A member of WA Police inspects cars at a border checkpoint on Indian Ocean Drive in Perth, Australia on Jun. 29, 2021. (Matt Jelonek/Getty Images)
By Daniel Y. Teng
The Western Australian Labor government looks set to pass an impending law for the “ongoing management” of COVID-19 that grants law enforcement extensive powers, including the authority to “break into and enter any place or vehicle.”
A debate has been ongoing since the end of September 2022, with opposition MPs refusing to back the Emergency Management Amendment (Temporary COVID-19 Provisions) Bill 2022.
Under a COVID-19 declaration, the Bill (pdf) authorises “COVID-19 officers” to “break into and enter” any place or vehicle and exercise these powers without a warrant or consent from the owner.
Officers can also take control or make use of any place or vehicle to enforce a health order.
Section 77N also gives officers the power to force individuals to undergo quarantine and “submit to infection prevention and control procedures.” While Section 77O can be used to compel owners of businesses, places of worship, and entertainment venues to close for a specified period.
Labor MP David Templeman, the leader of the house, said the state had been operating under three-month orders stemming from the Emergency Management Act and the new proposal was supposed to allow for a “temporary fit-for-purpose legal framework” to manage COVID-19.
“The reason it is important for the bill to be dealt with as quickly as possible is that it will allow COVID-19 to be managed outside of a state of emergency, with these arrangements to expire after two years,” he told Parliament on Sept. 21, 2022.