Page 2077 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 August 2016

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MS FITZHARRIS (Molonglo—Minister for Higher Education, Training and Research, Minister for Transport Canberra and City Services and Assistant Minister for Health) (11.32): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

It is with pleasure that I introduce the Public Health Amendment Bill. This bill amends the Public Health Act 1997 to improve the government’s public health response to alleged insanitary conditions occurring in residential areas. The bill, in improving public health measures, seeks to lessen the serious public health and community risks associated with the management of insanitary conditions.

An insanitary condition is a condition that is reasonably considered to be or likely to become a public health risk and generally at odds with acceptable community standards. These conditions can be caused by a number of factors, including compulsive hoarding-like behaviours, squalor, neglect or the keeping of many animals in poor conditions.

Properties that suffer from an insanitary condition may pose public health risks, such as the production of offensive odours and increased vermin and insect activity. In residential or highly urbanised areas, insanitary conditions can have dramatic impacts on neighbouring residents including diminished urban amenity and freedom to enjoy their own home and property.

In recent months the ACT government has responded to insanitary conditions caused by the accumulation of perishable food and the keeping of numerous domestic animals in poor conditions. In one instance ACT Health officers removed a large quantity of rotting food waste from a single property. The decomposing food waste produced offensive odours, attracting insects, rats and mice and was affecting the quality of life of neighbouring residents.

In acknowledging that residential insanitary conditions present both a public health and a community concern, this bill will lessen the potential of public health risks of recurring insanitary conditions caused by hoarding-like behaviours and domestic squalor through an improved public health response.

Managing the public health risks of insanitary conditions can often be complex as the conditions normally occur on private property and can involve more than one person. Where a person fails to address an insanitary condition, authorised public health officers can issue the responsible person with an abatement notice which directs a person to remedy the condition through measures such as cleaning the property or removing or relocating excess waste.

In extreme circumstances, where there is a public health risk that is not remedied by the property owner, the Chief Health Officer may seek an abatement order from the ACT Magistrates Court to guarantee compliance with an abatement notice. The current process of seeking and implementing an abatement order is a lengthy one, which consequently means that an insanitary condition might continue without

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