Page 1692 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 7 June 2022

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I seek leave to make a brief statement.

Leave granted.

MR CAIN: Scrutiny report No 17 contains the committee’s comments on 17 pieces of subordinate legislation, proposed amendments to two bills, and three government responses. The report was circulated to members when the Assembly was not sitting. On behalf of the committee, as Chair, I would like to thank the secretariat, Ms Janice Rafferty, Ms Sophie Milne and Dr Frieda Scott, and our legal advisers, Mr Daniel Stewart and Mr Stephen Argument, for their assistance in preparing this report and advising us—committee members Dr Marisa Paterson and Mr Andrew Braddock included. I commend the report to the Assembly.

Public Health Amendment Bill 2021 (No 2)

Debate resumed from 2 December 2021, on motion by Ms Stephen-Smith:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MS LEE (Kurrajong—Leader of the Opposition) (10.37): Madam Speaker, I do have some amendments, and I foreshadow that I will speak to them in the detail stage, so I will not be speaking to the bill in any substantive form now.

MR DAVIS (Brindabella) (10.37): The COVID-19 pandemic brought into the spotlight a series of serious, existential yet very real questions about the role of government in protecting people’s lives, livelihoods, health and human rights. Such questions are: how do we balance the need to support more vulnerable members of our community with upholding rights to liberty and bodily autonomy? How can we ensure trust in government policy development and decision-making when complex decisions must be made and enacted quickly? How do we account for the need to develop new ways of governing for these problems without allowing for a creep into the rights designed to protect the most vulnerable? These questions were explored thoroughly in the policy and advocacy work that has gone into preparing the bill that we debate today.

This bill establishes a regulatory framework for protecting the public from the health risks of COVID-19 in circumstances where those risks may not give rise to a public health emergency. The bill includes temporary powers to implement public health and social measures, including COVID-19 vaccination requirements for certain workers and test, trace, isolate and quarantine measures to suppress or prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community. The ACT Greens will be supporting the amendment bill and circulated amendments as drafted by the Minister for Health.

As policymakers, we have a responsibility to engage on difficult questions and make decisions considering evidence, community consultation and our human rights obligations. The legislation before us today strikes a difficult but necessary balance between the protection from disease transmission and protection from state interference.

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