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Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Page: 9196

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (12:52 PM) —I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to briefly sum up today’s debate on the National Health Security Amendment Bill 2009. I want to thank the members for Dickson, Moreton, Cowan and Dobell for their contributions to the debate. As you can tell from the member for Dobell’s contribution, it is an important issue and people are concerned to make sure that we can respond to new and emerging threats. In fact, that is exactly what this bill does, to ensure that we enhance Australia’s obligation to secure certain biological agents that could be used as weapons.

I think that in his presentation the member for Dobell summed up the three main purposes of the legislation, so I do not need to go back over that ground other than to say that the government is determined to make sure that we are well prepared and able to take action. These changes ensure that the minister responsible will be able to respond immediately and appropriately to any challenge which requires the safeguarding of public health and security in the event of an outbreak, whether it is ebola virus, foot and mouth disease, or some security-sensitive biological agent in the future. The changes enable the suspension of certain existing regulatory requirements and also the imposition of new conditions to ensure that adequate controls are maintained, but the appropriate flexibility is provided.

We welcome the opposition’s support for this bill. We think that the measures introduced appropriately enhance the existing regulatory scheme and underline the government’s commitment to protecting all Australians through maintaining controls on biological agents that could be used as weapons. I commend this bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.