Statement in Parliament supporting measures to improve the safety of emergency services personnel.
Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 15:43 :08 ): I thank everyone who took the time to make a submission to the Law and Safety Committee Inquiry into Violence Against Emergency Services Personnel and to meet with the people who were conducting the inquiry. I acknowledge the chair and my fellow committee members. This was my first committee inquiry experience since being elected, and I was surprised by the respect offered and the level of cross-party interest and engagement. It gave me a great deal of faith in the potential for committees and inquiries to address complex and challenging issues. I give credit to the chair and I endorse his remarks about the committee staff. I also thank them for the support they provided. On occasion, the only other female voice contributing to our discussions came from the secretariat, and I appreciated the fact that their presence went some way to addressing the gender imbalance in our meetings.
The committee's recommendations are no-brainers because everyone supports the notion that we must do everything we can to protect our emergency services workers from violence as they do their job. However, I will address one issue on which members did not agree to ensure that it is on the record. Before I do so, I point out that the key to this issue is prevention. We could take a law-and-order approach that punishes people, or we could have CCTV equipment to capture assaults. However, I think we would all agree that in an ideal world our emergency services workers would never be subjected to violence. We must provide the appropriate training and resources to prevent violence ever occurring.
The committee also considered the issue of blood-borne viruses. The NSW Police Association submission to the inquiry proposed mandatory testing of people whose bodily fluids, including saliva and so on, come into contact with police officers. A number of organisations and groups expressed serious concerns about this issue. They include ACON Health Limited [ACON], the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine [ASHM], Hepatitis NSW, the NSW Users and Aids Association [NUAA], Positive Life NSW, and the Sex Workers Outreach Project [SWOP]. I will read a small portion of their contribution:
We are concerned that some aspects of the Police Association's submission do not equate with the current medical and scientific evidence concerning the transmission of blood borne viruses, including HIV and hepatitis C. Any legislative or policy response to this issue should, we believe, be based on evidence.
They go on to say:
The proposed mandatory testing regime will do little to address stress for police (or their families) who believe they've been put at risk of BBV infection, as it is based on a misunderstanding of BBV transmission.
New South Wales has the opportunity to lead the way in the elimination of BBV transmission and demonstrate leadership in this area by implementing an evidence-based response. Over the last six years the NSW Government has led the Australian HIV response with progressive and adaptive policy settings. It is our firm belief that the pursuit of mandatory testing would be a backward step for NSW, and would jeopardise much of the excellent work that has occurred under the current and former NSW HIV Strategies.
I appreciate the opportunity to place those comments on the record, and I thank committee for being able to participate in this inquiry.