The COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 (Tas) was assented to as Act 11 of 2020 on 27 March 2020, and commenced on the same day. The COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 (“the Bill”) was originally introduced only two days earlier, on 25 March 2020, by the Premier of Tasmania, Peter Gutwein (“the Premier”). According to the Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum, the Act “is designed to ensure the continuity of government services and allow the Government to support the Tasmanian community in the context of the COVID-19 emergency response.”
The Act amends:
As outlined in the Explanatory Memorandum the main function of the legislation is to “ensure the continuity of government services and allow the Government to support the Tasmanian community”.
The amendments will ensure that key regulatory requirements of the State and the administration of law, can adapt to the unique challenges presented to Government and society by the COVID-19 pandemic and will introduce a number of crucial provisions that will allow the Government to offer a range of supports to those Tasmanians who suffer financial hardship as a result of the emergency.
The legislation also contains targeted consequential amendments to the Emergency Management Act 2006 (“EMA”) to support the role of Tasmania Police’s in the emergency response contained in the legislation.
The Act also provides “broad heads of power for the Premier, the Treasurer and the Attorney-General, or delegated Ministers, to make declarations by public notice to adjust the operation of a range of statutory requirements, on the basis that compliance may not be prudent, or even possible, in a pandemic response situation”.
To ensure the continuous operation of laws, the Act also provides for regulations which are due to expire in 2020, to be extended in their operation for up to a further 12 months.
Amendments to the Emergency Management Act 2006 include:
Amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 include:
Commenting on the Bill, the Premier said:
Theto the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 would give the Tasmanian Government power to stop landlords from increasing rents for commercial and residential tenants and tenants and owners would also have rights to break a fixed-term lease if they could prove continuing to rent a property would cause severe hardship, but this would have to be approved by the Residential Tenancy Commissioner.
, Acting Principal Solicitor for the Tenants' Union of Tasmania, said when the emergency period ends, tenants may face a "nasty hit … as landlords will be able to pursue them for rental arrears … We'll be doing everything in our power, in that period, to work out a plan for a 'soft landing' for renters at the end of the emergency period".
Mr Bartl argued the proposed laws should go further and called for a freeze on evictions for any reason during the coronavirus pandemic:
Minister for Building and Construction Elise Archer said in aon the changes to the Residential Tenancy Act 1997:
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COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 (Tas) - Bill and supporting information available from TimeBase's LawOne Service
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