Page 928 - Week 03 - Thursday, 30 March 2023

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MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (11.19): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I rise today to present the Human Rights Commission Amendment Bill 2023—National Code of Conduct for Health Workers—which amends the Human Rights Commission Act 2005.

In 2015 the Council of Australian Governments—COAG—Health Council agreed to the terms of a national code and to each jurisdiction using their best endeavours to enact new, or amend existing, legislation and regulations, to give effect to the national code providing: a negative licensing regulatory regime that does not restrict entry to practice but allows effective action to be taken against a worker who fails to comply with minimum standards of conduct or practice; a set of objective and clear minimum standards against which to assess conduct and practice in the event of a complaint or serious adverse event; and an independent investigator to receive and investigate complaints about breaches of the national code.

The terms of the national agreement also established that the relevant commissioner in each jurisdiction would be responsible for regulating the national code. In the ACT that commissioner is the Health Services Commissioner. Since that time, the national code has been implemented in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. Western Australia and Tasmania have passed enabling legislation.

The purpose of the national code is to protect the public by setting minimum standards of conduct and practice for all workers providing a health service, and to address the gap in the regulation of health services provided by those who are not registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law. It establishes a guide for workers around safe, competent and ethical practice. As well as applying to unregistered healthcare workers, the code also applies to registered health practitioners who provide health services unrelated to their registration—for example, a nurse who also works as a naturopath.

While the vast majority of unregistered healthcare workers practise in a safe, competent and ethical manner, there is a small proportion of unregistered healthcare workers who present a serious risk to the public.

The passage of this bill will enable health services provided by unregistered healthcare workers to be subject to complaint and regulatory mechanisms, therefore capturing a broader ambit of workers that are required to act according to a minimum set of standards of practice and conduct, and will therefore increase protections for those receiving the health service or care.

The bill promotes the right to safe health services by setting a minimum set of standards of practice and conduct for unregistered healthcare workers. In particular, healthcare workers will have an obligation to not promise to cure cancer or another

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