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Automated External Defibrillators (Public Access) Bill

16 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak briefly in favour of the Automated External Defibrillators (Public Access) Bill on behalf of the Greens. In so doing, I want to acknowledge the leadership of the Hon. Frank Pangallo in this regard. I recognise that the honourable member first introduced this bill into this place back in 2020, before my time in the parliament. The Greens were supportive of the bill at that time and we are again supportive of the legislation. I certainly recognise the leadership of the honourable member in keeping this issue on the agenda. It is certainly one that will save lives.

In Australia, approximately 30,000 people experience cardiac arrest outside of hospital, with only 9 per cent of those surviving. Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, and it is one of the biggest killers of Australians under the age of 50.

According to the Heart Foundation, without chest compressions and the use of a defibrillator, a person in cardiac risk will not survive. Cardiac arrest can take less than 10 minutes to cause death; sometimes an ambulance can take longer than that to arrive. We know that that is the case here in our state, as we continue to deal with the ramping crisis that both major political parties have overseen due to their failure to invest in our health sector.

Access to defibrillators can be the difference between life and death. They are simple to use, do not give a shock unless required, and provide guidance to the user through vocal prompts. They are safe, they are straightforward. Why should we not ensure that they are available for use in the community?

I will say, the Hon. Frank Pangallo did bring into Parliament House recently some of these mobile devices and showed these to me. I was really impressed with the technology and I can see that really has the potential to be used in lots of different settings and also potentially reduces the cost for entities that are going to be required to install these.

The bill will ensure that public buildings are fitted with an automated external defibrillator and I am sure that will result in saving more lives. My office has heard anecdotally of batteries of automated external defibrillators being stolen and I understand that they can have significant resale value. Regular replacement due to theft could be a burden for community-owned organisations if they are required to have a functioning defibrillator available under the legislation.

We do hope that the government will support community-owned buildings, such as local sporting groups, in managing this cost. This is a matter that the Hon. Justin Hanson raised on behalf of the Labor Party in the last parliament and it is an important point and one that I hope Labor will take up now that they are in government.

We note that the Hon. Frank Pangallo has amendments to this bill to remove the South Australia Police from requiring automatic external defibrillators and I understand that this is due to the financial implications of including SAPOL in the legislation. We support the amendments that set the commencement date to 2025 for public buildings and 2026 for private buildings. This allows time for organisations to forecast the expense in budgets and to prepare for the change in legislation. This is a significant change and so the amendment being advanced by the honourable member makes sense.

The bill has been widely supported by organisations, including the Heart Foundation and the Ambulance Employees Association. The Greens are also supportive of having automatic external defibrillators accessible in public spaces. If these devices are readily available in the situation of cardiac arrest, then they will save lives.

I will take this opportunity to just briefly indicate the Greens will not be supporting the amendments foreshadowed by the opposition. The suggestion that there be a very low penalty applied we do not believe would ensure compliance with this new regime. It is important that the penalty provides an adequate disincentive and ensures that there is appropriate compliance. We are concerned that the amendments from the opposition undermine that objective. With that, I conclude my remarks.