Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 3180..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
Regulation 78, as it was then numbered, applied to retired doctors who occasionally referred or prescribed. This issue is not urgent as these regulations will not be finalised today, but I draw this matter to the attention of the government. This failure to meet insurance needs is possibly now contained in regulation 124 or 125. I believe it is contained in regulation 125. The AMA suggested that we lift from New South Wales legislation the Healthcare Liability Amendment (Exemption) Regulation 2003, which allows for medical practitioners whose practice is limited to the referral, without fee or reward, of persons to other medical practitioners for health care or to the prescribing, without fee or reward, of therapeutic substances in limited circumstances to be exempt from the requirement to be covered by approved professional indemnity insurance.
The New South Wales regulations, which are quite clear and neat, set out some time limits. I refer the acting health minister to the New South Wales regulation and ask him to consider it before the exposure draft regulations are promulgated. But, as I have said, we do not have to address that issue today. I received representations from the Pharmacy Guild, which indicates that it is concerned about a number of issues in these bills. I understand that other members have amendments that seem to go a long way towards addressing that body's concerns.
If these bills are to work, certain professionals cannot be left out or cannot opt in. If we are to pursue that kind of legislation it is very much a case of "one in, all in". Aside from the AMA and the Pharmacy Guild I have not received any objections from any other health professional groups. I believe that, ultimately, there is potential for the public to be a winner if these bills are passed as the health field could be more consistently regulated. This belief is tempered somewhat by the knowledge that the creation of three new bodies could lead to more bureaucracy.
My other concern is that we are again being presented with substantial legislation that is dependent on regulations, without those regulations having been made available. Obviously the government heeded what I said in debate last week on private members' day about ensuring that we see the regulations early, preferably when we are discussing a bill, so that we know what we are passing. There is a lot of detail in which devils may hide in these 196 pages of regulations.
I am grateful to the government for ensuring that the exposure draft regulations were made available. Nevertheless, having scanned the regulations I cannot find any serious flaws. The opposition is prepared to support the bills at this stage. As I have already said, a number of amendments will be moved to address several minor concerns. In the main, the opposition will support those amendments, so naturally it will also support the Health Professionals Amendment Bill 2004 and the Health Professionals Legislation Amendment Bill.
MS DUNDAS (5.26): The Democrats support the Health Professionals Bill and the Health Professionals Legislation Amendment Bill. The regulation of our health industry is vital. When people seek the services of a doctor, physiotherapist, podiatrist, pharmacist or any of the health professionals that these bills cover, they must be assured that the service will be provided by a properly trained, qualified and registered practitioner. The community needs to know that adequate complaint mechanisms are in place and that changes to the profession can be made in an adaptable and responsive