Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 7 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2544..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
I consider that such a power is so important as to warrant being explicitly listed in section 14, with a similar power also explicitly listed in the powers for management of endemic diseases contained in section 18 of the act.
Currently, the act contains a power to declare a quarantine area, and through that declaration there is the ability to impose restrictions on movements in the quarantine area. However, modern quarantine arrangements, as contemplated by the various AUSVET plans, do not necessarily require a total ban on movement or activities within a quarantine area. The severity of restrictions in an area will generally depend on whether the particular disease has been detected in that area and, if not, the proximity of the disease to the area. In areas at risk of infection, but not actually infected, it is unreasonable to expect the community to completely cease all movement and activities. However, it is reasonable to expect that some conditions be placed on activities within the area, both to minimise the spread of the disease and, should the disease actually spread, to be able to find possibly infected animals. Therefore, a particularly important precaution is to keep records of the movement of animals, and this is reflected in a variety of AUSVET plans.
The bill inserts new sections 24A to 24C into the act. The intention of these new sections is to provide a means of relaxing restrictions on movement imposed under a quarantine declaration made under section 21. The authorisation can also include imposing conditions, including a requirement to keep records for a period of 12 months after the expiry.
The bill also clarifies that either the entire ACT or areas within the ACT can be declared quarantine areas for exotic or endemic diseases. The size of a quarantine area will be dependent upon the severity of the impact of the disease, the speed with which it can spread and the difficulty in detecting or eradicating it. Sometimes a single farm can be quarantined. Sometimes, as with equine influenza, which is highly contagious, the entire territory needs to be quarantined.
The bill also provides further clarity concerning the searching of vehicles. I draw members'attention to the scrutiny of bills report on the bill in relation to the searching of vehicles. In their report, the legal affairs committee stated that "it might be that the amendment is unnecessary". I do agree with the committee's conclusion on this proposed amendment. It might be necessary; on the other hand, it might, as suggested, be unnecessary. In an emergency animal disease situation, the act needs to be crystal clear on powers available to the government and its officers. We cannot come to a point where authorised persons need to consult with the government or the Government Solicitor's office to ensure they have appropriate powers to inspect a vehicle and its contents.
Vehicles are also the usual means a person has to transport their animals, whether they are healthy or infected. There is a risk that vehicles could contain infectious material and, wittingly or unwittingly, the driver could be spreading the disease. It is appropriate that the act provides officers with the ability to enter any vehicle by a public road at any time if they have a reasonable suspicion that it is carrying infected animals or contaminated things or to prevent the spread of disease. This, of course, is particularly important for larger vehicles such as semitrailers and horse floats.