Monday, 23 March 2020
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Higgins for her question and I also thank her for her counsel and advice with her background as a doctor. There are many doctors in this place, and I'm sure we've turned to them on occasion and I certainly appreciate the input I've received from the member for Higgins.
For the first time ever in Australia's federal history, we've established a national cabinet—that is a national cabinet of the governments of Australia, all states and territories, together with the Commonwealth, and the leaders of each of those executive governments coming together to ensure there can be coordination between the executive decisions of those governments in terms of the national response to the coronavirus crisis.
Those governments hold independent, individual sovereignty over the decisions that they hold under their various constitutions and subject only to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. But this mechanism has proved to be very effective in drawing together the many issues that the state and territory governments, together with the Commonwealth, need to address to ensure consistency wherever possible.
The national cabinet has met on four occasions in just the past 10 days. It meets even more urgently, as required, based on consultation with the members of the national cabinet. They have activated the second stage of the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for the Coronavirus. They have banned non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday 16 March. Travel restrictions on cruise ships destined for Australia's borders commenced on 13 March for cruise ships from foreign ports. The universal self-isolation requirement on all international arrivals was effective from Sunday 15 March. They endorsed the medical expert panel advice, the AHPPC advice, against the bulk purchase of food, medicines and other goods. They endorsed the Commonwealth's decision to close Australia's borders to noncitizens and nonresidents at 9 pm Australian Eastern Daylight Time on Friday 20 March that followed on from the earlier travel bans that the Commonwealth put in place prior to the formation of the national cabinet. Non-essential indoor gatherings of greater than 100 people have not been permitted from Wednesday 18 March, and a four-square-metre rule as a guideline was put in place on 20 March. Further announcements were made on those indoor gatherings last night on the basis of the national cabinet meeting last night.
Domestic travel: all Australians should only consider travelling when it is essential. If people are unwell, they must stay at home unless seeking medical care. Aged-care facilities enabling consistent public health directions on visitor restrictions are to complement regulatory standards that were adopted by the Commonwealth. Those restrictions have been implemented through both the work of the Commonwealth government through our accreditation processes as well as public orders provided by the state governments. Of course stage 1 restrictions were put in place last night on 23 March which relate to many places of social gathering—pubs, registered and licensed clubs; gyms and indoor sporting venues; cinemas; entertainment venues; casinos and nightclubs; restaurants and cafes being restricted to takeaway and home delivery; and religious gatherings and places of worship. As the number of cases grows, the national cabinet will continue to take the decisions based on the expert medical advice that we are receiving on a daily basis.