Tuesday 14 October, 2014

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (17:29): I also rise to support the bill preferably with the amendment which the diligent member for Bragg has proposed. However, I will support the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) (Blood Testing for Diseases) Amendment Bill 2014, with or without the amendment.

I have a sister who is a nurse who works in an Adelaide hospital and who is on the front line. Seeing what she does, it is quite bizarre that the government would isolate this bill to solely the police. The government has failed to consider other emergency providers in this bill and I am so pleased that the hardworking member for Bragg has taken the step to propose this amendment, because why should we isolate the bill to solely the police? Who are we to say that members of the Country Fire Service, the Metropolitan Fire Service, the State Emergency Service, the SA Ambulance Service, St John Ambulance Service, as well as Surf Life Saving South Australia and such organisations, or parts of those groups, are not to be protected through this kind of law? It is absolutely imperative that in this house we support the amendment of the member for Bragg because it is about protecting those who put themselves at risk for the community. So, I rise to support the bill.

I fully support the thrust of any bill that seeks to protect our emergency services personnel from people who spit or bite at them. I am sure we all have friends who are in this line of work and it is important that we protect them, where possible, as much as we can. The police in this state do a fantastic job to keep our streets safe from violent offenders and it is always important that we protect them as much as possible. I believe that when there is a reasonable suspicion and a police officer has been violently assaulted discretion should allow that a suspect should be tested without his or her consent. It is vital to protect the safety of our officers and we have heard examples of where these officers have to intervene in the course of duty.

The deputy leader has proposed a number of what I would call common-sense amendments to the bill that will protect all emergency services personnel who may come into contact with an offender that engages in biting or spitting behaviour. It is important that especially blood testing of an offender be applicable to these men and women in the course of their duties. The emergency services—particularly the nursing and medical staff—come into contact with violent offenders almost on a daily basis. We have heard examples of where there are other issues that might arise: someone may have a seizure, or someone may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs and perhaps not have control of their movements. It is important that we consider these instances and that we protect our men and women who perform these duties against these sorts of offenders.

It is ridiculous to think that a police officer might have the discretion under the act to compel an alleged offender to undergo a blood test but other emergency services staff do not have this discretion. It is absolutely outrageous. I understand, as we have heard, that the Law Society supports this position and I wholeheartedly support the intent of the government in the bill but it will be much better with the amendments proposed by the deputy leader.

I note that this currently does not apply to any other Australian jurisdiction and it would be a great thing that South Australia should lead the way in this area. I note that in Western Australia legislation is being considered, and I acknowledge the good work that they have commenced over there. I commend the bill to the house. I reiterate that we should not isolate the bill to just the police. Why extend it to emergency workers in one area and not the other? We need to get on board and we need to support the amendments of the member for Bragg. I commend the bill to the house.