Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 6 Hansard (9 June) . .
It might be desirable to have a specified time frame, and I think that is a point of debate. But even if we were to accept that it is better to specify a time frame than simply to stick with a formulation that says "as soon as possible", I do not know that 48 hours is the right number. It might be or it might not be. I do not have a basis on which to make that decision at this time.
Given the extensive work that has gone into the legislation at this point, I do not think the Assembly can say, "This is the appropriate time frame." So there are two reasons that leave me uncertain that I could support it: firstly, I think the formulation "as soon as possible" will work, and can work very effectively; secondly, there is the lack of a clear reason why that number and not some other number is the right answer.
Finally, there is a requirement in the Mental Health Act for a statutory review process in the near future. So if the points that Mrs Jones has raised do eventuate, there will be an opportunity to revisit this at that time. Mrs Jones may well get the opportunity to walk into this chamber and say, "I was right," and so be it if that is the case. There is that point not too far along the way so that if we find this is an issue, this Assembly must be willing to revisit the point and take on board the view that Mrs Jones has put today.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Capital Metro, Minister for Health, Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Minister for the Environment and Climate Change) (5.28): The government will not support the amendments. There is a requirement for a report to be provided as soon as possible; this is in relation to the period of time within which the Public Advocate must be notified in writing about incidents of seclusion, restraint or forcible giving of medication.
As Mrs Jones has indicated, she believes this should be no later than 48 hours. The current provision provides for "as soon as possible". In the government's view, the requirement for a report to be required as soon as possible provides better protection for patients, as it actually enables a stricter test to be applied, particularly where, in the patient's best interests, a report is required to be provided sooner than one or two days. The difficulty with a 48-hour provision is that it may actually mean reports will not be provided within that period. They might be provided right at the end of that period, that is, up to two days later, and it would be better for those reports to be provided sooner than 48 hours. So the current test, in the government's view, is actually stricter and provides a better safeguard.
I would make the observation that Mr Rattenbury made: that there is the opportunity for the operation of this provision to be reviewed, with the review provisions in the legislation, and if it does present as problematic that issue will emerge at that time. However, I am conscious of the advice of parliamentary counsel and the Health Directorate and believe that this current formulation is the better one.
That amendments Nos 1 to 3 be agreed to.
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