Gunner calls special one-day sitting of Parliament to pass new COVID-19 rules

by | Apr 21, 2020 | News, NT Politics | 0 comments

A special session in the Legislative Assembly is set for this Friday, as the Gunner Government moves to legislate further measures of their coronavirus pandemic response, Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced Tuesday. 

The agenda will focus on passing legislation to enact already announced COVID-19 stimulus packages, that include slashing power and water prices by 50 per cent for Territory businesses, protection for struggling tenants and expected amendments to reinforce mandatory quarantine arrangements.

A new $5,495 penalty will also be legislated for anyone caught coughing or spitting on any worker in the Territory, with the intent of causing fear about the spread of coronavirus. 

Recommencing some elective surgery and IVF treatments in the Territory from Monday is also being considered, Mr Gunner said.

But the Chief Minister could still not say for sure when restrictions on local businesses would start to be eased.

“There is no government, anywhere in the world, that can provide us with an example of how to safely transition back to normal – because no other government has done it yet,” he said at a press conference.

“Those who have tried have failed. We will not fail, we cannot afford to fail.”

He previously said he would be following the Prime Minister’s lead on the issue and would know more about how to lift restrictions by the end of the month.

Mr Gunner said that MLAs from remote areas may attend the special sittings of Parliament depending on their circumstances, but they are not required to attend physically and members who are vulnerable, or care for the vulnerable, are not required to attend in person.

A teleconference arrangement will be set up for some members who cannot attend in person and they will be allowed to vote, Mr Gunner said.

Mr Gunner added that while this will be an extraordinary sitting of Parliament, he expects regular sittings could resume soon.

“And based on the progress we are making so far, it is my hope that the Territory Parliament will be able to resume normal sittings at some point in June,” he said.

Those days were committed for Estimates hearings but that has been cancelled this year, with the Territory Budget pushed back to November.

The Public Accounts Committee will begin its monthly coronavirus hearings to explore the Gunner Government’s spending during the pandemic next Thursday.

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