Thursday 1st of December 2016
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 15:09 :49 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Police on the topic of blood-borne viruses and spitting.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: The Australasian HIV and AIDS Conference is the premier medical scientific conference in the Australasian HIV and related diseases sector. It met here in Adelaide from 16 to 18 November and moved a unanimous resolution, which states:
As researchers, clinicians, and civil society representatives, we are united in our commitment to a HIV response grounded in evidence and protective of the human rights of people living with and affected by HIV. This conference expresses its profound disappointment in the governments of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory for enacting anti scientific and counterproductive laws mandating HIV testing for people accused of spitting on law enforcement personnel, in the face of overwhelming evidence that such laws are neither effective nor necessary. HIV is not transmitted in saliva and these laws only serve to further marginalise and criminalise people with HIV. We call on all governments to establish evidence-based protocols that protect the wellbeing of police and emergency workers and the rights of people living with HIV.
I note that when the state government brought in these laws, they did so because they sought to protect those who protect us, and everyone in this place and indeed the Greens support that goal. I note that there were 118 incidents in the year prior to 2013 that did involve officers being spat on. There were also 279 incidents where officers came into contact with blood and two occasions where an officer suffered a needlestick injury.
My question to the Minister for Police is: will he ensure that the rollout of these tests, which will now see the offender tested rather than simply the officer, is based on a scientific and evidence-based principle, does not add to the stigma around people living with HIV and, where it is a blood-borne virus, saliva is not seen as a criterion for such testing, which will lead to this stigma?
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 15:12 :19 ): Let me thank the Hon. Ms Franks for her important question. I am more than happy to take on notice the parts of the question that pertain to the responsibilities of the Attorney-General and seek an answer back as soon as possible, but I would just add a couple of remarks.
Firstly, I appreciate the tenor of the honourable member's question. It won't surprise the honourable member that, as Minister for Police, my principal concern is of course with the safety of those men and women who do genuinely put themselves in harm's way to protect our community. I think it's important that, when men and women put on the uniform, they do so with the confidence that the government of the day, and indeed the parliament more broadly, have their interests at heart in trying to protect them from the range of different threats that they have to face on quite literally a regular basis, and this certainly falls into that category.
Of course, you want to make sure that policy is balanced and evidence based as always, but where police officers have genuine concerns around the risks to them that may present from other offenders, then that also needs to be taken into account. I appreciate the remarks and sentiments of the Hon. Ms Franks, which are undoubtedly well meaning, but my principal concern will naturally be the interests of those men and women serving in uniform. Again, I am more than happy to take on notice the question that specifically goes to the responsibilities of the Attorney-General.
Thursday 1st of December 2016
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 15:13 :57 ): A supplementary: if these procedures aren't changed and indeed it is rolled out so that a blood-borne virus is tested for when a saliva exchange has taken place, will those officers be provided with information that will allay their fears and ease their psychological distress, with the science that shows them that they will not contract HIV or other blood-borne viruses?
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 15:14 :23 ): Again, I thank the honourable member for her supplementary question. A range of information is always sought to be provided with those members who serve in SAPOL who have been subjected to a particular incident. SAPOL, I am pleased to inform, do have a rather comprehensive resource in place to be able to assist those officers who deal with stressful circumstances.
I understand and I have been advised that there is an employee assistance program in place within SAPOL, which is comprehensive, and I dare say, without knowing specifically whether or not that sort of information is provided, that a whole range of different pieces of information are provided to SAPOL members who have found themselves facing a difficult situation. Of course, the overall majority of employees within SAPOL are members of the Police Association of South Australia and I also dare say that they would be going out of their way to provide whatever information police officers require to be able to give them comfort in their times of distress.
Thursday 1st of December 2016
The Hon. S.G. WADE ( 15:15 :30 ): A supplementary question, Mr President: given the minister's desire to protect police officers, can the minister advise whether the regulations under the legislation have been proclaimed?
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) ( 15:15 :41 ): I am more than happy to take that on notice. Again, the responsible minister in this particular area is the Attorney-General. I understand that a process is in due course but I would, for the sake of clarity and certainty, seek to take that on notice and provide that question to the Attorney-General.