Greens MP Michael Berkman will move amendments in Parliament this week to ensure greater public scrutiny of the Government’s COVID-19 response.
The Government previously denied Mr Berkman leave to move similar amendments to the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 in December 2020, but he says the need for a Parliamentary COVID-19 Oversight Committee is even greater now.
“If we’re going to pull through this pandemic, people need to have faith in the health directions and economic protections during lockdown. I’m incredibly worried that the growing decline in public trust around the Government’s COVID-19 response will only get worse without better scrutiny and transparency.
“We are at the most crucial point of the COVID-19 response, where we have to deal with complicated questions about things like vaccine passports, targets and criteria for ending lockdowns, and tackling future variants.
“We’ve seen residents locked out of their home state while NRL players and their families are waved through - yet we have no statutory body to scrutinise these decisions.
“When thousands of my constituents were stuck in home quarantine last month, I personally saw the limits of the government’s health and economic response, despite the heroic efforts of frontline workers.
“Keeping Queenslanders in the dark is not only undemocratic, but it creates an environment where conspiracy theories can flourish and that is incredibly dangerous.”
Michael will seek leave to move amendments to the Public Health and Other Legislation (Further Extension of Expiring Provisions) Amendment Bill 2021, to establish a new statutory Parliamentary committee called the COVID-19 Oversight Committee (the COVID Committee). The COVID Committee would comprise 3 Opposition MPs, 1 crossbench MP and 3 Government MPs, and would have a non-Government Chair (like the PCCC).
The COVID Committee would have powers mirroring section 293(1) and (2) of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001, and would inquire into and report to the Legislative Assembly on the Queensland Government’s response to COVID-19, including border closures, lockdowns, hotel quarantine, contract tracing, hospital capacity, economic support for workers and renters, and National Cabinet decisions.
Right now there is no opportunity for public hearings to scrutinise COVID-19 decisions, including those made by the CHO, whose significant powers will be extended to April 2022 under the legislation being debated in Parliament this week.