Sentencing Amendment (Assaults On Frontline Workers) BILL 2016 (No. 63)
Ms Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I cannot remember how I voted on the original bill, the other bill, which was a fair way back.
I also do not like mandatory sentences, but I appreciate that this is a bill that is already there. That is where I see a slight difference. We had briefings from Robbie from HACSU in the north-west, Richard from the LGH and different people who came to see us. They talked about medical orderlies and attendants and the fact that they can take a child to theatre and then have to go to the mortuary. In the midst of all that, they have to go to a code black. There were 44 code blacks in the month before Christmas in Burnie. As I said, it could be anything from being aggressive to a common assault; they do not know until they get there. Everything stops. They go and confront the situation, have a debriefing and then go back to work.
They also advised us that in situations where the police are called, the police have to wait for help. For example, they have to sit outside the Emergency Department while the orderly or the attendants are inside facing the situation. They are asking for a level playing field.
They also remember that the union opposed mandatory legislation, but they felt that if it went through, other hospital workers should be included. This is where I have a dilemma.
I do not like mandatory sentencing. I have opposed it in the past. I agree with the members for Murchison and Elwick that there should be a possibility of longer sentences. I also appreciate that this bill is not about mandatory sentences - that bill is already there. It is about whether we believe these frontline workers should be included. My real dilemma is whether it is okay for police officers to be included, but not okay for these people.
We heard from one person who had been assaulted, walking down the street. He was still constantly being eyeballed and frightened by someone who had attacked him at his workplace. It was real and it was confronting. It is very hard to say to that person, 'We have a bill already for frontline workers, but I do not think you should be included in it'. That is the real dilemma for me.
Ms Rattray - It is a difficult message to send to that person.
Ms Armitage - It is. This bill is already there and I am simply saying that we think you are as worthy as the other people who are included in that bill. That is where I have my difficulty. In this particular situation I will vote it into Committee and I will make my decision at the third reading.