Public Intoxication (Review Recommendations) Amendment Bill 2016

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (16:41): I would also like to make a contribution on this bill andnote my support, and that of this side of the house, on the main aspects of the proposed bill. Firstly, I would like to make a brief comment on the length of time it has taken for this legislation to comebefore the house.

It was back in November 2011 that the Deputy Coroner delivered his findings on the concurrent inquests into the death of six Aboriginal persons who sadly died between 2004 and 2009.In response to those findings, in June 2012 the government committed to a review of thePublic Intoxication Act 1984. The independent review was completed by Dr Chris Reynolds, and hisreport was delivered in December 2012. It was not until 2015 that the government finally released itsresponse to the Reynolds review, so who knows what it was sitting on for a couple of years.


Draft legislation followed in February 2016, with the bill before us today introduced to thehouse just a couple of weeks ago, on 23 June. It is almost five years since the Deputy Coronerdelivered his findings which initiated the review of the Public Intoxication Act and only now, inJuly 2016, do we finally have an opportunity to consider legislative change. For me, it is a very sadreflection on this government's commitment to legislative reform and efforts to improve the wellbeingof South Australians.


Notwithstanding the tardiness of the government on this issue, as I have already stated, I amgenerally supportive of this bill. The Public Intoxication Act is critical to helping protect a person whois found to be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs and, as a result, cannot take proper careof themselves. Importantly, it provides for their apprehension and care if they are found in a public
place. The amendments provide an opportunity to modernise the act, which has operated withoutmaterial amendment since its inception.


In particular, I welcome the expanded definition of 'a drug' for the purposes of this act. Thebill makes an important catch-all amendment by expanding the definition of 'a drug' to include:
       …alcohol or any other substance that is capable, either alone, or in combination with other substances, of influencing mental functioning.


The strengthening of protection for people involved in the administration of the act from civil liability,providing their intentions are in good faith and done for the purposes of complying with the act, isalso a positive step, and I am supportive of the government's position not to provide broader immunityfrom criminal liability.


Under the act, police officers are required to discharge a detained person when they haverecovered and can take proper care of themselves, but before the expiration of 10 hours. The billextends the maximum period of detention by police to 12 hours, but it retains the 18-hour maximumperiod of detention for declared sobering up centres. However, the Reynolds review recommended:

                 The existing period for detention should be replaced with a general sobriety test requiring the release of aperson as soon as they are sufficiently sober as to no longer present a risk of harm to themselves or others, thoughwith a new specified maximum limit of 24 hours.


During his review, Dr Reynolds found:


                 …a number of people raised concerns about instances where detained persons were released at the expiryof the specified period though still quite intoxicated. This presents a dilemma for workers etc conscious of their duty ofcare but also aware of the rights of the person detained.


I understand that SA Health addiction clinicians do not believe a period of 24 hours is necessary.They consider that a person should be sufficiently recovered after 12 hours to take proper care ofthemselves. Indeed, Dr Carolyn Edmonds, an addiction medicine specialist at the Drug and AlcoholServices South Australia, was on radio just last week endorsing this view. Dr Edmonds emphasisedthe value of a shift from 10 hours to 12 hours, saying that 'an extra two hours…can make a difference
in terms of metabolism of alcohol'. Hopefully, an extra two hours is sufficient to address theseconcerns, but it is an area that will need to be closely monitored to ensure we do have the balanceright.


The overriding principle of the Public Intoxication Act is harm minimisation. The bill
introduces objects and guiding principles to clearly articulate its scope and intentions. Whilst Iconsider this a worthwhile amendment, the SAPOL numbers that the minister outlined in her secondreading speech are a cause of concern. Inserting a clause to better describe the intention of the actwill not help deliver tangible results to the South Australian community.


As the minister stated, and we all know, the data from SAPOL shows that approximately3,000 people are apprehended under the act each year, and half of those apprehended identify asIndigenous South Australians. Around 3,000 apprehensions each year, every year. I believe thisfigure has been fairly stable year after year. Of course, that 3,000 figure is a marked overrepresentation of Indigenous South Australians who, as I said, constitute about 50 per cent of those
apprehended.


We know Indigenous South Australians make up about 2 per cent of our population, so they are quite clearly over-represented in the 3,000 persons who are apprehended every year. I doappreciate, as we all do in this house, that the over-representation of Indigenous Australians withinour criminal justice system, our social and wellbeing centres and statistics is all too high and haslong been a issue for many years, but it does provide some insight into the issue of alcohol and the
use of other substances amongst Indigenous Australians and the effectiveness of the government'sSouth Australian Alcohol and Other Drug Strategy 2011-2016.


The 2014 progress report on the strategy, which is the most recent publicly available report,noted:


                 The estimated number and rate of alcohol-related hospitalisations among the Aboriginal population increasedslightly between 2007-08 and 2009-10, and decreased over the remainder of the reporting period, with 2012-13 rates
similar to those in 2007-08.


Essentially, there has been no substantial change in hospitalisation rates over a five-year period. Iwould be very interested to see if the figures in the 2015 progress report are more promising, butunfortunately we are still waiting for this report to be released. The 2014 report was released at theend of 2015 and, given this government's track record, I can only assume we will once again be left
waiting until Christmas. Recommendation 5 of the Reynolds review states:


                  Dry areas and the expiation notices associated with them compound the problems of chronically intoxicatedpersons. While they are important strategies for reducing violence and preserving local [areas], there is a need toconsider diversion programmes as an option to prosecution where considered appropriate.


The review found:


                  When breached, the dry area laws also have the effect of further impoverishing drinkers (in so many casesindigenous drinkers) or further complicating their lives if they do not pay the expiation fee. The significance of this isillustrated by the fact that Ceduna Council (for example) estimates receipts of around $40,000 annually in relation to dry area expiations. This is over 90% of its total expiation fee income.


These findings are also supported by the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement. In its submission to theliquor licensing review, the ALRM notes that its workers found that, in October 2014, there were atotal of 25 community members with unpaid fines totalling $90,000, and in July 2015 there were28 community members with a total of $299,000 of outstanding fines. Whilst these figures includeexpiation notices for sleeping rough and other offences—not just public intoxication—it does highlight
the limitation of issuing fines. The ALRM submission supports proposals that:


                   …people in the grip of grog be treated under a medical model of intervention and diversion through the PublicIntoxication Act and detoxification in public hospitals and alcohol rehabilitation centres…

 


I appreciate that expiation notices have an important role in acting as a deterrent in maintaining dry areas. However, I also believe it may not be the most effective approach in all circumstances,particularly for those offenders with chronic alcohol issues. I note with interest the government'sresponse to recommendation 5 of the Reynolds review:


                    SA Health with South Australia Police will consider the practicalities and the resource implications of diversionary programs for breach of dry area controls in the circumstances.


I look forward to the outcome of those considerations. It is important that legislative frameworks arewell supported by effective policy and programs. Achieving this balance is critical to delivering on theprinciples of the Public Intoxication Act. Without effective community support and a governmentcommitted to preventative health measures, we will continue to fail our most vulnerable.