Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 7 June 2022) . . Page.. 1694 ..
called for the strengthening of human rights protections through primary legislation. This bill and amendments circulated promote the right to life and the protection of family and children.
This legislation does limit the right to privacy and reputation. However, it was determined by the government that this limitation is proportional and reasonable, given the serious nature of this disease, the threat it poses to human life and the particular impact it risks having on marginalised and vulnerable people, including older Canberrans, people with a disability and people living in institutions, including prisons, mental healthcare units and aged-care facilities.
The Human Rights Commissioner and the health commissioner participated in the inquiry, and I was particularly moved by their submission and appearance before the committee. I am pleased to see that their strong advocacy has been incorporated into the final version of the bill. This includes amendments that reflect the committee’s recommendations, including, but not limited to, limiting the length of time that a COVID-19 management declaration can be enforced, putting a positive and explicit obligation on the Chief Health Officer to inform the public advocate in circumstances where an isolation or segregation order is made to an individual, and ensuring that oversight agencies explicitly retain the right to visit places of detention in the ACT.
I note that the committee also made a range of recommendations that have not been incorporated into this legislation. This demonstrates that the committee undertook a thorough and open process, as they are designed to be, and that there was the appropriate separation of these processes from government and cabinet decisions. I am pleased that the recommendations and evidence put forward by the committee were cause for significant interrogation and consideration by policy advisers and those in charge of formalising the government’s response.
The legislation that is before us today and the amendments that have been circulated by the minister are the realisation of a proper and transparent process, with built-in safeguards for protecting health and human rights. It provides some answers to the important questions that have been put to government and decision-makers over the last two years.
The ACT Greens are proud to support this legislation, which enables a rights-based approach for the long-term management of COVID-19.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (10.44): While I welcome the Public Health Amendment Bill 2021, and I will flag now that this bill, as Mr Davis has outlined, has the in-principle support of the Greens, I particularly want to make some comments on this bill from my perspective as the Attorney-General.
The bill provides a crucial regulatory framework to address an anticipated situation where COVID-19 continues to present a significant public health risk for the ACT community but one which no longer justifies the ongoing declaration of a public health emergency.