Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2916 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
It is interesting that in the report for 1996-97, the last report I have seen, complaints about lack of information being provided or inadequate information being supplied to patients accounted for almost 10 per cent of all the complaints made to the Commissioner for Health Complaints. Of course, of those about whom complaints were made as individual practitioners, more than two-thirds were doctors. So, Mr Speaker, those who believe that doctors are not capable of making decisions that are in the interests necessarily of their patients ought to look carefully at what is in that report. It suggests otherwise.
Another argument we have heard in this debate today is that this is an untried concept; that we are foisting some newfangled and untested concept of disclosure onto women in the ACT. I understand that the proposals are very close to proposals on medical right-to-know provisions that appear in a large number of other jurisdictions. In fact, 19 American States, including South Dakota, Mississippi, Kansas, Ohio, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, and more recently New Zealand, across the Tasman, have adopted similar right-to-know legislation. It is hardly trailblazing.
Mr Speaker, I want to close my remarks by making some brief reference to the concerns of other members of the ACT public sector, particularly the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Discrimination Commissioner and the Community Advocate. I believe that a large number of these concerns, if not all, will be addressed by the amendments which have been circulated in the chamber. I understand that Mr Moore's amendments have been circulated in the chamber.
Mr Moore: Yes, they have.
MR HUMPHRIES: Yes. I understand that Mr Refshauge, for example, is substantially assuaged by the amendments which have been moved. There are a couple of issues which perhaps have not been picked up but which have now been picked up by amendments which have now been circulated in the chamber. If members are seeking to sink the Bill merely on the basis that they believe they can argue that it is inadequate in some way, I would suggest that they ban that approach and instead say they do not like it rather than they do not believe it is effective.
I appeal to members to consider not what the Bill once was or what they believe the motives of the mover or movers are or were, but rather to look at what it says. If this was legislation on a range of other fields talking about the rights of consumers in other fields of activity in the ACT, I do not believe we would see the criticism that we are seeing here today. Because we are building in rights of women in respect of information and in respect of the capacity to have a cooling-off period, because we are introducing this concept in respect of abortion, we have a whole series of other considerations emerging in the debate. That does not mean that such concerns are legitimate in that respect. I think it is unfortunately true that the view of many people of this Bill is being clouded by what went before. That is a wrong consideration. This Bill deserves to be considered on its merits, on what it says, not what people think is behind it. I ask members on that basis to give this Bill a chance to be able to provide a level of information and disclosure which in other fields we already take for granted.