Page 1697 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 7 June 2022

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satisfied that a vaccination direction is necessary to prevent or alleviate the risk posed by COVID-19, and a decision to exercise this power must be accompanied by a statement about the grounds on which that belief is formed and grounds upon which the executive may exempt a person from the application of the direction; and the executive may make guidelines setting out how a person can apply for and be granted with an exemption from complying with a vaccination direction.

In summary, as I said, the ACT Greens support this bill. As the Attorney-General, I have been in cabinet when this was being developed. I want to acknowledge the thoughtful and careful approach that has gone into developing this legislation, both from the Minister for Health and from the various officials who have worked on this, in seeking to strike that very careful balance between having the necessary powers to protect public health and at the same time ensuring that the safeguards that I have described in my remarks, and which are laid out in detail in the bill, and in more detail in the human rights component of the explanatory statement, are being well struck. On that basis I am supportive of the bill today.

MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee—Assistant Minister for Families and Community Services, Minister for Disability, Minister for Justice Health, Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (10.53): I would like to speak in support of this Public Health Amendment Bill. We are now entering our third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and, despite the relaxation of many public health regulations, the risk is not yet over for many people in our community. People with disability, including enduring mental health conditions, their carers and older Canberrans have talked to me about how they feel about the risks that they are facing, and the sense of isolation that comes with the changes that they have had to make to manage those risks in a period of rising community transmission.

While many of us are enjoying returning to education or workplaces, engaging in social gatherings and volunteering activities, and engaging with our community in person, there are people for whom this is still not safe. They have told me that they are experiencing an increasing sense of isolation, community division and exhaustion from both the ongoing existential threat that they face and having to constantly educate others about the fact that our bodies do not all respond to COVID in the same way.

Since March 2020, discussions about chronic health conditions and disability have focused on increased COVID risks. This has happened at the same time as people with disability have had to fight to save the NDIS, and people with disability and their carers have experienced economic hardship, where some employers have not been willing to make reasonable adjustments to enable work from home, or job losses and shift reductions from the economic impacts of COVID. Our seniors have become even more invisible in our neighbourhoods and are at increased risk of abuse.

The framing of discussions about disability and older people in the last couple of years has become increasingly medicalised. For people who have creativity, talent, skills and passion for a full and active community life, that medicalisation of their bodies really hurts. As a community, we can do better, and we should do better, to make Canberra a safe place for everyone.

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