BILL: COVID-19 Emergency Response

Today Mark spoke at the second reading of the COVID-19 Emergency Response (Expiry) Amendment Bill 2021.


COVID-19 Emergency Response (Expiry) Amendment Bill 2021

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: As much as we would like to think that COVID is behind us, clearly it is not yet. Whilst the number of cases is pleasingly low in almost every jurisdiction, and whilst in South Australia we are doing very well, I think most people appreciate that the emergency response measures still have some little work to do, so I will support this bill.

I want to quickly mention something that the minister in another place spent about a quarter of her speech addressing, and that is public disquiet over the security of the QR code check-in system. I have discussed this with some members and I had thought that maybe some appropriate amendments might be incorporated into this bill, but we know that time is of the essence with this bill and we need to get it to the Governor and have it in place by Friday. Earlier today, I gave notice of my intention to introduce a bill tomorrow to amend the Emergency Management Act. That bill—I will not address it now, I will address it tomorrow—basically enshrines the assurances and the undertakings that the minister has already given.

As people have said in the past in relation to this bill—sorry, not just this bill but in relation to the legal and regulatory response to COVID—it is powered 90 per cent on trust; the community is trusting that the medical authorities know what they are doing and they are trusting that the government's responses are appropriate and proportionate. But that trust can be given a boost by putting into legislation some of the protections that the government has assured us are in fact already in place.

What I am talking about is the fact that the COVID app check-in data can only be used for the purpose of contact tracing for COVID. I know the minister in another place said, 'That's already covered,' but there are enough lawyers who have said, 'It's not quite covered, minister,' so we do need to do a bit more. Similarly, I accept what the minister says, that the data is being destroyed when it is no longer needed for contact tracing. I accept fully that that is what they are doing, yet I think the public will have even more confidence in the system if the legislation says it will be destroyed and creates an offence for not destroying it. That is a discussion that we will have after I have introduced my bill tomorrow.

I am pleased that COVID is coming towards a natural end, certainly in Australia and hopefully around the world. I know my elderly father is looking forward to getting his jab. He is in one of the priority groups interstate, so not anything I need to be lobbying the health minister here about—not that I would anyway, that would be very inappropriate. Certainly, the 80-pluses will be early on in getting the vaccine and I think that is a good thing. I look forward to 31 May when hopefully this bill will not need to be extended for any further period of time.