Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 26 March 2009) . . Page.. 1378 ..
territory has its own legislative framework for dealing with disease outbreaks, its response to an outbreak has to be integrated into an agreed national response as outlined in the emergency animal disease response agreement. The amendments contained in this bill will enhance the ACT’s capacity to do its part in managing outbreaks.
To begin with, the bill amends the current object of the Animal Diseases Act to make it clear that the purpose of the act is to protect the health and welfare of humans and animals as well as protecting all animal-related industries. The object of the act is also clarified by specifically referring to the detection of animal diseases as well as the prevention and control of animal diseases.
The bill also amends the title of the Director of Veterinary Hygiene to the Chief Veterinary Officer. The existing title is a carryover from when the ACT was administered by the commonwealth. The proposed title is consistent with the terminology used in all other jurisdictions and will facilitate better communication with these jurisdictions.
It was realised during the equine influenza outbreak when officers from the ACT referred to the director when talking to their interstate counterparts that there was some initial confusion about his role until it was explained that what was really meant was the chief vet. In emergencies, it is important that lines of responsibility and communication are as simple and clear as possible. Inconsistency in approach can lead to confusion or delay in response. Not only is the new title consistent with other jurisdictions, but the change of title for this position more appropriately reflects the function of that office.
A further change relates to the ability to delegate powers to qualified staff from other jurisdictions in the event of a major outbreak. Presently, when dealing with an animal disease outbreak, the Animal Diseases Act allows for the chief executive to appoint public servants to be authorised under the act. The act also allows the Chief Veterinary Officer, as that office is currently known, to delegate his functions to public servants. The phrase “public servant” is defined under the Legislation Act 2001 to mean an ACT public servant. Due to this definition in the Legislation Act, which affects all legislation, there exists no ability to appoint any commonwealth or other state or territory employees to be authorised under the act. This naturally also precludes the delegation of powers to non-territory public servants. If a serious animal disease outbreak occurred in the territory, we may need to call on interstate counterparts to help combat the disease, just as we would lend a helping hand to them.
The bill allows the chief executive to appoint not only ACT public servants and the police to be authorised under the act but also appropriate public servants from other jurisdictions with responsibility for administering similar legislation. Likewise, the bill will allow the Chief Veterinary Officer to delegate powers not only to ACT public servants and the police but also to appropriate public servants from other jurisdictions with similar responsibilities. The act currently allows the Chief Veterinary Officer to issue directions to control the spread of exotic diseases to endemic diseases. These powers are broad ranging. The most important ones are explicitly set out in the act, but there is a catch-all power, too.