Michelle Lensink

South Australian Public Health Bill

This speech is to indicate support for the South Australian Public Health Bill which will replace the Public and Environmental Health Act 1987.

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 24 November 2011.)

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (15:49): I rise to indicate support for the South Australian Public Health Bill, which will replace the Public and Environmental Health Act 1987. As has been noted in debate in the other place, this bill has been a long time coming in that a review was initiated by a former Liberal health minister, Dean Brown, as part of national competition policy, but the review was not completed. I note that this current review commenced in 2006 with consultation in 2009 to the bill that we now have before us.

I understand that there has been extensive consultation, particularly with local government authorities, and that a number of their concerns have been incorporated into the final version of the bill. The bill updates what is modern practice in terms of public health, in that, as was put to me, the old regimes arose from concerns about rats and vermin and so forth, whereas this has a different framework and therefore updates a number of practices.

There are a number of principles which are referred to from clause 6 of this bill, which probably reflect modern management practices. I note that we have inserted clause 6—Precautionary Principle, into various environmental acts, including the marine parks. There is a proportionate principle, which I think is entirely appropriate: sustainability, which is a bit of a buzz word that can be a little bit unclear, depending on its context; the principle of prevention, which I think is to be endorsed; population focus, which I was initially concerned on reading in that I think we need to be wary that in having a population-based health system we do not neglect the needs of individuals, but I note that that particular clause does refer to individuals; participation, which, as a Liberal, we particularly support and which states that, 'Individuals and communities should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own health', which is something that I think can get lost in certain debates and people were treated as victims; the partnership principle, which I think is, again, to do with modern practices; and equity.

So, a number of those principles, I think, outline the underpinning of the intent of this piece of legislation. Clause 14(6) states:
Any requirement restricting the liberty of a person should not be imposed unless it is the only effective way remaining to ensure that the health of the public is not endangered or likely to be endangered.

I think that that is also to be endorsed. There is a more defined role for the minister and local government, which is to be commended. There is a new role, which is evolving from the current role, for a chief public health officer, which is to be a statutory position. I think that is positive. That officer will report regularly to parliament and have some contact with the parliament in relation to public health matters. A South Australian public health council is to be established, which I think is probably a rebadging of existing provisions, and there are requirements for the making of public health policies. In particular, clause 55—that is, the state public health policy—can be disallowed by parliament.

There are some fairly strong provisions in this legislation which relate to various powers, and those are contained within division 2: power to require a person to undergo an examination or test, require counselling, give directions, require detention, and so forth. I indicate, again, that my learned colleague, the Hon. Stephen Wade, has an amendment to one of those powers, and I am sure that he will go through those in the course of debate.
I also have a question that I would like to place on the record, which is in the definition of wastewater and whether, because of this particular bill, the recycling and consumption of wastewater will be excluded by these provisions, in particular the Salisbury wetlands, which most people would be very familiar with. I have consumed a bottle of that and lived to tell the story that it is, in our view, quite safe. So, I ask whether it is the government's intention to exclude such waters from being able to be consumed because of these provisions.

There are also a number of confidentiality clauses, which I think are aligning the legislation with the World Health Organisation best practice, and I think that those are to be commended. In the past, people who handled that information may have thought it was appropriate to share it with others. Obviously, in these modern days, we understand that that is not appropriate and that people do have rights, which ought to be protected.
The other matter I wish to discuss is the voluntary codes of practice for industry. I think it is to be commended that it is much more of a partnership arrangement that industry will be brought into finding solutions if, for instance, chicken, pig or some other intensive animal husbandry industry has an outbreak of a particular virus and that they will not be treated to the paratroopers but will be treated as partners in trying to find a solution. With those brief words, I indicate that we will be supporting this bill, and I look forward to the committee stage of the debate.

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