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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 3 Hansard (26 March) . . Page.. 627 ..

MRS CARNELL (continuing):

dental technicians' fees went from $79 - it is being negotiated, but I understand that they are talking about figures in the vicinity of $100; dental prosthetists are paying $113; dentists are paying $80 now and are looking at something in the vicinity of $100; podiatrists pay $100; and psychologists pay $100. The list goes on.

If you see that list you can see that nurses are actually paying the lowest registration fee. The reason for that is quite clear, though: We have more nurses registered in the ACT than we have registrations in any of the other professions. Therefore, the fee does not need to be as high to allow for autonomy. The board, I understand, has sent out to all nurses a newsletter explaining the increase and giving a table of the sorts of registration fees that are paid in other States. It is interesting to note that certainly in big States like New South Wales it is lower. Let us look at the position in the smaller States. In South Australia the fee is $100; in Tasmania it is $80; and so on. The fees are levied simply because it is important to have autonomy. The only area in which the ACT Government will now be covering extra costs for the registration boards is the area of legal fees that could not have been predicted by the boards themselves.

I would have thought, though, that nurses would have been quite pleased by the approach that the board has taken. The board has, as part of its approach to becoming autonomous, set revenue aside for grants to both registered and enrolled nurses who are interested in undertaking research for the benefit of their own professional growth and for the benefit of the ACT community. That is the basis of the increase. It is to allow the Nurses Board to better service the needs of the profession to ensure that they are doing their job without any direction, as I said, from the Minister - whoever that may be. It is not something that is unique to nursing. In fact, the nursing registration fees, as I read them out, are actually the lowest of all of the professions at this stage. I would assume that they would stay there, simply because there are more nurses and it is easier to become autonomous than if there were a substantially smaller group of people. Ms Tucker made the comment about the medical registration board. Medicos pay $125 now, which is, of course, substantially more than $80.

MS TUCKER: It is interesting to hear you admit that New South Wales nurses pay only $35 a year, because you have claimed regularly that you would want to keep fees and taxes no greater than those in New South Wales. My supplementary question would be, though, because you did not answer the original question: Are you prepared to discuss this issue with the Australian Nursing Federation, because there appears to be severe hardship experienced by some nurses, particularly in the present situation?

MRS CARNELL: We have always made it clear that we are willing to discuss any issue whatsoever. But I think the issue here is that we have a situation where nurses are being asked to pay $80 for registration; South Australian nurses are being asked to pay $100; Tasmanian nurses, $80; podiatrists, $100; psychologists, $100. All of those sorts of people are being asked to pay substantially more than they used to, but in return for substantially improved service and actual autonomy for their own board. Remember that registration boards are not arms of government; they are arms of the professions. It is peer group review. At least a percentage of the people on those boards are elected from within their own ranks. That is what registration boards are about. I think the nurses registration board is doing a very good job in ensuring that services do improve for nurses who are registered in the ACT.

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