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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 March 2010) . . Page.. 923 ..

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Health and Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.25): The government will not be supporting either amendment put forward by the ACT Greens.

The proposed ACT model is a joint consideration process whereby information is shared between the boards and the Health Services Commissioner. This is a more robust process than the standard bill B arrangements and it ensures that rogue practitioners do not slip through the net. It allows patterns of behaviour or gaps in the system to be picked up where otherwise they would be missed. In addition, the Health Services Commissioner operates as an independent monitor of complaints resolution in the ACT.

The ACT bill C mirrors the rigour of the current ACT complaints process and also seeks to ensure compliance with the ACT Human Rights Act. These amendments are necessary to allow any chance of the bill passing through the Assembly and being compliant with the act.

Under the proposed arrangements, the national boards and the Health Services Commissioner will both have a complaints handling and investigation role in the ACT. Since the Health Services Commissioner is entirely funded by the ACT government, this will be to the net benefit of the national scheme.

Amendment 1 moved by Ms Bresnan today would have the effect of removing the routine investigation role of the board in complaints matters. This is directly contrary to the spirit of the national law in which the boards have the key role in handling and investigating matters. The Greens’ approach would be unacceptable to the boards and would also endanger ACT participation in the national scheme.

The proposed bill C seeks to reserve the role of the HSC as far as it is possible within the bounds of the national arrangements. Excluding the boards from investigations would overstep ACT compliance with the spirit of the national law. I know the law is made here, but that is the commitment that I have given as part of the national health ministers meeting when I was asked to explain the amendments we were moving. Whilst I would not say there was agreement necessarily, there was an acceptance of what we were doing. If I went and put these amendments on the table, there would be no acceptance of that as a position for the ACT and being part of the national scheme. Indeed, we would not be part of the national scheme.

The boards have indicated they do not support the Health Services Commissioner handling all complaints but they are happy for the Health Services Commissioner to handle system matters—indeed, we put that in the explanatory statement—while the boards handle practitioner matters and information sharing to take place.

If the proposed complaints handling arrangements are changed so that the HSC is doing all of the investigations, like in New South Wales, the ACT will be obliged to become a co-regulatory jurisdiction as per the current bill B. This will have major cost implications for the ACT. Funding for the Health Services Commissioner to handle all local complaints has been estimated at an approximate additional cost of $700,000 per annum.

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