Mandatory Disease Testing Bill 2020
(Debate, 8 June 2021, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I speak in support of The Greens amendments and also in support of the amendments that were passed in the upper House. The Mandatory Disease Testing Bill is retrograde and an irresponsible bill. It fosters stigma and discrimination of people who live with bloodborne diseases like HIV while doing nothing to protect frontline workers, and I am disappointed that it will come into effect. My amendments that passed this House will strengthen Ombudsman oversight, and since then I have worked to further improve provisions in the bill. I welcome changes in the other place that improve checks and balances, including new provisions to require the Ombudsman to be notified of every testing order instead of on a quarterly basis. Importantly, the amendments I put forward that were passed in the other place will ensure that this legislation will not come into effect until the Chief Health Officer's guidelines for the framework of how the new powers can be used are in place.
As many members will know, debate on this legislation has lasted some time. I have been negotiating actively with members of the crossbench, the Opposition and the Government as well as directly with the police to improve safeguards in it. After raising concerns directly with the NSW Police Force I have received the following correspondence, which I will read onto Hansard:
Dear Mr Greenwich
I write in relation to the Mandatory Disease Testing Bill 2020, currently being considered in NSW Parliament and thank you for our recent conversation regarding same.
I recognise that you have raised concerns about how the Bill may be implemented by the NSW Police Force.
I am pleased to confirm that the NSW Police Force will prepare comprehensive information and guidelines on the scheme for all staff. These will reflect the Chief Health Officer Guidelines, which are required to be published before the Act commences. Senior Officers are mandated to consider these Chief Health Officer Guidelines when making decisions under the Act. The NSW Police Force will also provide specific training for Senior Officers exercising decision making functions under the Act.
The Chief Health Officer Guidelines, and NSWPF internal guidelines, information and training will play an important role in supporting the effective and appropriate implementation of the Act. As requested, the NSW Police Force will consult with you with respect to the NSWPF guidelines.
I appreciate you contacting me over your concerns, and I look forward to consultation with you on the NSW Police Force Guidelines.
While I appreciate the work of all those involved in the negotiations and appreciate the Hon. Rod Roberts putting forward amendments in the upper House to strengthen oversight, this bill should not be in place. The concerns of my community remain, as I have expressed directly to New South Wales police.
The NSW Police Force and the LGBTI community have a good working relationship. I am deeply concerned that unfortunately this bill has created a rift. I, and I know other members of this place, will continue to work hard to mend that. I take the police correspondence at its word and look forward to working with the NSW Police Force to ensure that appropriate guidelines and rules are in place. Stakeholders and advocates of the potentially targeted groups that we have heard from in this debate will closely monitor the use of the powers under the bill, including Ombudsman assessments. If any aspect of bloodborne disease testing is weaponised to increase punishment, I will work to get the bill repealed. I commend the upper House amendments and The Greens amendments.
Debate on Legislative Council amendments > HERE.