members
Hon ALISON XAMON: I have a series of questions on this. I noted during the second reading debate that an infectious disease extreme circumstance declaration or extension would be judicially reviewable for jurisdictional error. I asked whether examples of jurisdictional error in this context could be given and also whether an explanation could be given of what would happen if a court or tribunal were to find that —
The DEPUTY CHAIR: Member, could you try to speak a little louder. I think some members are having trouble hearing you.
Hon ALISON XAMON: I am sorry. What happens if a court or a tribunal finds that jurisdictional error has occurred? Will the court set that aside or order the minister to revoke it?
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: Is the member talking about what is under the IDEC, which is clause 14?
Hon Alison Xamon: Yes.
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: We are currently on clause 6.
Hon Alison Xamon: I am happy to revisit this at clause 14.
Clause put and passed.
Comments and speeches by various members
Clause 14: Parts 12A and 12B inserted —
Hon ALISON XAMON: I have a number of questions. I will go straight to some of the priority ones. We have already discussed the issue of fees being waived. The parliamentary secretary has said that one of the grounds upon which consideration will be given to fees being waived will be on the basis that people are in receipt of Centrelink in some way. In my contribution to the second reading debate I used the example of someone coming in from overseas who had previously been on Centrelink and is no longer on Centrelink because they have been overseas, but are very likely to become eligible again once they go through the arduous process of getting back onto Centrelink now that they are back in Australia. What would be the chances of someone who is not currently on Centrelink, but is very likely to be back on Centrelink, being considered for a waiver of the fees in that situation?
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: I could not pre-empt the decision of the person making the waiver; I would not want to advise on a particular case. However, in a broad scenario, if they had been on income support, were likely to be returning to income support and had no other mechanism for employment or income support, in broad terms, that would generally fall, as I have read the criteria, as requiring a waiver.
Hon ALISON XAMON: I ask the question now—this is the third time—about an infectious disease extreme circumstance declaration or extension being judicially reviewable for jurisdictional error. I would like to have examples, please, of jurisdictional error in this particular context and what is likely to happen if a jurisdictional error is found to have occurred—whether the court is likely to set it aside or the minister revoke it.
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: I am advised that jurisdictional error, as referred to in this particular clause, refers to jurisdictional error under the Public Health Act as a whole and not necessarily in relation to any proposed section contained in clause 14. Examples of jurisdictional error under the Public Health Act could include a direction made by a person without the legal authority to do so, or when a person is detained under an order for a different infectious disease—that is, a disease that is not the disease for which the IDEC declaration is made. I say that these are examples only.
Progress reported and leave granted to sit again at a later stage of the sitting, on motion by Hon Alanna Clohesy.
Resumed from an earlier stage of the sitting. The Chair of Committees (Hon Simon O’Brien) in the chair; Hon Alanna Clohesy (Parliamentary Secretary) in charge of the bill.
Clause 14: Parts 12A and 12B inserted —
Progress was reported after the clause had been partly considered.
Hon ALISON XAMON: I have asked on a few occasions now about the issue of the review or appeal process in the event that someone is dissatisfied with the response to their application to have fees waived either partially or fully. So far, the response has been that there will be a process within the Department of Communities or, failing that, the Supreme Court. Is there an intention for the Department of Communities to establish clear criteria by which someone can appeal the decision if they are unhappy with the determination and response?
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: I am advised that, no, there is no plan to establish a process for appeal, other than those I have already spoken about on a couple of occasions.
Hon ALISON XAMON: Is it something that the Department of Communities is prepared to look into? I would suggest that it might be quite necessary to have a set, clear and consistent process for that decision-making.
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: I am advised that it is something that we will take into consideration.
Hon ALISON XAMON: I refer to the issue of recovery of cleaning and disinfection costs when that is required, particularly with commercial premises. I want to confirm for the record that the option for a premises to arrange its own cleaning and disinfection will always be available in the first instance.
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: Correct.
Hon ALISON XAMON: I asked a question in the course of my contribution to the second reading debate. We may find that commercial entities will have a conflict over who is ultimately responsible for cleaning and disinfection costs in the event that they are held liable for those costs. Can the parliamentary secretary please explain how it is anticipated that these sorts of issue are likely to be resolved? Will the parties have to fight it out amongst themselves in court, or is it intended that some parameters or guidelines will be given to commercial entities on who is ultimately expected to pick up that bill?
Hon ALANNA CLOHESY: There is provision for parties to be jointly and severally liable. The term “jointly and severally” indicates that all parties are equally responsible for carrying out the full terms of an agreement—in this case, payment of the invoices for hotel quarantine. In this way, the state can claim from the hotel-quarantined persons together or choose to claim from each separately when this is more appropriate. I am advised that this relates to cleaning as well.
Comments and speeches by various members
Clause, as amended, put and passed.
Clauses 15 and 16 put and passed.
Title put and passed.
Bill reported, with amendments, and the report adopted.
Bill read a third time, on motion by Hon Alanna Clohesy (Parliamentary Secretary), and returned to the Assembly with amendments.