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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 3179..


MR SMYTH (continuing):

if I went back in history and traced the progress of this bill. I believe that Michael Moore commenced work on this bill in 2001, but it was not completed before the former Liberal government left office. It is a shame that it has taken an additional three years before coming before this chamber, but that is just another example of the glacial pace at which this government moves.

The Health Professionals Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 contains the consequential amendments that are required as a result of the passage of the Health Professionals Bill. The bill and any arguments as to its merits rely on definitions. By creating a new classification, that of health professional, which captures everyone who provides a health-related service, there is no longer a need for the Dentists Act, the Nurses Act, the Chiropractors Act, et cetera, as they are all now covered by the rules that cover health professionals. As a result, all health professionals will adhere to the same basic set of rules.

Individual groups and distinct professions such as chiropractors will still be regulated and registered by a chiropractors board as they are now, with the minister deciding when a board is needed. The only practical difference with the boards under this bill is that they must now have a community representative on them. The minister now has the power to dismiss the board. While individual boards have the day-to-day responsibility of regulating and registering their professionals, the bill establishes a tribunal that acts as a higher authority. The tribunal can hear appeals from individuals dissatisfied with action taken against them by their industry board. Conversely, the tribunal can overturn a decision taken by a board if it feels that the board's action is insufficient. Even then the tribunal is not the final arbiter; the right to go to the Supreme Court to challenge a tribunal decision is explicitly stated.

Another new disciplinary avenue is the personal assessment panels that examine the individual capacity of professionals to practice. A panel may make the judgment that an individual is too old to practice or is too unwell. Another panel created by these bills is the professional standards panel. These panels will be responsible for creating and updating the professional standards of each of the professions. The opposition is supportive of these bills. However, it has received a number of representations from affected parties who are less than supportive, but I suspect that all members in this place have had the same representations. I had a representation from an organisational psychologist who objects to all psychologists being lumped together as health professionals.

However, I think that that complaint misses the point of this bill-that one is defined as a health professional only if one is providing a health service, which is also clearly defined in the act. The argument as to whether or not the services of an organisational psychologist are a health service is a debate for another day. The Australian Medical Association has told me that it is basically satisfied with these bills, but it has some concerns about what it refers to as regulation 78. I can only assume that that regulation appeared in earlier draft regulations. It is interesting that some organisations get to see regulations before members do. These regulations were tabled formally on Tuesday this week but it is obvious, from the date of the letter that I received from the AMA, that it saw the regulations some months before.


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