Page 1702 - Week 06 - Tuesday, 7 June 2022
situation culminated in the anti-mandate protests here in February in Canberra, and still plays out in the stragglers protesting around the ACT, whom I do not believe have anywhere else to go now.
These few constituents that I speak about here have had reputable careers. They have made contributions to our community in many ways, but they have become severely lost and disenfranchised. They do not look like the protesters that yell abuse at people in the streets, that fly flags indiscriminately and write “freedom” scribbles all over their cars. They do not talk about paedophiles, chemtrails or 5G. Instead these people attempt to structure arguments and raise concerns through legitimate channels like ATAGI, ministers’ offices and federal and local members. But regardless of what these people look like or how they choose to engage, the problem is that the source of the information they use is the same, and the bottom line is that these sources of information are simply not credible.
I commend the Chief Minister, the health minister, the Chief Health Officer and officials who provided daily updates to our community during the lockdown days of the pandemic, and I commend the health minister for the detailed update that she provides to the Assembly in every sitting. To the directorate officials, health workers and school staff who have moved mountains to keep our world moving, in an informed and transparent way, I note that the position in which our community now finds itself is a testament to the success and culmination of your years of hard work.
As the pandemic is not over, and as we embark on a new regulatory framework, I want to reiterate how important it is that we always ask questions. We should always assess the source and interests of the evidence we are receiving. We need to strengthen our government institutions and bodies that assess this evidence to ensure rigour and transparency, and be adequately able to communicate these processes broadly to ensure community confidence. We need to be open to doing things differently and work hard to bring the community with us.
As we embark on the next stage or stages of the COVID pandemic, we must seek to bring those who have been disaffected back into the fold, to re-engage them. We have a long path ahead and, hopefully, eventually, to adjust to life beyond the pandemic. I know that the measures within the Public Health Amendment Bill and the government’s proposed amendments will help us to get there. They will keep us safe and enable us to start adjusting to a new way of living, a new way of interacting with each other and of being in our communities and neighbourhoods.
MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (11.10), in reply: As others have talked about, and as I talked about in introducing the bill, the Public Health Amendment Bill 2021 (No 2) establishes a new regulatory framework for protecting the public from the risks to public health presented by COVID-19 which may not present as a public health emergency. The government introduced this bill to provide the ability to step down from a public health emergency while maintaining a balanced response where COVID-19 presents a serious risk to public health in the short or medium term. The ACT remains under a public health emergency declaration in which the Chief Health Officer may take any