Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 February 2010) . . Page.. 473 ..
The remainder of the amendments are fully supported by the Greens on the basis that they allow the commission to go about its job more effectively. The requirement for the commission to act in a prompt and efficient manner is currently formally included in the Human Rights Commission Act. This is a proactive legislative approach that the Greens support.
However, experience since 2005 has shown that some of the time frames and decision-making processes dictated in the legislation are too tightly defined and are counterproductive. Today’s amendments unwind to a small degree some of those formalised procedures used internally within the commission.
The amended procedures do, however, remain strongly rooted in ensuring a prompt and efficient Human Rights Commission. This is demonstrated by clause 18 of the bill. It clarifies that the commission need not consider a complaint where it has been withdrawn.
Whereas before the legislation would have required resources of the commission to be spent on formally concluding a withdrawn complaint, the commission will now be free not to consider it. Instead, resources will be devoted to those complaints where they are needed most. This clarification will help the commission to be more efficient in how it works.
I note that the scrutiny of bills report No 18 highlighted an issue that relates to what is physically done with the records of withdrawn complaints. This is obviously a matter of some importance in terms of the potential for complaints perhaps to damage the reputation of a person being complained of and the status of the documents once that complaint is withdrawn.
I note that the Attorney-General yesterday wrote to Mrs Dunne as chair of the committee. I have been provided with a copy of that letter. I appreciate the attorney’s letter in clarifying the issues raised by the scrutiny of bills committee and I understand he will speak to that further when he stands later.
The amendments put forward today also strengthen the relationship between the commission, the Human Rights Commission and health profession boards. The commission and the various boards have a close working relationship governed by law. There are existing requirements for consultation between the two on complaints in which they both have an interest.
On the topic of health profession boards, I note that the recent discussions about the new national registration and accreditation scheme for health professionals has brought about some conflict, mainly between parties who have an interest in the ACT health complaints process.
The Greens note that the government intends to debate the scheme in March and our health spokesperson, Ms Bresnan, will address the substantial issues at that time. The amendments today strengthen the sharing of information. At the moment, boards have to provide the commissioner with information on relevant complaints, but the commissioner does not have the same requirements.