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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 November 2021) . . Page.. 3596 ..


MS CLAY: Minister, can you tell us any concerns you have about how this bill might impact on our status as a human rights jurisdiction?

MS CHEYNE: I assume Ms Clay is referring to the federal bill, not our own legislation. The latest draft version was released, as I understand it, last night. We have not had a detailed read of the bill yet and thus we have not formed a government view on the detail. But I can say that the bill appears to be drafted with some complexity and I am concerned that there is potentially an approach of reducing protections for people under our own Discrimination Act, and that would be concerning.

We are aware that the draft commonwealth bill—I understand it could still be amended again before it is introduced tomorrow—contains provisions on statements of belief. These are defined as statements of a religious belief held by a person that is made by the person in good faith and is of a belief that may be reasonably regarded as being in accordance with the doctrines, tenets beliefs or teachings of a religion. The bill specifies—at the moment at least—that a statement of belief cannot constitute discrimination under state or territory anti-discrimination law, including our own. So at the moment it looks as if it is expressly overriding protections that are afforded in our own legislation. It also sets out that actions taken in accordance with a faith belief cannot be considered discriminatory. Given the reforms that we made in 2018 I am concerned about how this might impact it, but we understand the bill will be referred to a parliamentary inquiry, which we will participate in.

COVID-19—testing centre fees

MR PARTON: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, on 13 March 2020 the Chief Minister signed an agreement, which we have already alluded to in question time, that the federal, state and territory governments would foot the bill fifty-fifty for all COVID tests if Canberrans are required to have one. The national partnership agreement lists four categories under which COVID activities will be funded, including tests. Minister, are you aware that the Chief Minister signed this document?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Mr Parton for the question. Yes, I am.

MR PARTON: Minister, what part of this agreement don’t you understand, given that you have been charging Canberrans for tests?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I think I have been very clear in my earlier answers that we have not been charging Canberrans for tests—and I recognise that that information has been confusing and inaccurate over the last couple of days—but we have been charging people for the certificates that indicate their negative PCR status that were understood to be required for travel purposes. Pathology has been charging people for that.

MRS JONES: Minister, when did you approve this charge of $112 required for COVID testing with certificates?


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