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Speech: Emergency Management (Quarantine Fees and Penalty) Amendment Bill 2020

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:37): I rise on behalf of the Greens to support this bill, acknowledging that again we are having to deal with quite extraordinary circumstances and address them in a very rushed manner that would not normally be the due process of any parliament. However, we are ready, willing and able to again cooperate to ensure public health and public safety, but note with some caveats that talk of locking people up because they stowed away on a freight train—where a magistrate has decided that they do not have the money to pay the fine—would actually result in a very significant bill to the state to imprison those people rather than simply send them back from whence they came.

In terms of the public health emergency, I get that people are scared and I get that this is an incredibly frightening time, but the idea of putting people in prison and demanding that the magistrate—who was the one who had all the information, who knew the situation that they were dealing with—lock people up has been incredibly disappointing. I think it is more borne of that fear rather than the educated and calm approach that will get us through this public health emergency.

In my briefing with the government I have requested them to outline the situation for people who are overseas who have not been able to return to date. Contrary to claims at a federal level by no less than the Prime Minister, there are many Australians overseas who have had flights cancelled, who have faced the choice of travelling with increasingly exorbitant prices being charged for the few flights that are available and who, through no fault of their own, have been kept away from the safety, relatively and comparatively, that Australia is able to provide them.

They are Australian citizens and at some stage they will start to return. Will they be punished because they were unable to return? If they can show that they made every effort, for example, that their flights were cancelled and so on, will they be able to take advantage of the waivers on these quarantine fees is my simple question of the government today. With that, we look forward to the committee stage of the bill.

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