Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 430 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
The second part of the motion is that the Assembly "believes that the accountability of the Community and Health Services Complaints Commissioner should be enhanced". The opposition will always be in favour of anything that would do that. But we want to make sure, though, that this does not place unnecessary burdens either on the commissioner or perhaps on the Community and Health Rights Advisory Council.
Point (4) of the motion talks about the Assembly requesting that the government work in a timely manner with the advisory council and the commissioner. I think we all agree with that.
The Chief Minister has just referred to point (3) of the motion and I ask Ms Dundas to clarify in her closing remarks how the advisory council would review the commissioner's actions, and what powers they would have to enforce that review. Informally, of course, we can review any decision that is handed down by a commissioner, and we are all free to make comment in that regard. What are the powers that Ms Dundas would envisage the Community and Health Rights Advisory Council should have to review? Is it review and revise? Is it review and condemn? Is it review and send back? I think what we need is some clarity. Perhaps I may have missed an explanation when Ms Dundas spoke earlier, but I do not believe I heard her talk about how she saw that working.
I think it is important when we give powers of review that we make sure they are appropriate. The commissioner is established in law and we entrust to him the power to review actions in the health system. It may be necessary to review the reviewer but I would be very interested in how Ms Dundas sees that that should work.
We would be supportive of the general thrust of the motion but we will determine whether or not we will support the motion subject to clarification of how Ms Dundas sees that working.
MS TUCKER (5.05): I will speak to the motion and the amendment. I support the amendment. For quite a number of years there have obviously been concerns about complaints processes, not only in relation to disabilities and health but in a number of other areas. There are jurisdictional issues between some of the complaints bodies. We have a plethora of complaints bodies in the ACT, and as a result there is confusion in the community in terms of which is the right body to go to. I think we need to have a shake up of the whole question. This motion is directed particularly at the specific question of the Community and Health Services Complaints Commissioner, and I am well aware of concerns from his office as well as from the community.
I am also aware that the Gallop report has made a recommendation regarding the complaints mechanisms and this particular office. I am aware that the Community and Health Rights Advisory Council also has made statements. I am aware that the health commissioner himself has requested that there be changes made, and for that reason this is a sensible step which I think should and would happen anyway. So there is no problem in that regard.
I think it is important to delete clause (3) of the motion because, even though it may well be the case that it would be useful to increase the responsibilities of this advisory council, I do not think we should be pre-empting the discussion to that degree at this