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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 3046 ..


MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (11.12): Mr Speaker, I present the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) (Amendment) Bill 1998, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR MOORE: I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

This Bill seeks to amend the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act 1994. Some of you may recall when this Act was first passed in 1994. You may also remember that when the Assembly passed this Act it placed, at my instigation, a sunset clause in it to ensure that the Government reviewed the Act within the first four years of its operation. The legislative regime in place in 1994 was in need of an urgent upgrade.

The Balancing Rights report issued in November 1990 detailed some major shortcomings in the ACT's mental health law and recommended a major overhaul. By 1994 members of the Assembly had decided we needed to make changes urgently. By passing the Act as interim legislation, the Assembly provided consumers with significantly improved mental health legislation, while placing an expectation on government to continue to look for ways to further improve our mental health laws.

As an Independent member at that time, I had particular concerns arising from a strong diversity of views amongst the various stakeholders. I wanted to ensure that the issues were reconsidered after we had all had the opportunity to work with the new legislation for a reasonable period of time. At that time there was also considerable effort being applied nationally to the development of nationally consistent legislation that was also consistent with human rights principles. The sunset clause has ensured that we revisit the legislation and improve it wherever possible.

This Bill is the culmination of a consultation period which commenced in March 1997. In January 1998 the Government produced a report on the review which detailed the results of the consultation process and sought additional comments on a number of outstanding issues. There has been considerable debate on the results of the consultation process within government. The issues dealt with by this legislation are difficult ones for society and are therefore likely to lead to vigorous debate and discussion.

Mental health law is an extremely delicate area. Mental health laws enable the Government to take away a person's liberty and force them to undergo treatment and care. Any attempt to make or change laws in this area requires a great deal of discussion and consideration. While we have a duty to protect both the individual and the

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