On 18 March 2020, the Public Health and Other Legislation (Public Health Emergency) Amendment Act 2020 (Qld) (‘the Act’) was introduced by the Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services, Hon Dr Steven Miles and was subsequently passed by the Queensland Parliament. The Act received assent the following day.
The Act makes amendments existing legislation to introduce and enforce special powers for the COVID-19 emergency. These amendments include:
The Act makes a two-limb amendment to the Economic Development Act 2012 (Qld):
Unlike other provisions within the Act, the amendments relating to economic development are not exclusive to the current COVID-19 emergency.
The Act also makes amendments to the Planning Act 2016 (Qld) to allow a greater number of facilities to be used for public health purposes and to enable certain classes of businesses to extend their operating rights in order to provide essential goods and services to communities. Businesses will be allowed to apply for temporary use licences to change a condition of the development approval or alter the intensity of scale of existing lawful use of the premises. A licence is granted by the chief executive provided they are satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the licence to be applicable for a specified period during an applicable event.
The Act makes comprehensive amendments to a wide range of legislation concerning local government administration and elections. The amended legislation includes the City of Brisbane Act 2010, the Local Government Act 2009, the Local Government (Dissolution of Ipswich City Council) Act 2018, the Local Government Electoral Act 2011 and the Local Government Regulation 2012 (Qld).The most notable of these amendments is that the Act enables the Minister, in consultation with the electoral commission, to withdraw the notice of the 2020 quadrennial local government election published in February. The election will only be suspended in this manner if it is determined that proceeding with the election will be against the public interest. The other amendments are predominantly concerned with increasing the flexibility of electoral processes, these include:
The Act makes one amendment to the Constitution of Queensland 2001 (Qld) which enables meetings of the Executive Council to be held using any technology that “enables reasonably continuous and contemporaneous communication between participants” for instance, through teleconferencing or video conferencing.
The Act was introduced as an “urgent Bill” and was introduced, passed and assented over the time period of one day. Due to its urgent nature, the Act was debated in 2 hours and passed with a 41-30 majority. There was a multitude of diverse and conflicting responses to the Act. Much of the criticism was directed towards the minimal notice given for the Bill. For instance, Liberal MP, Mr Bleijie, criticised the Bill stating, “Ten people out of 93 will get a chance to speak on this, the biggest issue in 100 years (…) and this parliament gives it the disrespect of only two hours debate.” However, others while disapproving of the processes in bringing the Bill to Parliament but still supported its provisions. For instance, another Liberal MP, Mr Mander, referred to the fact that these are “extraordinary times and they require extraordinary measures.”
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Public Health and Other Legislation (Public Health Emergency) Amendment Act 2020, Bill and supporting information available from TimeBase LawOne Service.
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