Page 930 - Week 03 - Thursday, 30 March 2023

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Six minor amendments are made to align the process for consideration of a complaint under existing part 4 of the act with the new functions and powers provided in the bill under new division 5.3.

Noting the significant changes to the act, the bill provides that the act commences on a day fixed by the minister by written notice. This will allow flexibility for a staggered commencement of the reforms to allow both government and non-government stakeholders sufficient time to prepare. If a provision has not commenced within six months, beginning on the notification day, it automatically commences on the first day after that period.

The bill has some minor engagements on the right to privacy and the right to presumption of innocence under the Human Rights Act 2004. The Attorney-General has reviewed the provisions of the bill and considers these to be aligned with the objectives of the ACT Human Rights Act. These engagements are further detailed in the explanatory statement as presented with the bill.

Since the COAG Health Council agreed to the terms of the national code in 2015, multiple rounds of community consultations have been conducted in the ACT.
The first round of ACT public consultation occurred in 2018 and a second in 2019. While further consideration was placed on hold for a period, largely due to resources being diverted to the COVID-19 response, targeted stakeholder engagement was undertaken in 2021 and 2022. On 24 January 2023, I hosted a targeted consultation roundtable with key industrial and consumer organisations, including the ACT branches of the Community and Public Sector Union, Australian Education Union, United Workers Union, Health Services Union, Health Care Consumers Association, and Professionals Australia. Input from all stakeholders has informed the amendments proposed in this bill.

In summary, this bill, as with the regulation of health professionals under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, aims to protect the public, particularly those who have accessed health services delivered by workers whose practice does not meet the national minimum standards of conduct and practice. Currently, there is minimal and inconsistent regulation of unregistered healthcare workers. For example, some healthcare workers currently operate without reference to any mandatory codes of professional conduct. There is a positive need for the national code in the territory to protect the community and remove gaps in the professional regulation, skills and credentialling of workers.

This is a significant bill, and the Attorney-General has considered the bill and issued a statement of compatibility with the Human Rights Act 2004. Any limitations on human rights are justifiable as reasonable limits set by laws in a free and democratic society, as required by section 28 of the Human Rights Act. Importantly, the bill also supports and strengthens the protection of several rights under the Human Rights Act.

The presentation of this bill represents the culmination of significant work over almost a decade by many people. I would like to take the opportunity to express my thanks to all those who have contributed to the development of this bill, including the Health Services Commissioner, the Health Care Consumers Association, staff across the ACT public service, particularly in the ACT Health Directorate and the Chief

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