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South Australian Public Health (Controlled Notifiable Conditions) Amendment Bill

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:48): I rise to indicate my support for the bill. I understand the bill will allow for verbal orders and directions to be made requiring people to take certain action such as undergoing a medical examination, remaining at a particular location or to be detained in cases where urgent action is required. These verbal orders will then be followed up with a written order within 48 hours.

The bill also allows for notices to be served in ways other than directly to the person. I understand this is to facilitate serving the order to a person via their doctor or other third party. Where detention orders need to be extended, application will need to be made to the Magistrates Court rather than the Supreme Court, under the bill.

I find it peculiar that the government has said that this bill is not a knee-jerk reaction to the coronavirus and yet we have suspended standing orders specifically to deal with this bill as a matter of priority. I do not disagree that the Chief Public Health Officer should be given these powers and I commend the government for acting on this community health issue so quickly. However, I have a small issue with clause 6 of the bill, which refers to the power to require detention. The bill currently allows an oral order for someone to be detained which will be followed up with a written order within 48 hours.

Forty-eight hours is a very long time to leave a person waiting for information as to why they have been detained and what their rights are. The person is unlikely to know or understand what act they have been detained under or what their appeal rights are. I have no issue with the 48-hour window in clauses 3, 4 and 5, which relate to oral orders requiring a person to undergo an examination or test, requiring a person to undertake counselling, or the power to give directions; however, clause 6 could see a person be detained for up to 48 hours with no (or very little) information as to why they were detained, other than what is said when a verbal order is given.

I would hate to be detained and have to wait two days in order to find out why I have been detained and what I can do about it. The Chief Public Health Officer should be able to provide this information within 24 hours. Given the verbal order still stands even if the legislated time frame is not met, it will not pose any public health risk to have this changed to 24 hours. This will set the standard as to when this information should be provided to those who have been detained. I would be interested in hearing the government's response to this concern and flag that I may move an amendment to this provision.