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Thursday, 17 September 2009
Page: 6865

Senator CORMANN (12:50 PM) —The coalition supports the National Health Security Amendment Bill 2009, which will amend the National Health Security Act 2007 to widen controls over security of biological agents that could be used as weapons—agents known as security sensitive biological agents, or SSBAs. This bill will enable the Minister for Health and Ageing to respond immediately to secure public health and safety in the event of an SSBA related disease outbreak and to establish new controls in the handling of biological agents and the responsibilities of those who do handle them by extending the provisions of the legislation to suspected security sensitive biological agents. The bill will also give inspectors involved in monitoring entities and facilities and dealing with such biological agents search and seizure powers.

The National Health Security Act passed by parliament in 2007 under the previous coalition government was the culmination of lengthy consultations and negotiations between the Commonwealth and state governments, dating back to 2002. It is an important part of Australia’s national security framework. The coalition acknowledges that, in the circumstances of a biological threat to Australian citizens or institutions, the government must be able to use all means at its disposal to negate the threat, which is why, as I have already stated, the coalition supports this bill.