Media release: Extraordinary new justice measures show need for continued Parliamentary oversight during pandemic 

The significant measures proposed by the Government in their emergency measures laws to respond to the COVID-19 crisis highlight the need to have Parliament continue to operate during the pandemic.

The regulation making powers in the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 allow many of the most fundamental rules relating to the criminal justice system including laws relating to trials, evidence, bail, sentencing, parole and AVOs to be overridden by regulation.

The Greens understand the need for extraordinary measures given the health crisis and do not oppose broad new powers being given to the Attorney General. We support the overwhelming bulk of these measures. However we believe these powers must have limits and must be properly oversighted by the Parliament.

Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“These are extraordinary times, and we know there will be unprecedented challenges, but democracy means that Parliament must retain critical oversight of any emergency measures.

“The new bill contains a regulation making power that allows regulations to be made which override a raft of existing criminal justice laws.

“While there are some limited checks and balances on this regulation making power, as drafted the bill allows for even these checks and balances to be removed by regulation. That is a step too far.

“Extraordinary powers cannot be allowed to proliferate in the absence of any scrutiny, particularly given the tensions we will see play out between our fundamental rights and freedoms and the unquestionable need for strict public health measures.

“Parliament is clearly an essential service and while meetings should be minimised to avoid public health concerns, it must continue to meet and exercise its democratic functions.

“We will be opposing the Government’s plan to adjourn the Parliament until 16 September, any special adjournment should be no longer than 1 month.

“We’re asking workers around NSW to continue doing their jobs, often at extraordinary personal risk, they deserve to know that Members of Parliament will also continue to do their jobs,” Mr Shoebridge said.