NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has dodged questioning over whether she now leads a police state, one day after NSW introduced harsh penalties for anyone found in violation of new coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown rules.
Appearing at a press conference this morning, Berejiklian was asked about the state’s new public health order, which permits fines of up to $11,000 and six months in prison for anyone found to have left their home without a valid excuse.
When questioned if the laws go “too far”, and if NSW residents are now living in a “police state”, she didn’t say no.
“Look, I appreciate that this is a massive change in lifestyle for all of us, but it’s to keep us safe,” Berejiklian said.
“And we’ve learned from the experience of other countries, we’ve seen what’s occurred there when countries haven’t responded early enough to this virus.”
The Premier said the public health order would require an “adjustment”, but said it’s aimed at protecting the most vulnerable from the outbreak.
“We’re finding the right balance” she said.
Yesterday, NSW Police officers were filmed driving through Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay Park and telling sunbathers to disperse in accordance with the new guidelines.
Appearing alongside Berejiklian, NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, who now leads the state’s non-medical response to the crisis, admitted the optics weren’t great.
“On one hand, could they have got out of the car and achieved the same thing in a less aggressive way that was shown? Yes, they could,” he said.
While acknowledging the drive-by approach is not the “sort of policing practices we want to see in NSW”, he maintained “There’s 17,000 police, not just the four in the car.
“On the other hand, there’s tens of thousands of parks we’ve got to get to at the same time.”
NSW Police state no fines related to the new public health order were administered yesterday, but questions remain over how effectively the NSW Government has communicated the new guidelines.
There’s no clear end-date for the new rules, either, leaving giving NSW Police strong discretionary powers for the foreseeable future.
Fuller said he would communicate with the Premier if NSW Police encountered further issues enforcing the guidelines, but suggested folks should take personal responsibility too.
“We’re two nights in. No tickets issued. Some footage which was probably a bit disappointing, and confronting, with people laying down, sunbaking,” he said.
“But again, if he’s back sunbaking today, then maybe he’s not getting the message as well.”
If you think you may have coronavirus, either call your doctor (DON’T visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you’re struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
And please remember to wash your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) and keep at least 1.5 metres between you and those around you.