Page 416 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 22 March 2022

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Health and Community Wellbeing—Standing Committee

Report 4—government response

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella—Manager of Government Business, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Industrial Relations and Workplace Safety, Minister for Planning and Land Management and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (2.51): Pursuant to standing order 211, I move:

That the Assembly take note of the following paper:

Health and Community Wellbeing—Standing Committee—Report 4—Inquiry into the Public Health Amendment Bill 2021 (No 2)—Government response.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (2.51): I want to speak briefly on the government’s response to the health and community wellbeing committee’s report on the inquiry into the Public Health Amendment Bill 2021 (No 2).

I would first like to acknowledge the committee for its work on the inquiry into this bill and, indeed, the committee staff. As recently noted in the Some Assembly Required newsletter, the inquiry received more than 1,000 submissions, of which most came from interstate, with a small number even coming from overseas.

While the Clerk of course made no judgements about the content of these submissions, I would venture to suggest, from what I read, that the vast majority of submitters had not read the legislation, the explanatory statement or my introduction speech and indeed had quite the wrong end of the stick as to what the bill seeks to achieve. Nevertheless—I quote from Some Assembly Required:

Each person was contacted to verify their contact information and to provide information on the submissions process. A small percentage of submitters chose to have their name withheld and many of the submissions contained highly emotional language …

The huge number of submissions, all needing to be individually vetted, redacted, and published, required an ‘assembly line’ type workflow to be organised.

I want to thank everyone involved in that process, and thanks also to those ACT-based organisations and individuals who did make substantial and thoughtful submissions to the inquiry.

As members of this place would be aware, the bill seeks to amend the Public Health Act 1997 to include a new regulatory framework to address an anticipated situation where COVID-19 continues to present a significant public health risk that cannot be effectively addressed through existing notifiable condition provisions but which no longer justifies the ongoing declaration of a public health emergency.

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