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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 284 asked in the Legislative Council on 31 March 2020 by Hon Robin Scott

Minister responding: Hon M.H. Roberts
Parliament: 40 Session: 1

Answered on

CORONAVIRUS — POLICE — SELF-ISOLATION

284. Hon ROBIN SCOTT to the minister representing the Minister for Police:

I have been contacted by a number of constituents in my electorate, saying that known persons who have tested positive to COVID-19 are breaching self-isolation protocols and when police are notified, no action is being taken.

(1) Do WA Police Force officers have powers to deal with people who willingly breach self-isolation protocols; and, if not, why not?

(2) If yes to (1), why would reports of offending behaviour not be acted upon?

(3) How is the minister balancing the need to protect police officers from positive cases with the need to protect the community by having police officers physically detain offenders?

Hon STEPHEN DAWSON replied:

I thank the honourable member for some notice of the question. The following answer has been provided to me by the Minister for Police.

(1) Yes.

(2) They are being acted on.

(3) In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a state of emergency has been declared in Western Australia, pursuant to the Emergency Management Act 2005. The effect of this declaration is that various powers under the EMA are enlivened, which the Commissioner of Police may exercise as the State Emergency Coordinator to manage the emergency. The state of emergency declaration provides the SEC with powers to direct members of the community to remain in their homes. The WA Police Force advises that the SEC has authorised all police officer as authorised officers under the EMA, which empowers them to enforce the commissioner's decisions. To that end, police officers are checking that community members are complying with any directions, and have laid charges for breaches. Within the WA Police Force, teams of COVID-19 assurance vehicles have been established, and the WA Police Force advises that these teams are equipped with necessary personal protective equipment. Other police vehicles equipped with PPE may be dispatched, and in regional Western Australia, local police tasking despatch operators will obtain information from the COVID-19 assurance desk before local police are equipped with PPE and deployed to complete inquiries.

I thank all our police officers and police staff for their outstanding commitment and service to our community in these challenging, indeed unprecedented, times as we combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Amendments to the Criminal Code being introduced today send the strong message that COVID-19-related assaults on, and threats to, our police officers and other essential frontline staff must not be tolerated. The McGowan government is also introducing legislation to bring in $1 000 on-the-spot fines for individuals and $5 000 fines for businesses who disobey any directions issued under the EMA. Penalties of up to $50 000 for individuals still apply under the EMA; however, the on-the-spot fines will allow police officers to issue fines immediately, without having to go through the courts. The government calls on all community members to do the right thing, rather than face any fines.