Queensland Extends CHO Pandemic Powers
Queensland’s Public Health Bill was passed on Thursday night, extending the chief health officer’s pandemic powers for six months.
In a rare agreement the bill passed with the support of 48 Labor MPs, but it was opposed by the Liberal National Party, Katter's Australian Party, One Nation MPs, and independent MP Sandy Bolton.
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The pandemic powers provide the CHO with the power to issue lockdown orders and public health directions imposing mandatory quarantine, face masks, social distancing, and other restrictions.
Extended until the end of October, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath, said that Chief Health Officer John Gerrard, needs to be able to act quickly given the uncertain nature of Covid.
“This bill has been developed in a period of ongoing uncertainty not experienced in a century,” she told parliament on Thursday night.
“For the foreseeable future there will continue to be unknowns.
“Government must have the tools to respond to preserve the health and safety of our people, to protect the community and mitigate disruption to society," she purported.
Meanwhile, both the Greens and the LNP have called for greater transparency, requesting health advice be made public, with an assessment of human rights implications to be provided.
Ms D'Ath said while the Queensland Human Rights Commission had called for vaccine mandates to end, there needs be a balance found between the rights of the individual and those of the general population.
“We know it is hard to weigh up those rights and get the balance correct, but we have to do it," Ms D'Ath said.
"No government has the luxury of making a choice without costs. It is not as simple as choosing between the impact of restrictions and the harm of Covid.”
"Rather, we must seek to minimise the impact of both, and we must make the decision that balances the respective harms most effectively," she said.
It follows recommendations from the Queensland Human Rights Commissioner, Scott McDougall, earlier this month to replace the temporary measures with “fit-for-purpose, pandemic legislation” that are “transparent, accountable and more compatible with human rights,” as legislated in Victoria and the ACT.
With both influenza and Covid expected to place increased pressure on the health system over winter, Ms D’Arth said the emergency powers were “critical”.
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