Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (14 November) . . Page.. 3404..
MR SESELJA: Scrutiny report 34 contains the committee's comments on five bills, eight pieces of subordinate legislation and nine government responses. The report was circulated to members when the Assembly was not sitting.
I wish to draw the attention of the Assembly to one of the proposals to amend the Health Professionals Act. By item 1.9 of schedule 1 of the bill, a new section 59A of the act would empower the president of the Health Professionals Tribunal to issue a warrant that would authorise a police officer to detain a person who had been required to appear before the tribunal to give evidence or to produce a document, and who failed to do so. This is an extraordinary power and the committee can find only one precedent in territory law. This is the power of an examiner conducting an examination under the Australian Crime Commission (ACT) Act 2003 to request a judge of the Supreme Court or of the Federal Court to issue a warrant for the arrest of a witness. That power is much more closely defined and subject to control than the power found in proposed section 59A. The committee report concludes that it is arguable that the power in proposed section 59A might well be characterised by a court as an arbitrary deprivation of the right to liberty in subsection 18 (1) of the Human Rights Act.
In reaching its conclusion, the committee noted the following: first, that the powers to detain and to determine the length of detention are expressed in very wide, discretionary language. It might be noted that other amendments proposed by this bill are designed to cut down the scope of discretionary powers. Second, the power to issue a detention warrant is exercised by the president of the Health Professionals Tribunal and not by a Supreme Court or Federal Court judge on a request from the tribunal. Third, there is no provision for independent review of the exercise of the power to detain. In all three of these matters, proposed section 59A compares unfavourably with the situation under the Australian Crime Commission (ACT) Act.
Fourth, section 59A is silent on matters such as the ability of the detainee to communicate with any other person, whether that be family, lawyers, persons such as the Ombudsman and the Human Rights Commissioner, and as to the manner of detention. The effect of being detained can have a dramatic adverse effect on the detainee. He or she may suffer distress and there may be severe effects on his or her business or employment, finances and on his or her ability to support their family. It is suggested that the Assembly give close attention to the desirability of enacting proposed section 59A in the light of subsection 18 (1) of the Human Rights Act. I commend the report to the Assembly.
Planning and Environment-Standing Committee
MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (10.34): I present the following report:
Planning and Environment-Standing Committee-report 23-Draft variation to the territory plan No. 259-Woden town centre-town centre planning reforms and draft variation to the territory plan No. 262-changes to A10 residential core area for Narrabundah, dated 25 October 2006, together with a copy of the extracts of the relevant minutes of proceedings.