On 2 December, Queensland Parliament passed the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020 (the Extension Act).
The Extension Act was assented to on 4 December.
As outlined in the Explanatory Notes, a key objective of the Extension Act is to extend the operation of all COVID-19 related legislation which is still required to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 emergency until 30 April 2021, or an earlier date to be prescribed by regulation (referred to as the ‘COVID-19 legislation expiry day’ throughout).
This legislation includes the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 (COVID-19 Act) and a continuation of all or part of related subordinate legislation including the:
- Corrective Services (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
- Domestic and Family Violence Protection (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
- Health Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
- Justice Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response—Community Titles Schemes and Other Matters) Regulation 2020 (including amendments contained in this regulation made under the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997 and the Building Units and Group Titles Act 1980)
- Justice Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response—Documents and Oaths) Regulation 2020 (Documents and Oaths Regulation)
- Justice Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response—Proceedings and Other Matters) Regulation 2020 (Proceedings Regulation)
- Planning (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
- Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
- Retail Shop Leases and Other Commercial Leases (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020 (Leases Regulation)
- Youth Justice (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020.1
Other objectives of the Extension Act are to:
- Insert appropriate transitional mechanisms which provide for the ability to return to normal operations in the most effective and efficient way once the COVID-19-related legislation is no longer needed.
By way of example, the Explanatory Notes refer to the Documents and Oaths Regulation, noting that transitional provisions will be needed once the regulation expires to deal with the execution of documents that are started, but not finished at the expiry date.
The transitional regulation for a COVID-19 law now expires two years after the day the COVID-19 law expires, under the amended section 25(5) of the COVID-19 Act (section 15 of the Extension Act).
- Preserve rights and obligations that have accrued during the ‘response period’ and ‘extension period’ under the Leases Regulation, including confirming that certain action in section 12 of the Leases Regulation is not able to be taken by the lessor under an affected lease during or after the ‘response period’ or ‘extension period’.
The Explanatory Notes indicate that the Leases Regulation has, in many cases, achieved the intended outcome of encouraging good faith negotiations and enabling rent relief and protection from eviction during the lease protection period of 29 March to 31 December 2020.
The Extension Act does not further extend the lease protection period under the Leases Regulation. The extension of the expiry of the Leases Regulation ER Act (to the COVID-19 legislation expiry day) will also ensure that disputes that have not concluded can continue to be progressed after 31 December 2020.
- Extend the temporary operation of the Queensland Small Business Commissioner. The Extension Act does this by removing section 19(7), which originally provided the end date for the appointment and, under section 26 in the new Part 9, confirming that the person appointed to the role will continue to be appointed, despite the date in the instrument of appointment.
- Amend the Youth Justice Act 1992 to allow the chief executive (youth justice) to delegate his or her powers to appropriately qualified temporary detention centre employees in the event of a future COVID-19 outbreak.
- Amend the Electoral Act 1992 to provide flexibility, if required, to facilitate the holding of a by-election in a way that helps minimise serious risks to the health and safety of persons caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- Amend the Liquor Act 1992 to continue support for the artisan liquor sector by temporarily removing restrictions on sales to the public of the liquor of artisan distillers.
- Amend the process for filling a vacancy in the office of a mayor or councillor that arises during the period starting on a quadrennial election and ending on the day before the first anniversary of the election.
The Extension Act does this by amending the Local Government Act 2009 to insert section 164 which provides that if the office becomes vacant during the beginning or middle of the local government’s term, the position must be filled by a by-election. If the office becomes vacant during the final part of the local government’s term, the vacancy is to be filled by the local government appointing, by resolution, another councillor to the office.
There are other amendments to sections 166, 166A and 166B which provide how a vacant office of a councillor is to be filled, removing reference to the office of the mayor, as this is now dealt with in section 164.
The transitional arrangements for these amendments provide that they have retrospective effect, stating in the new section 338 that if, during the relevant period (from 12 October 2020 to immediately before commencement), the local government filled the vacant office by appointing a runner-up under former section 166A(4)(b), on the commencement of the amendments, the office is taken to be vacant, and to have always been vacant since it became vacant during the relevant period, and the runner-up is taken never to have been appointed.
- The amendments to the body corporate and community management regulation modules will commence on 1 March 2021 (section 2, section 39 and Schedule 1). The amendments in Schedule 1 set out a range of COVID-19 specific provisions relevant to the management of community titles schemes to ensure compliance with a public health direction.
- The amendments to the Domestic and Family Violence Protection (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020 are taken to have commenced on 2 December 2020 (Part 2, division 2; see section 2).
1 Other subordinate legislation extended by the Extension Act:
• Economic Development (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
• Education Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
• Explosives Legislation (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
• Family Responsibilities Commission (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
• Local Government (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
• Manufactured Homes (Residential Parks) (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020.