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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2259 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

There are a number of provisions within the Bill, however, which did raise comment from the scrutiny of Bills committee. It was in relation to those that the Labor Party did have some hesitation. It was particularly interested to discover what the scrutiny of Bills committee's response might be to the Government's response to an earlier report of the scrutiny of Bills committee. In fact, the Labor Party was keen to study the Government's draft legislation in relation to those particular issues.

The scrutiny of Bills committee, in particular, expressed concern about the Bill to the extent that the provisions that match those currently applying to quality assurance committees in the public sector confer a qualified privilege for defamation which may limit a person's right to protect their reputation. The scrutiny of Bills committee also commented that granting legal immunity to committee members may affect a person's right to privacy and other legal rights such as copyright. They further commented that by not allowing a person to compel others to give evidence the Bill may diminish a person's right to a fair hearing. The scrutiny of Bills committee also commented that the provisions may immunise from production in court as evidence material that came into being for a reason independent of the work of the committee. As I said, these provisions do mirror the existing provisions, and the Bill is designed simply to mirror provisions for the private sector.

The Government has now responded with the amendments tabled today. I acknowledge that the Minister made them available to my office yesterday. They deal with just the fourth of those concerns expressed by the scrutiny of Bills committee, the issue of the immunisation from production in court as evidence extraneous material that came into being. I am not entirely sure of the process here in terms of the comment which Mr Kaine made, which I was not aware of, about Mr Moore's suggestion to the scrutiny of Bills committee that the Government would respond to the committee's earlier report by the end of November.

Mr Moore: I will clarify that.

MR STANHOPE: I am interested in that clarification, because I do not quite understand. I am assuming that the amendments tabled today - I would be grateful if Mr Moore would clarify this - are in fact the Government's response to the concerns of the scrutiny of Bills committee. I will be interested in listening to the Minister explain why the Government chose to respond to that fourth concern of the scrutiny of Bills committee and believes that the issues raised in the other three points perhaps do not warrant or demand a response; that the concerns raised in relation to defamation, right to privacy and the compulsion to give evidence in the context of the aims of the Bill perhaps are issues that we need not be concerned about. It may be that the Minister, in his discussion on those issues, can satisfy me and perhaps my colleagues that this is a Bill that we would be happy to support in totality.

As I said, the Labor Party certainly supports the aims of this Bill. Anything that we can do to address issues going to quality assurance and anything that we can do to make our health providers more accountable and open and transparent we endorse absolutely. Research into morbidity and mortality in our health facilities is something we embrace and support absolutely. We will listen to the Minister's explanation of the reasons for the Government's limited response to the issues raised by the scrutiny of Bills committee.

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