On 24 March 2020, the Northern Territory Minister for Health Natasha Fyles introduced the Emergency Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 (NT) (“the Bill”), to the Legislative Assembly. The Bill passed Parliament on the same day, and received assent to on 25 March 2020.
The Emergency Legislation Amendment Act 2020 (NT) (“the Act”) amends the Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT) (“the Public Health Act”) and the Information Act 2002 (NT) (“the Information Act”), to better support the public health emergency caused by the Coronavirus. The Act commenced on 26 March 2020.
Declarations of a public health emergency can be made by the Minister for Health under section 48 of the Public Health Act. However, section 50 limits the duration of these declarations to a maximum period of 5 days, with extensions of the declaration also limited to 5 day periods. The Minister noted in her second reading speech, that these declarations were typically used for severe weather events, which would last a few days. However, in light of the severity and duration of the Coronavirus pandemic, changes to this duration period had to be made.
The Act amends subsection 50(1)(a) the Public Health Act, extending the maximum period of a declared public health emergency to 90 days. The Act also amends subsection 50(2), to allow for the maximum extension of the public health emergency to be extended to a 90 day period. The Minister commented in her second reading speech, that this is reflective of government predictions that the Coronavirus pandemic will go on for roughly six months.
The Act also amends the Information Act to extend section 81A to also include public health emergencies. Section 81A of the Information Act provides for authorisation for personal information to be handled contrary to the information privacy principles (“IPPs), in case of an emergency situation.
IPPs are defined under section 65(1) as the principles by which public sector organisations must abide by when collecting and handling personal information. The IPPs are specified in Schedule 2 of the Information Act.
Section 81A allows for public sector organisations to collect, use, and disclose personal information in a way that would otherwise contravene the IPPs during emergency situation. Situations that were previously covered under section 81A include:
The Act amends the Information Act to ensure that section 81A also applies to public health emergencies, as declared under section 48 of the Public Health Act.
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Emergency Legislation Amendment Act 2020 (NT) and Emergency Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 (NT) available from TimeBase's LawOne Service
Information Act 2002 (NT) available from TimeBase's LawOne Service
Public and Environmental Health Act 2011 (NT) available from TimeBase's LawOne Service
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