Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (2 July) . . Page.. 2182 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

One other issue that the Estimates Committee did comment on was the development of a process for the compensation of people within the Canberra community who acquired hepatitis C as a result of blood transfusions from the Canberra Hospital. This is another issue that we have had significant community debate about and interest in. The issue was made public by the Minister a year or so ago. It has had a rocky history. We are still not entirely sure of the nature of the legal regime which has been developed or negotiated, and I think that is a pity.

The Minister, when he announced that we did have this significant issue facing us, initially proposed a legislation-backed scheme to allow for the compensation of people who had contracted hepatitis C as a result of blood transfusions. I remain not entirely clear in my mind about the nature of what the Government is currently doing in relation to the compensation of people who unfortunately did acquire hepatitis C. I understand from the Minister's last answer on this issue that the Government is negotiating with the legal advisers of affected people on an individual basis. I notice that the budget allowed for just over $4m in this financial year for compensation of people who did contract hepatitis C.

I think that is an interesting figure in the context of advice that there are potentially 45 people who were affected in this way. The budget appears to allow for compensation of $100,000 for each person. I know that when the scheme was initially foreshadowed by the Minister, when we were going to have a legislative backed scheme, the proposal was that there would be a capping of compensation at $100,000, with an expectation that most people who would be compensated would receive perhaps less than $30,000. So there are aspects of the scheme which is currently being negotiated by the Government with representatives of the affected people that I look forward to having explained to us in some greater detail.

It is still not entirely clear to me either why it is that we chose to compensate people who acquired hepatitis C in a different way from those who acquired the HIV virus. I still do not quite understand why we went to a non-legislative backed scheme in relation to hepatitis C. I look forward with interest to some further explanation and I note, I guess with some concern, the advice given to the Estimates Committee by Dr Simms from the ANU that he regards the compensation scheme as legally quite bodgie. So there is more that we await to hear on that.

It is important to note that the Estimates Committee did also recommend that the rights of people with mental illness be considered prior to the implementation of any proposed changes to public housing policy. They recommended in recommendation 63 that the Government's proposed changes to public housing policy be referred to an Assembly committee. That is a matter that has been dealt with. It is interesting that, in relation to recommendation 34, the Government disagreed with the need to further investigate the rights of people with mental illness in relation to changes to public housing.

I think one of the things that were very obvious during the estimates process was that there had been a serious lack of consultation over the rights of mentally ill persons in relation to recommended changes to the public housing policy. It was in response to that perception that the committee recommended that the Government address the needs of the mentally ill in relation to housing. I am hopeful now that that is something that we can achieve.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .