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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 4060..

MRS CARNELL (continuing):

The Bill creates other statutory offences. One offence relates to the publication of confidential documents or evidence. Other offences relate to giving evidence before the Assembly or committees of the Assembly. The maximum penalty for all the offences is $5,000 or six months' imprisonment or both. The offences relating to giving evidence and false evidence apply only where a person has been summonsed. The current practice, where committees do not generally issue a formal summons, does not necessarily have to change. However, committees may consider using a summons if the nature of the inquiry justifies more formal measures. Mr Speaker, the involvement of the public in Assembly committees should not become overly formal. These powers are intended to provide the tools to make appropriate procedural decisions. The Assembly may want to consider developing more detailed procedures dealing with the rights of witnesses. The procedures developed by the Senate, for example, may provide a suitable model.

Three of the offences potentially apply to members. They are breaching publication prohibitions; unauthorised disclosure of in-camera evidence; and improperly influencing witnesses. The conduct of members will generally continue to be dealt with by the Assembly through the standing orders. It may be necessary to make some changes to the standing orders. The Bill provides for a delayed commencement and consultation with the Speaker prior to commencement. There will be sufficient time to look at the standing orders and ensure that they are consistent with the Bill.

Mr Speaker, I commend the Bill to members. The Government meets a commitment in introducing this legislation. The Bill provides a focus for wider discussion on the privileges of this parliament. This affects all members in an immediate way. It also sets a clearer framework for the future operation of this parliament. I am sure all members will have their own views to contribute to debate on this Bill, and I thank all of those members who have already had some input.

Debate (on motion by Ms McRae) adjourned.


MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Minister for Health and Community Care) (10.43): I present the Health Records (Privacy and Access) Bill 1997, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.


That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, I have pleasure today in presenting the Health Records (Access and Privacy) Bill 1997, which is the first legislation of its kind in Australia. The Government considers that the protection of the privacy of information in health records is an important priority and that it is vital that health service consumers have a right of access to health records relating to them. In this Bill a broad definition of "health service" applies.

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