A new television advertisement will be used to underline the State Government’s crackdown on people who assault emergency service workers.
Legislation to be brought before State Parliament this week will introduce mandatory six-month minimum jail sentences for attacks. The laws will cover ambulance officers, paramedics, nurses and midwives, child protection workers and correctional staff. The penalty already applies to attacks on police.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the new laws made it clear the Government would not tolerate violence, threats or intimidation towards those who work hard every day to deliver vital services to the community.
“Paramedics often have to deal with stressful situations, where people are experiencing heightened emotions,” Mr Ferguson said.
“However, threatening them with violence, being aggressive, or resorting to violence is totally unacceptable and the cost could be measured in the loss of someone’s life.
“Assaults on frontline workers are completely unacceptable and the Government is taking strong action through a range of targeted new measures to make this very clear.”
Mr Ferguson said a public awareness campaign on the changes would include television advertising to underscore the message “Keep Your Hands off Our Ambos”.
Advertising will also appear on the back of ambulances bearing the catchline: “I can’t fight for your mate’s life if I’m fighting for mine”.
The Government has also rolled out a training program for paramedics to identify and manage risks.
If passed by Parliament, anyone who commits an offence resulting in serious bodily harm to a frontline worker will receive a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail. Health Union and the Law Society have raised concerns about the mandatory sentences, saying people suffering from a mental illness or who lashed out in pain could suffer unintended consequences.
Mr Ferguson said exceptional circumstances would be taken into account under the new laws. An ambulance officer attacked by a drunk has welcomed the jail sentence given to his assailant, but says tougher laws are needed protect emergency service workers.