23 November 2020
In its last week of the year, the Parliament dealt with one of the most offensive pieces of legislation I have seen. The bill would enable police officers and other frontline workers who have come into contact with the bodily fluids of a person to submit that person to a blood test under the threat of hefty fines and jail time.
On face value, it might seem fair to allow a frontline worker to find out if they have been exposed to a blood-borne disease but testing a third person has no use. The time lag before a blood-borne virus is detected means a negative test is never conclusive, and a positive test cannot confirm transmission. Frontline workers will have to undergo the same precautions that they currently undergo. Furthermore, the bill allows tests to be ordered for spitting on the skin, even though a blood-borne disease can’t be transmitted this way.
I worked with the Greens Member for Newtown, Jenny Leong to move safeguards to stop police officers using blood tests as a form of retribution and to remove children from the remit of the bill. Disgracefully both the government and opposition opposed all but one amendment, although Labor said it will consider the amendments when the bill comes to the Legislative Council.
HIV transmission almost has been eliminated in New South Wales because we listened to experts, took a health approach and worked with those directly affected. Given the history of police brutality against people who are LGBTQI, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, marginalised or disadvantaged, and the history of stigma against people living with HIV, I am very worried about how the bill could weaponise and discourage healthcare. A committee will now look at the laws before they get debated in the Legislative Council next year.
My speeches in the Assembly debate: HERE.