TAS Introduces Bill To Charge for Hotel Quarantine Accommodation

Thursday 20 August 2020 @ 3.08 p.m. | Legal Research

On 18 August 2020, the COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment (Quarantine Debt Recovery) Bill 2020 (the “Bill”) was introduced to Tasmania’s House of Assembly (the “Assembly”) by the Hon Roger Jaensch, the Minister for Human Services.

The Bill proposes to amend the COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 (Act 11 of 2020) (the “COVID-19 Act”).

About the Bill

The Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum (“EM”) indicates that the Bill:

“… will implement a model for charging for hotel quarantine in Tasmania. Mandatory hotel quarantine continues to be a key strategy in preventing the importation of COVID-19 into Tasmania. The requirement to enter hotel quarantine is imposed by the exercise of emergency powers under the Emergency Management Act 2006.”

On 24 July 2020, the Premier, Peter Gutwein MP, announced that the Tasmanian Government would introduce charging for hotel quarantine in Tasmania from 31 July 2020. This means that from that date, all people undertaking quarantine in government-designated accommodation will be required to pay towards their quarantine, except in certain circumstances. 

About the COVID-19 Act

According to the Tasmanian Planning Reform website, the COVID-19 Act “provides for the issue of notices during the COVID-19 emergency period to provide a range of measures relating to the functions and powers of local councils and other entities involved in the planning system”, including:

  • extensions of statutory time periods, including those under the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993 and associated legislation;
  • alternative ways to take physical action, such as through the delivery of electronic documents;
  • alternative meeting arrangements for local councils and other entities;
  • alternative arrangements for public exhibition of documents; and
  • alternative arrangements for public hearings, such as those conducted by the Tasmanian Planning Commission and the Appeal Tribunal.

It also provides for temporary relief from certain planning requirements to assist with our response efforts to COVID-19, including:

  • amendments to existing planning permits, such as permit conditions and restrictions to allow for the delivery of essential services; and
  • exemptions from planning scheme requirements in order to implement a requirement, direction or authorisation necessary during the emergency period.

Key Features of the Proposed Amendment

The Bill proposes to amend the COVID-19 Act by inserting new “Part 6A – Charging For Quarantine Accommodation”(ss 25A-25J) and sets out the legislative framework for implementing the proposed changes for charging for hotel quarantine. Some of the key features of new Part 6A are:

  • the Secretary, Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management (“DPFEM”) is named as the responsible person for issuing orders and making decisions with respect to the operation of the charging model. Section 25J provides for the Secretary to delegate certain administrative powers to a Deputy Commissioner or Assistant Commissioner under the Police Service Act 2003;
  • the Bill provides that the Secretary may, by order, declare that a person or class of people in government quarantine on or after 31 July 2020 may be required to pay. An order may be amended or revoked by the Secretary;
  • the Bill provides for pro-rata payment and details daily rates. This approach is intended to allow for circumstances where a person or family may not be required to quarantine for the full 14-day period; and
  • the daily rates set in the Bill are as follows: $200 for a single person, $71.40 for an additional person and $35.70 for an additional child. There will be no charge for children under 3 years of age, and accommodation charges will be capped at $4,800.

Exemption or Waiver of Fees

According to the Explanatory Memorandum, at least two options exist to apply for exemption or waiver to the fees.

  • Section 25D provides for a person may apply for a certificate of exemption to seek an exemption to the fees (either in full or in part) prior to their travel. Alternatively, on receipt of an invoice a person may apply for a waiver of all or in part of the fees set out in an invoice or to alter the payment date specified in an invoice; and
  • Section 25I provides for a person to make an application to the Secretary for a waiver of all or part of the quarantine debt amount set out in an invoice, or to alter the payment date specified in an invoice (ie seek an extension).

An application for a waiver or alteration to the payment date may be granted by the Secretary on the basis of compassionate or medical reasons, financial hardship or other relevant circumstances.

Government Comment on the Bill

In the Minister’s speech, he commented:

“As we continue to rebuild a stronger Tasmania, we must continue to ensure that safeguards are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 into Tasmania. Mandatory hotel quarantine remains one of the most effective measures to prevent the importation of COVID-19.  In July 2020, National Cabinet agreed to work toward a uniform model for charging for hotel quarantine across the country. Since that meeting, a model for charging for hotel quarantine is being progressively implemented by other states and territories ... By introducing charging for hotel quarantine, the Tasmanian Government aims to discourage people from undertaking discretionary or non-time-sensitive travel from affected areas. This is vital to ensuring people travelling from restricted areas will either have a genuine need to travel, or be aware of their obligation to pay a fee toward their quarantine.”

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.

Sources:

COVID-19 Disease Emergency (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment (Quarantine Debt Recovery) Bill 2020 (Tas) – Bill and supporting information available from TimeBase LawOne Service.

Update on Border restrictions - Media Release (Peter Gutwein, Premier, 24 July 2020)

Tasmanian Planning Reform - Tasmanian Government Fact Sheet (Accessed 20 August 2020)

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