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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 18 February 2016) . . Page.. 599 ..

with the commissioners. The governance and corporate support protocol will also be changed to require director-general “endorsement” rather than approval, recognising the consultative nature of the process to develop the governance and corporate support protocol.

The bill changes the process for commission meetings so that the president rather than any commissioner can call meetings. As I have previously noted, the operations protocol that is developed by the president, in consultation with the commissioners, must cover the kinds of questions or matters that may be considered at a commission hearing. When calling a meeting the president must give other members reasonable notice of the time and place of the meeting.

The bill will modify the general requirement under new sections 18(2)(b)(ii) and (iii) of the Human Rights Commission Act inserted by the protection of rights bill that the president provide third party and commission-initiated complaint reports in relation to complaints or investigations about health practitioners. Health practitioner complaints are normally undertaken as third party or commission-initiated complaints and the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (ACT) Act 2010 requires a specified health complaints entity to refer complaint reports.

“Health complaints entity” is defined in the Queensland national law as an entity “that is established by or under an act of a participating jurisdiction and whose functions include conciliating, investigating and resolving complaints made against health service providers and investigating failures in the health system”. In the ACT the Health Services Commissioner, rather than the Human Rights Commission as a whole, is more accurately described as the ACT health complaints entity. This amendment, which excludes third party and commission-initiated reports about health practitioner complaints from being provided through the president, will maintain the current relationship between the Health Services Commissioner and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and avoid the need for legislative clarification to the national law as it applies in the ACT.

Another minor amendment will be made by the bill to clarify the intent of the operations protocol under the amended Human Rights Commission Act. The intention of the operations protocol is to allow the president and commissioners to develop their own internal processes for key operational issues. The legislation aims to allow flexibility by not prescribing these processes but instead specifies particular issues that the commission must have settled processes for so that the way the commission intends to operate is clearly articulated. The bill also moves the phrase “consistent with part 4 (Complaints)” to a note in section 18C so that the general application of the protocol is less likely to be misconstrued as applying only to complaints.

The bill will also expressly provide the Public Advocate with the function of listening to and investigating concerns from children and young people about the provision of services for the protection of children and young people. This wider formulation has been adopted in place of section 27(b)(1)(c) of the 2015 bill which provides the Public Advocate with the function of advocating for matters about individual children or young people for whom the director-general has parental responsibility under the Children and Young People Act 2008. It also provides the Public Advocate with the role of investigating matters in relation to which the Public Advocate has a function.

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