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COVID-19 Virus Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 (No 14)

[7.53 p.m.] Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I thank the Government and the OPC, particularly Robyn Webb, for the briefings we have received today. The briefing made the bill and its clauses clearer and I feel very comfortable voting to pass this bill.

It is good to see that all sides of parliament in the other place passed this bill without argument. It received tripartite support, as the bill ensures continuity of the government services and provides provisions in order that the Government can support Tasmanians suffering hardship as a result of the COVID-19 virus. We are told, and the member for Murchison mentioned, that these provisions are acting as a Henry VIII clause reflecting Henry VIII put in provisions to overrule parliament.

My understanding is that this bill ensures parliament and the Subordinate Legislation Committee will survive. In effect, the minister has to be satisfied that there is a risk of the disease but there is a second fallback: most of the instruments can only be issued if the State Controller, an independent statutory officer - at this current time, Darren Hine - agrees, and notices have to go to the Subordinate Legislation Committee, as in clause 7, Scrutiny of notices. There is also ability for a notice that allows parliament to sit electronically and also allows local councils to meet electronically. We are told three councils with meetings next week will need this legislation to go through to allow this.

This is a powerful bill, allowing the Premier, Treasurer, Attorney-General or delegated ministers to issue notices with regard to extension, reduction or any other changes as a range of statutory requirements. The bill has power to defer or waive certain taxes, fees and charges.I am pleased to read in the fact sheet that the bill contains specific financial hardship provisions, which can be used to protect residential and commercial tenants during the emergency period and will provide for the waiver and refund of the annual administration fee for taxi and hire vehicles.

The member for Windermere and I have been dealing quite regularly with taxi owners and drivers. Anything that assists them at this time is also very worthy. A number of consequential amendments will also support our emergency services at an operational level, including being able to arrest people who do not comply with directions made under emergency powers in the Emergency Management Act 2006 or the Public Health Act 1997 and many others. That is very important because so many people - not wishing to single out young people, but younger people often think they are bulletproof - think, 'This will not happen to me’. They forget that if they get it, while they may recover, they may pass it on to someone - a parent, or a grandparent - who may not recover, may die or may be seriously ill. People have to remember that it will happen to everyone. You cannot say it will not happen to them because it is such a serious matter. We need to make no mistake. This is a war and the Government needs the tools to fight it.

This may not be the last bill, but it is perhaps the first in the Government's arsenal. This is an important bill that will assist many in our community in these very difficult times. I also appreciate the briefing given by the Police Commissioner or, on this occasion, the State Controller. His words were very powerful. He did not mince words. He pointed out how important this bill is and how important it is that we pass this bill. I believe it should be done in a timely manner. We are all in this together and there is a real urgency for this, as every hour we delay is an hour we will not get back. We need to be able to respond quickly because this is an emergency situation. I support this bill and I sincerely hope we pass it without delay.

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