South Australia’s Health Minister has hit back at Opposition Leader David Speirs for “dog whistling to the anti-vaxxer movement” after the Liberal leader accused the state’s new Premier of running a “Dark-Age dictatorship” in relation to new emergency COVID-19 powers.
- Opposition Leader David Speirs yesterday criticised what he described as “draconian” measures
- Labor today rejected the claims, saying the penalties are exactly the same as they were under the previous government
- South Australia has recorded 4,395 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths in the latest reporting period
A law that will change the way South Australia manages COVID-19 restrictions officially passed parliament today.
The legislation gives cabinet the power to make COVID-19 declarations that would last a maximum of six months.
Under the changes, the maximum penalties for non-compliance with a direction would remain at two years’ jail or up to a $20,000 fine for individuals, with businesses in breach facing penalties of up to $75,000.
Yesterday, Mr Speirs labelled such sanctions “draconian” and suggested they were unsuited to pandemic policing in a changed COVID-19 environment.
“What we’re seeing from Peter Malinauskas here is a Dark-Age dictatorship tantamount to something that you would expect to see in Victoria under Dan Andrews. South Australia is more progressive than that,” Mr Speirs said yesterday.
In parliament today, Health Minister Chris Picton hit back and said the previous level of bi-partisanship between the two major parties had deteriorated.
“The penalty provisions are exactly the same as what the previous government had over the past two years.”
However, Mr Speirs hit back in turn, doubling down on his earlier comparison.
“We made it clear from day one that we supported the sentiment of this bill, we supported that move from major emergency declaration into public health legislation for the next phase of the COVID 19 pandemic.
“But we felt that it had to be backed up by a step-down in some of the penalties.”
Premier Peter Malinauskas criticised Mr Speirs for using “highly provocative language” while in a position of leadership.
“David Speirs is going towards the lowest common denominator to try [to] whip up fear among a minority of South Australians,” Mr Malinauskas said.
The Premier said the new legislation would instead provide certainty to South Australians.
“We have passed legislative change to the Public Health Act by the 30th of June this year,” he said.
“This will provide a lot more security and certainty to business in South Australia, knowing [that], at any moment, they won’t be subject to a dramatic increase in restrictions, without another Emergency Management Declaration.”
South Australia today recorded another increase in daily COVID-19 numbers, with 4,395 new cases and five deaths reported in the latest 24-hour reporting period.
Hospital admissions remain steady, with 246 people with COVID-19 in hospital across the state.
There are 25,629 known active cases.