Linda Dalgleish on the Operation of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020

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Linda Dalgleish wished to participate in having her say at the Inquiry into the operation of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 parliament committee.

The first case of Coronavirus in New Zealand was discovered on 28th February 2020, all of the borders and entry ports of New Zealand were closed to all non-residents at 11:59 pm on 19 March 2020, with returning citizens and residents being required to self-isolate. New Zealand first went into lockdown on March 21st instantly from a level 2 to a 3 on the 23rd of March and, then, at 11:59 pm on the 25th March, the alert level was moved to level a 4. Now at a level, four lots of miscommunication happened with the whole alert system guidelines & rules mainly due to the media.

During the total lockdown from when it was announced to when it was entirely in place, behind the scenes, the Government was passing laws without people knowing from the Health Act 1956 to make Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a “quarantinable disease,” giving medical officers of health (those of public health officials appointed by the director-general of health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield) higher powers, backed by the New Zealand Police for the use of reasonable measures, to impose conditions of isolation, quarantine or disinfection.

This means that a medical officer if authorized to do so by the Minister or if a state of emergency has been declared under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 or while an epidemic notice is in force,— can enforce these powers that include “requiring a person to be isolated, quarantined, or disinfected.”

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This states that anyone is returning from overseas flights or close contacts of those who test positive for the Coronavirus, who will not attend voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days, can be forced to do so. And medical officers of health also can order any premises to shut down immediately if they find anything they do not approve of in regards to the Health Act 1956.

And why should anyone have to follow what these medical officers of health say? Mainly because the Police are authorized to do anything reasonably necessary (and that includes the use of force) to make someone do so/follow what they approve of. If you fail not to follow what they tell you to do, it is an offense, meaning you can be arrested, prosecuted, fined, and (most likely) be imprisoned for a set time.

Police can also visit someones private home, or even their workplace without a warrant in most cases and remove a person (with force possible if the person fails to comply) or even shut down a workplace if Police/medical health officers suspect that the specific person may have the Coronavirus or links/connections to a spreader.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern introduced a new bill to be passed before the Coronavirus lockdown level two ended; the law is the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill.

Another example of the complete urgency the Government has given for the Police is the powers is to: “enable enforcement of the measures in orders, the Police are given a power to enter premises, including private dwellinghouses and marae, without a warrant if they have reasonable grounds to believe that people have gathered there in contravention of order and entry is necessary for the purpose of giving people a direction to comply with the order (for example, giving an order to disperse). Enforcement officers can enter without a warrant any premises other than private dwellinghouses and marae if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a person is failing to comply with any aspect of an order.”

“I think this law actually needs to repealed; it’s completely over the top. We successfully stomped on this virus with the existing laws we have. We have the Health Act 1956, the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, we have the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, these are all-sufficient laws to keep the people safe,” says Linda Dalgleish.

One of the least appropriate things is the increased police powers over certain ‘classes’ of people. Health is now in the Government/Police hands, meaning your freedom of health choices for ‘health care’ are being taken away. Sure, if you want to stop house parties over the lockdown periods; this is okay, but what’s no okay is the dangerous powers given out that could be abused.

“We should be protecting our elderly. Protecting our rest homes and, for the most part treating people like adults. Most people want to be responsible,”

Linda mentions she has some issues with the way some particular sections of the law are being presented.

“Most of the public is under the idea that this law will only last 90 days, and we keep being told that the law will be refreshed every 90 days. This is even on the website for the submissions for the select committee; it states that the law (COVID-19) must be refreshed every 90 days. It’s not how I’m reading it. In section 3, subsection two A., it says that the relevant period is the length of the following, a period of 90 days after the commencement date or the most recent resolution, or any other period specified by a resolution by the house of representatives. At the end of this 90 days, the house of representatives count may makes another date anywhere up to the 2-year sunset clause.”

