Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 12 Hansard (28 October) . .
I would like to acknowledge the government's openness and willingness to discuss these important issues with the community in the extensive preparation of the bill. I think it is easy to sit here at this point and say, "Actually it's simply taken too long," but certainly, through the discussions both my predecessors and I have been involved in, the inherent complexity of this issue and the willingness to actually take on board feedback from the community has actually been a positive. I would rather be sitting here today having taken that length of time and knowing that stakeholders have actually been deeply involved than having a debate about whether, in fact, this had been rushed through, given the complexity and the breadth of stakeholders in the area.
The bill changes many things, both structurally and symbolically. This bill proposes changes to language that we as a government and, through us, the community use to describe presentations of mental health concerns, which may appear small in the grand scheme of the legislation but reflect our maturity as a society in talking to people about other people experiencing mental health. I am pleased that we are moving towards more positive, less discriminatory and stigmatising language, which I believe represents our maturity as a community seeking to address this complex issue.
This more positive approach to support the voice of the affected people and their carers and advocates is also strongly reflected in the objects and principles of the bill. These seek to place the decision making and care planning into the hands of the health consumer wherever possible and suitable while also enhancing safeguards for those people who are incapable, but only during the period of incapacity.
I do not believe I can possibly talk to the full range and scope of the amendments contained in this bill in the time that I have allotted; nor would I. This is a large piece of legislation that I believe has been under the scrutiny and consideration of every relevant player in the ACT and, I am fairly certain, has also been considered by experts in other jurisdictions as well.
That is not to say that there are not some areas in the bill that may be contentious, nor that it does not have its imperfections. But in an area that has this many sensitivities and intricacies and that touches on so many human rights and understandings of personal liberty and self-determination, I am assured by those in the community who understand these issues more deeply than I that it is the most solid foundation we can lay to provide frameworks for responding to mental health.
The explanatory statement, which I appreciate the health minister has updated in line with feedback received from the scrutiny committee, easily outlines the major issues that have been addressed in the bill and again the inherent complexity in seeking to offer legislative boundaries to what is ultimately a deeply personal, individual and ever-evolving range of illnesses.
Judgements about a person's decision-making capacity are always fraught with concerns regarding bias, cultural differences and a range of other considerations that relate to informed choice, comprehension and understanding. Whenever a decision-making capacity can be used as the key factor in deciding on a course of action that may involve involuntary treatment, we are right to be cautious. This is a very complex
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