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COVID-19 lockdown raises many unanswered questions

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
31 March 2020

Serious questions remain about how the new NSW Public Health Order issued late last night will be applied, delivered and enforced according to Greens MPs David Shoebridge and Cate Faehrmann, spokespeople for Justice and Health respectively. 

Penalties for breaches of the order include up to 6 months imprisonment and the rules will be in place for a minimum of 3 months. 

“While the Government needs to be taking measures to ensure that people stay at home unless absolutely necessary and practice physical distancing when out in public, it’s unacceptable these latest restrictions have been brought in overnight with scarce detail and such harsh penalties,” said Cate Faehrmann, Greens NSW health spokesperson.

“People cannot be expected to know what to do in order to avoid massive fines when the Government’s information campaign is so inadequate.

“It’s extremely difficult to find the relevant Public Health Order on NSW Health’s website and then the fineprint of what is defined as acceptable behaviour and by whom.

“The Coronavirus app released on the weekend by the Federal Government has also received little promotion and is yet to send out one notification.

“Starting today NSW Health must ensure every Public Health Order reaches every single person in an easy to understand format and in multiple languages. This means blanket text messaging, letterboxing every household and saturation advertising,” said Ms Faehrmann.

“This is a public health crisis, not a law and order crisis, so it is always a concern when the government leads with severe penalties and punishment rather than information and support,” said David Shoebridge, Greens NSW justice spokesperson.

“People are literally waking up this morning and asking how does this apply to me, are my parents or grandparents ‘vulnerable people’, can I help out my neighbour? 

“Overnight it seems it has become a crime to drop off a cake to your neighbour or shop for the family next door who need help to get the groceries home. 

“This will come as a real blow for those communities who are right now looking out for each other with informal neighbourhood assistance and mutual aid. This needs to be fixed going forward with a clear exemption for mutual aid. 

“These new rules, with 16 explicit exemptions and a large grey area about what constitutes a “reasonable excuse,” will now be in the hands of NSW police who have been given no notice and no formal training on how they apply.

“What is missing now, with Parliament shut and the government resisting any accountability, is immediate parliament oversight of the government’s actions. Democracy can’t be another victim of this pandemic,” Mr Shoebridge said.

 

Media Contact:
Cate Faehrmann: 0412 207 043
David Shoebridge: 0408 113 952

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
31 March 2020
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