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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 6 Hansard (22 June) . . Page.. 1652 ..

Mr Moore

: The answer to the Member's question is:

(1) Under the Administrative Arrangement Orders, pursuant to which Ministers

are allocated responsibility for portfolio matters and the administration of

various Acts, it is the Attorney General, Mr Humphries MLA, and not the

Minister for Health and Community Care, who is responsible for Part 9 of the

Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act 1994

("the Mental Health Act").

Part 9 of the Act deals with the membership of the Mental Health Tribunal

("the Tribunal") and the procedures adopted by the Tribunal.

As a member of the Government, I was aware of and endorsed the changes to Part 9 of the Mental Health Act made by the Evidence (Amendment) Act 1999 and the Courts and Tribunals (Audio Visual and Audio Linking) Act 1999.

It is important to note that the provisions, insofar as they affect any person involved in a proceeding before the Tribunal, only permit the Tribunal to give a direction authorising the use of audio or audio visual facilities for a party to appear before it, if it is satisfied that to do so would not be unfair to any party who opposes the use of such facilities. As a further protection, Section 141 of the Mental Health Act provides for the right of appeal to the Supreme Court against any decision of the Tribunal.

(a) Neither the Department of Health and Community Care nor The

Canberra Hospital provided advice to the Minister on the implications

for mentally ill persons giving evidence to the Tribunal via audio visual

links rather than in person. The new provisions which enable the

Tribunal to access evidence via audio visual links would only be used

where the Tribunal is confident that the person subject to the

proceedings is comfortable with appearing by audio visual link and that

the use of the electronic link is fair given the circumstances.

It is unlikely that the Tribunal will use audio visual links for hearings except in specific rare instances. The current operations of the Tribunal, which favours face-to-face hearings, provides an atmosphere that is as informal as possible in order to ensure that the person subject to the Tribunal's proceedings is as comfortable as possible given the

circumstances of the hearing.

(b) As referred to above in (a), no advice was provided to the Minister, on

this matter by the Department of Health and Community Care or The

Canberra Hospital.

(2) I did not consult with any non-government mental health advisory groups on this

matter as I did not see the need for such consultation. This, and the other

questions asked by Mr Stanhope, appears to be predicated on the assumption that

some disadvantage will result for persons who have a mental illness from there

being a capacity for the Tribunal to allow appearances by audio visual links.

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