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Marshall 'looking at' how to end emergency declaration


Premier Steven Marshall says the state’s emergency powers “don’t lend themselves particularly well to a pandemic” but says it’s unlikely the current state of emergency will be rescinded while border closures remain a regular feature of South Australian life.

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As the state enters its tenth month under an emergency declaration – and Marshall enters his final full calendar year before kicking off his re-election campaign – the Premier said authorities were considering how to return the state’s emergency decision-making to cabinet government.

“We’re looking at that at the moment,” he said.

“We were looking at it very carefully in November – before the Parafield cluster.”

Marshall insisted “we don’t want to keep SA in a state of emergency for an extended period of time”.

“But whilst we’ve got border restrictions in place, if they’re not done under the Emergency Management Act they need to be done under another Act, and we’re looking at the best way to do that,” he said.

SA enacted its emergency provisions – handing ultimate authority for the state’s COVID response to Police Commissioner Grant Stevens – in mid-March as the pandemic erupted. By May, key business figures were calling for the emergency declaration to be revoked – but, more than seven months later, it remains in place, having been extended several times over.

“One thing is for certain – after this emergency is over we will look very carefully at the Emergency Management Act,” Marshall said.

“It tends to lend itself best to something like a bushfire or a flood, where it might be over in a short period of time – it doesn’t lend itself particularly well to a pandemic.”

He said reform legislation before parliament would be considered next month, but hinted at a broader overhaul in response to the COVID pandemic.

“We won’t end the declaration unless we have something else to manage this emergency [so] we’re going to continue to look at that arrangement,” he said.

“It really is all going to depend on those borders – it’s possible to potentially do it [close state borders in response to outbreaks] under the Public Health Act but, again, it’s not particularly easy – so there are going to have to be some legislative changes.”

Border restrictions from NSW remain in place, but Marshall said there was no plan to close the Victorian border again despite a growing cluster in that state.

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