21 Apr 2020
Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
The Legislative Assembly will return for a special session on Friday to respond to the coronavirus crisis.
These are not normal times, this will not be a normal parliament.
Remote may attend depending on their circumstances, but they are not required to attend in person.
Members who are vulnerable, or care for the vulnerable, are not required to attend in person.
Parliament will meet in person for some of us, and via teleconference for the others.
And those members who are not in the Assembly will still be able to vote.
The special sitting will begin at 8.30 on Friday. I will be in National Cabinet for the morning before joining the sitting, if it is still going.
There is no set time for us to finish on Friday. We will finish when we finish. We will debate it until we are done.
It won’t be a normal parliament, but we will get back to normal soon.
The Federal Parliament is returning for a trial week of parliament in May.
And based on the progress we are making so far, it is my hope that the Territory Parliament will be able to resume normal sittings at some point in June.
The Public Accounts Committee will be begin their monthly coronavirus hearings next Thursday.
Myself, the Treasurer, the Health Minister, the Police Commissioner and others will be there to answer any questions publicly from opposition and independent members about the measures we are taking, to save lives and save jobs.
For the special sitting this Friday, we intend to introduce, debate and pass critical legislation to strengthen our response to the coronavirus.
We will bring in extra protections for struggling tenants, building on the hardship provisions that are already in place. We will have more to say on this in the next few days.
We will formalise the mandatory quarantine arrangements we have in place.
We will bring in a bill to cut bills – legislation to slash power and water prices by 50 per cent for Territory businesses.
Finally, and importantly:
We will legislate a new penalty for anyone who is caught coughing or spitting on a Territory worker in order to cause fear about the spread of coronavirus.
“Territory worker” means any worker, means every worker.
Yes, cops and ambos. But also doctors and nurses. Also teachers and tradies. Shelf stackers, checkout workers, retail staff. Cleaners, café workers. Anyone, everyone.
If some lowlife commits this low act on a Territorian doing their job, then they will be punished.
We will give police the power to impose an immediate, on-the-spot fine of $5495 for anyone caught doing this.
Make no mistake, it doesn’t end there.
It can also go to the courts, where the penalty can be a lot higher – including jail time.
It’s fair to say we have not had too much cause to worry about this sort of behaviour here, just yet.
Not like on the east coast. If you read the news, watch the news, in Sydney there seems to be coughers and spitters on every corner.
That hasn’t happened to that extent here. By and large, Territorians are too decent for that.
All but a few of us are just getting on with it, and showing the respect to frontline workers that they deserve.
But we’re the best in the nation right now because we keep staying ahead of the game.
We have seen one incident, the other day, where an idiot threw his spit at some cops and said he had coronavirus.
He didn’t have it – but the cops who were just doing their job did not know that.
And it doesn’t matter anyway – the act itself is revolting.
It’s one incident, but it’s one too many.
So today we are sending a message – and the message is clear:
If you pull something like this, you are a grub. You won’t get away with it.
It’s disgusting and it’s dangerous. It’s unacceptable and it’s un-Territorian.
There are zero excuses. You will get zero chances.
A massive on-the-spot fine is just the beginning.
We are now on day fifteen without a new case of coronavirus, with nearly half the cases fully recovered.
That’s a remarkable achievement that every Territorian has contributed to, and every Territorian can be proud of.
Some things are slowly returning to normal.
School went back yesterday with strong attendance results.
We will recommence some elective surgery and IVF in the Territory from Monday, and the Health Minister will talk more about that later in the week.
On the economy, no one is kidding themselves that things will get easier overnight. We all know there will be a long road to recovery.
Not just here, the whole country is in the same boat.
But there is some cause for hope here.
Deloitte has forecast that once this crisis is over, the Territory will have the strongest economic comeback in the country, with the highest rate of growth in the country.
To get to that point, to get onto the road to recovery, we are throwing the kitchen sink at saving local jobs right now.
I’d rather see the government take a hit, than a local business hit the wall, or a local worker hit the dole queue.
I’ve said before – everything we are doing is to help people get through this crisis and out the other side.
But I know the real difference will be made when businesses can start to open.
And I know there are more and more calls for cafes, restaurants and pubs to open as soon possible.
I get it. I want them open as much as anyone else.
I want businesses back in business, I want people back in jobs, I want our shops and streets full – as much as anyone else.
But I remind Territorians that we are walking on a tightrope here. We cannot put a foot wrong.
There is no government, anywhere in the world, that can provide us with an example of how to safely transition back to normal – because no other government has done it yet.
Those who have tried have failed.
We will not fail, we cannot afford to fail.
Business has made it crystal clear to me – they don’t want to open too quickly, only to have to close again because something went wrong.
So we will take our time, we will follow the expert advice, we will do it once and we will do it right.
As I said last week, if things keep going well, we can begin to plan this transition in the next few weeks.
It will be safe, it will be staged.
It will be done at a time when we can be confident that any future outbreak of the virus can be caught and contained through a rapid response that identifies it, traces it and locks it down.
We won’t be following anyone else’s timetable. We will do what’s right for the Territory, when it’s right for the Territory.
I know there will be some people who jump up and down, saying all of this has been too extreme, that it’s not needed, that it’s taking too long.
They can have a go at me for that, if they want.
But we’ve made ourselves the safest place in Australia by taking this threat seriously, and I’m not going to let that slip now.
I’ve been upfront with you this whole time. If I’ve got to make a 50-50 call, I’ll always fall on the side of choosing lives.
So I again ask Territorians for patience.
This is like a grand final, and we are only at half-time.
We are in front, but it’s far from over, and it’s far too early to start celebrating.
So please, hang in there, stay safe, stick together, and we can see this through.