Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 428 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
From the perspective of complainants, it is easy to understand how frustrating and disturbing it would be to receive an unsatisfactory service and complain about that service only then to find that your complaint is dealt with in a way that you experience as unfair. The problem currently is that there is no way for concerns about the processing of complaints to be investigated and addressed.
Equally importantly, a review mechanism would help to improve the quality of the commissioner's methods of investigation, a fact that the commissioner himself has emphasised. The commissioner has indicated that he approves of the idea of an independent review of his functions. Two consecutive annual reports of the commissioner state the need for such a review system, and, as I noted earlier, this has been discussed for some time, at least since 1999.
The commissioner should be commended for his extremely constructive and non-defensive attitude towards the review of his own functions. This is all the more reason for the government to act quickly to bring in these changes and to adopt a proactive approach.
I am aware that there are legitimate concerns about creating another level of appeals and reviews. However, both the commissioner and the council have indicated their support for the accountability measures described in my motion. In addition, a number of the submissions made to the disability services inquiry raised the need for the commissioner to be properly accountable for the management of complaints. The purpose of the motion is not to encourage provisions for endless "appeals" regarding health complaints but rather to ensure that any problems that come to light about the systems are addressed.
I am aware that there are also broader concerns about the various roles and functions of many statutory bodies that deal with complaints of various types. This motion does not attempt to deal with all of these areas but merely takes one step that has already been identified as an area of need.
This motion is an opportunity to take a small but incredibly important step towards empowering the users of community health services in the territory. At this time, when there is so much contention and acrimony about the delivery of services in the ACT, here is a chance to support a change that is not difficult or radical but which, nevertheless, has the potential to significantly improve people's experience of the ACT health and community services system.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (4.58): Mr Speaker, the government is generally supportive of the motion that Ms Dundas has moved. However, I foreshadow that I propose to move an amendment to delete paragraph (3) of the motion.
Ms Dundas has made some good points in relation to the role and responsibilities of the Community and Health Services Complaints Commissioner. The government is aware of the recommendations that are contained in his annual reports. Indeed, I have discussed with the commissioner the issue of appeals from his decisions. I have had discussions and consultations with Mr Patterson and others about the anomalous situation where a person aggrieved by a decision of the commissioner has no avenue of appeal. As Ms Dundas says, the commissioner himself is supportive of the establishment of an