Tuesday 20th of SepteMber 2016
Public Intoxication (Review Recommendations) Amendment Bill
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 7 July 2016.)
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 17:18 :40 ): I rise on behalf of the Greens to speak to this government bill, the Public Intoxication (Review Recommendations) Amendment Bill 2016. The act has been functioning somewhat in the dark since its inception in 1984. Over the past 30 years, some uncomfortable trends have become apparent. Indigenous people, despite making up a little over 2 per cent of our population, account for around 49 per cent of those apprehended for public intoxication over the period 2009 to 2012.
While this bill is an important step in ensuring the immediate safety of people who are intoxicated, it does not put into practice some of the important recommendations made, notably, by Dr Chris Reynolds in his 2012 review of the act. These recommendations encourage a holistic approach to the overarching public health issue of that intoxication. For example, in responding to the third recommendation made by Dr Reynolds, that the state government should 'support initiatives reducing access—
The ACTING PRESIDENT ( Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins ): Order! The Hon. Ms Franks is battling against a number of conversations and she has—
An honourable member interjecting:
The ACTING PRESIDENT ( Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins ): On both sides of the chamber. She has the floor.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: —to alcohol,' the government responded:
Controls on the availability of alcohol are well establish ed in South Australia. The Liquor Licensing Act 1997 regulates the sale of alcohol, including restricting the sale of alcohol to persons under the age of 18 years or to a person who is intoxicated.'
This dismissive response to a recommendation that was—at least on paper—accepted by the state government illustrates the innate difficulty in trying to balance a substance that is widely accepted by society and provides income for the state government with the clearly unhealthy public outcomes of the use or abuse of that substance. Perhaps this bill was not the place to implement wider changes to the law that will result in a reduction of access to alcohol.
Despite these shortcomings the Greens do support this bill. The Greens commend the ongoing commitment of our parliament to treat public intoxication as an issue of public health rather than as an issue of criminality. It is encouraging to see this objective will be included in the act as part of accepting the first two recommendations of Dr Chris Reynolds in his 2012 report on the act.
Likewise, the implementation of recommendation 10, removing the mention of alcohol from the language of the act and instead capturing the intoxicating effect of any 'drug' (including volatile substances) reflects the reality of our society, and will allow a general approach that will protect people regardless of what they have consumed. The Greens also support the implementation of recommendation 12, which protects those involved in administering the act from liability, and recommendation 15, allowing those wrongly detained to set the record straight upon application.
It is concerning see that of the 22 recommendations just five will be fully implemented by this bill. While the state government has included a number of these in part in the final bill, those remaining, while ostensibly accepted by the state government, have not been considered as appropriate for implementation. In particular, the Greens await the outcomes of recommendations 16 and 27 concerning the declaration of sobering-up centres and the funding, of course, for the establishment of those sobering-up services in areas of need.
We particularly await news of further funding for services in Ceduna, the town that began the process of reviewing this bill as the subject of the 'Sleeping Rough' coronial inquest in 2003. Almost 15 years on it is not clear that the situation has much improved. Again, the Greens do support this bill, but I certainly want to raise some questions at this point in the second reading, and we look forward to responses on these before proceeding further.
I also note that my office contacted the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council, and Mr Scott Wilson, earlier today to be informed that he had not seen a draft of the current bill before yesterday. He was consulted last year when the government was considering making these amendments, but he had not been privy to the amendments that are within this piece of legislation. While I understood there had been reasonable consultation on this bill, that raises alarm bells for me; surely the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council should have been fully informed not just of the original series of consultations but of the consultation on the final draft of this bill.
I note also that I have previously worked with Mr Wilson in terms of supporting Kalparrin, which was an Aboriginal-led detox centre which has fallen over, not for lack of federal government funding but for lack of state government support for their governance. A small amount—some $10,000 or so—is lacking with those governance supports, which has led to the sacrifice not only of federal funding of extensive amounts but indeed of the Aboriginal-led service, something that the Greens support and that I would hope other members of this council would support as the way forward when dealing with this particular issue.
My further questions are: how are SAPOL officers trained to recognise the difference between a person 'intoxicated by a substance' and those having mental health or physical health episodes or conditions?
My second question is: SA Health has stated that any person who remains intoxicated for 12 hours, the maximum time allowed for apprehension in a police cell should then be 'reviewed by a medical professional'. How will this be legislated for as part of extending the apprehension time from 10 to 12 hours? How will this be guaranteed? What consultations have occurred with the medical profession with regard to that particular measure?
My third question is: Dr Chris Reynolds stated in his report that data was hard to find. As the act has no reporting requirements and the data relied on in the report largely came from SAPOL, will there be reporting requirements in the updated act, why are they not in the current bill and how will these reporting requirements, if they do exist, operate? If the government could respond on that certainly the Greens would look to ensuring reporting requirements are implemented in this bill as an opportunity, if the government does not have a plan to monitor and review its own work.
My fourth question is: with regard to this data, how will the number of Indigenous people apprehended under this act be recorded and what strategies are currently and planned to be in place to reduce this number? It is an unacceptably high number. I would hope that the government will have a response to that particular question.
My fifth question is in response to the recommendation that an intoxicated person should only be released to a residence if they do not present a threat to the safety of others living in that house. The government has replied to my office that a general order of SAPOL requires officers to access that there is a responsible adult to care for the person and that domestic problems are not likely to occur. I ask the question: is 'not likely' a strong enough test?
My sixth and final question is: also in their response to correspondence with my office, the government has stated that this general order is considered effective. What data was this consideration and response founded upon? Can it be ensured that a potentially violent person will not be taken home to endanger their own family or friends, rather than the general public, and is the government cognisant that indeed there is a significant level of violence that takes place, alcohol-fuelled violence, behind closed doors, not simply in the public arena?
With those few words, I commend the second reading of the bill to the council and look forward to many responses in the committee stage before we finalise our third reading position