President's Message

 

WE WILL NOT LET THIS GO

Over the last few months we’ve maintained pressure on the NSW Government to introduce legislation so that offenders who attack police can be tested for infectious diseases mandatorily.

The horrific assaults on our members haven’t let up and we will not let this go.

Recently, in Casino one of our members was savagely bitten on the back of his thigh by an offender claiming to have an infectious disease.

Here are the facts of this incident. Police in Casino allege that at 10.45am on 10 August they spoke with a man in an unregistered vehicle. The 42-year-old man from Queensland — who was later discovered to have multiple outstanding warrants — was wearing women’s lingerie and had his genitals exposed. There were also a knife and syringes strewn in the car.

When the officers attempted to stop the man from swallowing a plastic balloon, he responded by biting a Senior Constable on the upper thigh, leaving a large wound through the officer’s jeans.

He also punched and kicked them, leaving a second officer with cuts to his hand. Both senior constables required treatment at Lismore Base Hospital.

Yet again, two police officers face an anxious six-month wait to find out if they’ve been infected with a disease. What those officers—and their families—are going through right now is unimaginable.

Unfortunately, incidents like this are not uncommon. Police are attacked with needles, bitten and have blood spat on them. When that happens, they’re forced to endure torturously long wait times simply because New South Wales has not passed legislation that would allow offenders who ttack police to themselves be tested for infectious diseases.

When it comes to keeping police officers safe from biological hazards, NSW is not the premier state.

We’re lagging behind Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia, Queensland and Victoria which already provide for testing orders—and it is working.

Under the WA and NT legislation, a senior police officer can approve a testing order when frontline officers are exposed to bodily fluids and diseases.

These states have set out robust checks and balances.

The senior police officer may make the order if satisfied that:
1. There are grounds for suspecting that bodily fluid has been transferred from the transferor onto the broken skin or mucous membrane of the emergency service worker,
2. That transfer was the result of:
a. An assault, or
b. The lawful apprehension or detention of the transferor by the member.

The NT legislation stipulates that the procedure must be carried out by a medical practitioner, nurse or qualified person, with protections for those undergoing the test.

Having the power to test the offender will provide some reassurance to the NSW police involved and their families. Under the NT/WA legislation, test results can be disclosed in order to get treatment and there are adequate checks preventing the identity of those involved from being made public.

The disgusting practice of being exposed to bodily fluids and diseases is something that affects our fellow emergency services personnel, and ideally the legislation should include them. The Nurses and Midwives Association support our campaign, now all that remains is for the NSW Government to get on board.

There is a ray of hope after Minister for Police and Emergency Services, The Hon. David Elliott MP indicated that the NSW Government “…is actively considering the proposal to introduce mandatory blood testing in NSW”.

We’ll keep advocating and calling for a better testing regime, so that members who are exposed to biological hazards on the job don’t have to suffer unnecessarily long waiting periods.

SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL WELLBEING

Mental health in policing is a prevalent issue and we’ve called for a range of initiatives to ensure police officers and their families have healthy, happy lives with financial security.

Following the release of the movie Dark Blue, our national union, the Police Federation of Australia (PFA), recently put out two booklets: Head Notes and A Cop in the Family, with support from the Commonwealth Government.

These booklets are designed to give readers a few simple strategies to help preserve their mental health and that of family and friends, and also to recognise emerging mental health issues. The booklets can be downloaded from the PFA website https://pfa.org.au/member-wellbeing/ and I encourage members to read them.

The social and emotional wellbeing of our members is a priority for us.

The PANSW Member Welfare Assistance Scheme was created to assist our members and has provided practical assistance to hundreds of members in their hour of need. Later this month, we’ll be training more PANSW Branch Welfare Officers. This two-day training course provides serving members with basic knowledge to assist their colleagues in the workplace and refer any who need assistance to the PANSW.

We already have 70 Branch Welfare Officers who are doing a great job and I thank them for their valuable service.

 

Tony King

President