Criminal Law Blood Testing for Offenders Amendment Bill | SPEECH


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 12:07 :56 ): I support this bill and the amendments, which the member for Bragg has brought forward. I think it is a very positive move. Police officers across the state know that I would support them in something like this. I think they deserve exactly this level of support. Emergency services workers and others in this prescribed group of people also know that I would support them getting the same sort of support, although they might not need it quite as regularly. They might not be in the same category of risk nearly as often, but the times that they might find themselves in that same situation they deserve the same protection.

There are many aspects about this bill that are important. One of the most important is the timing of receiving information. As members might know, if a person happens to contract a disease in the ways risk is described in this bill, it could take sometimes months to know if that is the case, but to test the person from whom the disease may have originated takes hours; so then, all of a sudden, if you test the person who may have transmitted the disease, then everybody knows straightaway. Let us hope it is a good result, but even if it is a bad result everybody knows straightaway. That is very important.

My first experience of what we are talking about here was through basketball, where, at training, I had my two front teeth knocked out by one of my teammates, by an errant elbow.

Ms Chapman interjecting:

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: It was very kind of the member for Bragg to say that, but I did actually have incredibly crooked teeth. Now I have two incredibly straight teeth, but they did not come with me from the beginning. The situation was that the other lad’s father called me that evening after training and said, ‘Look, would you mind having some blood tests because my lad’s elbow has been in your mouth accidentally and so it will just save us a lot of time and effort?’ Of course, the answer was, ‘Yes, of course, I would be more than happy to do that, no problem.’ It was the first time I really understood that if he got tested it would take months for him to find out some things.

I thought it was a little bit rough that I had lost my two front teeth and I had gone to the emergency department and I had, as it turned out, a couple of years ahead of different types of surgery to get it fixed. He just got a few stitches in his elbow, but he thought I was the one who had to get the blood test. In a very friendly way it is a good example. It is exactly the situation that people can find themselves in.

What we are trying to do though is provide some protection for people who find themselves in these situations from far less friendly events, and the people who this bill seeks to protect and the people who the amendment seeks to protect deserve that sort of protection. We concentrate in debate here on biting and spitting but, let me tell you, police officers particularly face a very wide range of threats and risks with regard to this type of behaviour.

I will share with the house my experience when I lived at Pimba for seven years during the time in which the Woomera Detention Centre was built, operated and then mothballed. I lived there and I saw all of that happen right in front of me. There were several times, typically at Easter, when protesters came to the Woomera Detention Centre. I am not describing in any way a position here with regard to the rights and wrongs of the detention of people who arrive without permission on our shores, but let me just tell you that people who I would describe quite openly as absolutely disgraceful individuals were filling up buckets with urine in preparation to throw on the police when they ended up face to face.

They were filling up buckets with faeces in preparation to share them out among themselves so that they could throw them at police or smear them on police when they came in close contact with each other when the police were just trying to do their job to prevent the protest being anything more than peaceful. Police officers are faced with a pretty grim reality quite often when they are just doing their job. We concentrate on biting and spitting which is completely unacceptable but, let me tell you, that is perhaps at the lower end of what police officers may have to deal with.

I saw this many times because I was involved in a few different community roles. I was not a protester and I was not a police officer, but I was involved in a few different community roles that had me reasonably close to the action. I can tell you that in this situation at the Woomera Detention Centre the protesters were sharing information with each other. They were teaching each other. There was a little mini training camp about how to go about using the urine and the faeces to greatest effect. That is the sort of thing that police officers deserve to be protected against, and for that reason and many others I strongly support this bill.

I do, of course, strongly support the amendment brought forward by the member for Bragg which would protect people from the most serious and deliberate ways in which the emergency services workers and others could face these risks, but it also protects them for the truly non-malicious and not deliberate ways. You could just imagine a surf lifesaver, perhaps, trying to protect somebody who is drowning and fearing for their life in the middle of a swell and the surf and whatever else. It is not inconceivable that bodily fluid could be swapped and some saliva could rub against an arm or it could even be bitten completely non-deliberately in a frenzied attempt to just accept the help. That person deserves that support as well. That lifesaver deserves the support they could require—that the person they were trying to help, the person whose life they were trying to save, should undergo some blood tests just to see if any risk of disease had been transmitted.

That is an example where nobody has any malicious intent whatsoever. The person who happens to get their saliva, their blood or their teeth into the surf lifesaver did not mean to do it in any bad way. They were scared, they were frantic, they were panicked and they were trying to climb onto the surfboard. From that example, all the way through to the Woomera detention type of example I described, there are very good reasons to give a very wide range of people this sort of protection.

I wholeheartedly support the bill, and I commend the government for bringing it forward. I wholeheartedly support the amendments, and I commend the member for Bragg and the opposition for bringing them forward.