Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 2 December 2021) . . Page.. 4042 ..
the committee and the government on the range of proposed new measures for the management of COVID-19.
Overall, this bill is intended to enable government to effectively manage our response to COVID-19 outside a declared public health emergency as we continue on our pathway to living in a COVID-normal world. (Extension of time granted.)
In closing, I want to thank the officials who have worked extremely hard to enable this legislation to be introduced today. It has been a complex piece of work, and many people have been involved across the ACT Health Directorate and the Justice and Community Safety Directorate. However, I particularly want to acknowledge Victor Martin, who has led the work and demonstrated tremendous thoughtfulness, patience and flexibility as we have worked through many issues and considerations to get to this point. I look forward to engaging with members in this place, with the community and with the committee process and seeing this legislation debated in the new year. I commend the bill to the Assembly.
MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Climate Action, Minister for Economic Development and Minister for Tourism) (11.09): I am pleased to co-sponsor the Public Health Amendment Bill 2021 (No 2). As we have heard from Minister Stephen-Smith, the bill sets a very high standard to ensure that the powers to deal with COVID-19 are proportionate and compatible with the territory’s Human Rights Act 2004.
Under the bill, the executive may make a COVID-19 management direction where, after consultation with the Chief Health Officer, the executive is satisfied that COVID-19 presents a significant risk to public health. To ensure transparency and accountability, this bill makes it a requirement that any directions made under the temporary powers be published on the ACT legislation register as notifiable instruments.
There are also specific requirements under the bill for any directions to be consistent with human rights and subject only to reasonable limits that are justifiable under the Human Rights Act 2004. The bill requires that the Human Rights Commission is consulted in the making of directions, and the maker of the direction is required to prepare and publish a statement on how the direction is consistent with human rights. The bill also includes a mechanism to ensure that the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety (Legislative Scrutiny Role) assesses and reports to the Assembly on the human rights issues that arise under ministerial and Chief Health Officer directions.
In preparing this bill, the government was very cognisant of concerns being raised in other jurisdictions as they step down from emergency conditions. We are confident that those concerns are handled effectively in this ACT bill. I thank, in particular, the Human Rights Commission for its efforts in working with officials in the Health Directorate to understand and work through these very complex issues.
I would observe that, thanks to the government’s safe and efficient vaccine rollout in the ACT and the willingness of Canberrans to get vaccinated, we will cross the