“There needs to be more transparency, either you stop saying that it will be refreshed every 90 days or make it clear that the next relevant period could be any length of time within two years. We haven’t had much transparency, the law was rushed in so quickly, most of the public weren’t aware and I believe this is the first time that an act has been bought in with the select committee being heard after the fact the public wasn’t given time to be aware of what was in the bill during readings, nobody had time to make submissions, and we’ve heard from the human rights commission, they were given two working hours to read the bill and file a report. It took me… 5 hours to read through the act and get my head around it. I’m not a lawyer, but two working hours, I think the human rights commissions input is very important here.”

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The Health Minister can make a section 11 order that cannot be revoked by any other person for a minimum of 60 days, in section 16, subsection two that the relevant period os the longer of the following, the period of 10 sitting days or the period of 60 days after the date in which the order was made or see any other period.

“So, if the relevant period is the longer of the minimum will be 60 days, that the health minister can make an order and even if the rest of parliament says it’s a terrible order… it can’t be revoked by anybody else for 60 days. That is very, very dangerous, in my opinion, especially from a health minister that couldn’t stick to his own orders.”

“Section 20, with police being able to make a warrantless entry, it is excessive and it is open to abuse, I think there would be time for police to ask for a warrant to enter people’s houses surrounding COVID breaches.”

“Section 34, I find extremely alarming, that makes it nearly impossible to hold Police accountable, you’d have to prove that they acted with intent to cause malice basically and it’s very difficult. After I think what’s been happening in America, it is clearly obvious we do need to hold Police accountable at all times.”

“The last one that I am really bothered with is section 11, subsection 1 A. 9. where it talks about contact tracing and orders can be made to require a person to provide in specified circumstances in any specified way, any information, that really is written far too broad. It needs to specify in law what exactly you want from people and what way you expect to gather that from people.”

The privacy issues of people entering bars, retail stores, etc make someone write their contact details on a book that is exposed to everyone else also writing their private information on books while entering basically any store after the Government forced shop owners to contact trace if they’re not a large corporation.

“The contact tracing should be voluntarily allowing in the law for it to be made compulsory in any way; any measure is going too far. This is an invasion of public privacy.”

Part 4, Linda finds very offensive with the words stating that children will be prosecuted with no real reasoning behind it.

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“Why would you be prosecuting children? For breaches? This is putting the new COVID act in the same respect as psychoactive substances, and children can be charged under the COVID act under section 4, where it amends the Orama Tamariki Act. It doesn’t allow for infringements to get children bought into the youth court, but if they make an offense, it allows for them to be brought to the youth court for the same psychoactive substance. It’s going too far. You put children in court. Statistically, it has been shown that branding a child as a criminal is more likely to result in them performing actual criminal activities further down the line. You label a child as bad, and they will eventually live up to that name.”

“I think the law needs to be repealed, we’ve had enough law, we’ve done well, and we don’t need no more law — if you’re going to keep the law… I strongly recommend that you tighten up these sections that I’ve talked about.”

Judith Collins thanks Linda for her submission and asks if she’s suggesting that the really good compliance generally from the public prior to the law having been passed in urgency in 24hours, could be at risk of people realizing that they are going to be forced to do contact tracing and the effects that the law proceeds and is used in the way that it is being written are being bought into effect.

“Do I think it will get peoples back up?” says Linda Dalgliesh.

“Yes, that’s the one [nervous laugh and smirk],” says Judith Collins.

“Yes I do, it’s got my back up, that’s why I am here,” says Linda Dalgliesh.

“Linda, with knowing that we move through stage level 2 and three and four without this law, do you believe that from what you’ve read that we would need to have this law and order to be in level two again?” says Judith Collins.

“No. No, we have three very, they are actually quite heavy laws and some of what’s in the health act, there is some very heavy stuff, and I think it’s more than sufficient that the Epidemic Preparedness act is a relatively new act. It was written specifically for this; if we have another emergency, we can call another state of emergency. We don’t need to have state of emergency powers when there is not an emergency,” says Linda Dalgliesh.

EDIT:

Comment from Linda: “At the time, I didn’t understand Section 17 where it talks about Section 11 orders being a disallowable instrument. Meaning that parliament can actually revoke an order if it is way out of line. They don’t need to wait 60 days. That was my mistake. However, it is correct that just one person – the Health Minister gets to make up these orders on his own.”

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