WA seeks 10-year sentence for people who cough on health and emergency workers

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday March 31, 2020

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People who fail to self isolate will be forced to wear an electronic device, under tough new laws proposed by the Western Australian government.

The laws introduced into state parliament on Tuesday would allow authorities to compel someone to wear the device or have it installed at their home. Removal or interference with the device would lead to a $12,000 fine or 12 months’ imprisonment.

If the legislation is passed, those who disobey self-isolation and gathering directives will be fined $1000, with $5000 fines for businesses.

Further, anyone who has or says they have COVID-19, and assaults or threatens to injure or harm a public officer, could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment, Premier Mark McGowan said.

“Unfortunately we have seen a number of distressing reports of people across the country claiming they have COVID-19, deliberately coughing or spitting on innocent people who are simply doing their jobs,” he said.

“Our frontline staff in essential and emergency fields are working tirelessly around the clock at great personal risk to themselves and others to keep our community safe.

“People who deliberately show disregard by putting our frontline workers at grave risk or fail to self-isolate as required and putting others in the community at risk, will not be tolerated and will face the full force of the law and harsh penalties.”

The law would cover police officers, doctors, nurses or anyone working in a hospital or health service, firefighters, SES and ambulance officers.

The changes would also provide more clarity over the direction-making power of the State Emergency Coordinator, McGowan said. He noted they would only be used during a State of Emergency and would be repealed after 12 months.

“We are in extraordinary times and we need to take extraordinary measures. This means changes to our laws that can be applied to a State of Emergency upon us right now and into the future,” he said.

The WA government will also seek to urgently progress several bills currently before the Legislative Council relevant to pandemic-related issues, including the Family Violence Legislation Reform Bill 2019, and the Small Business Development Corporation Amendment Bill 2019.

The latter will enable investigations where people face exploitation from businesses and individuals, such as price gouging, withholding payments or denying insurance claims.

 

 

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