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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 429 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

appeals process for people who feel a sense of genuine grievance over the outcome of a complaint which they make to him.

Indeed, there are some circumstances-and I have received representations in relation to these from time to time-in which the complaint is not so much with the outcome of the commissioner's dealing with the matter but with the way in which he has handled it. So it is a slightly different issue.

I commend Ms Dundas for raising this issue. As I say, it is an issue that the government is aware of and has sought to respond to. The preferred position of the government, however, is to refer the issue to the Community and Health Rights Advisory Council.

At 5.00 pm, in accordance with standing order 34, the debate was interrupted. The motion for the adjournment of the Assembly having been put and negatived, the debate was resumed.

MR STANHOPE: As I was saying, the preferred approach of the government-and this is proposed by Ms Dundas-is to involve the Community and Health Rights Advisory Council. But we would rather refer to that council a reference to investigate appropriate appeal mechanisms and processes that should perhaps apply to the commissioner and his office.

The Health Complaints Unit is reasonably busy. I receives on average 300 written complaints a year and it also receives well in excess of that number in verbal complaints. The commissioner has contributed quite significantly to debate and discussions on the review of ACT health legislation. I think the unit and the commissioner serve a very useful purpose, and I am very supportive of that role. The government does accept and acknowledge, however, that there should be an investigation of appropriate appeal mechanisms from his decisions and actions. We prefer that that review be undertaken by the Community and Health Rights Advisory Council, to allow them to come up with an appeals mechanism. Maybe, rather than the council being part of that appeals mechanism they would prefer, for instance, that the ombudsman be involved in appeals relating to the commissioner. We would want the council to review all those possibilities.

The government is supportive of the intent and the intention set out in Ms Dundas' motion. As I have said, I have circulated an amendment that clause (3) of the motion be deleted so that we do not constrain the appeal mechanisms that are put in place. I move:

That clause 3 be deleted.

MR SMYTH (5.03): Mr Speaker, I think the motion proposed by Ms Dundas is something that in principle we all agree with. We would all agree with the importance of having an independent, fair and efficient complaints system for all services, not just for health and community services. But I think it is important that we have this particularly for health and community services because at times of great stress or great need I believe we all want complaints to be dealt with a fair and efficient manner. So the opposition will be supporting the general thrust of the motion.

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