Page 3034 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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the legislation, as it currently stands, provides that the commission may close that complaint. It does not say it has to close that complaint. My amendment would simply remove subparagraph (e) from clause 78 (1) and insert new subparagraph (da) in clause 78 (2) so that, in that circumstance, if a matter has also been lodged in the health services commission, the commission must close that complaint and let it be dealt with in the health services commission, again to stop that forum shopping. I commend the amendments.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (12.27): As much as I would have wished to continue the same level of support for the opposition’s amendments, I cannot in this particular instance. I understand the rationale for the amendments that the shadow attorney has moved. Indeed, I am aware of representations that have been made on behalf of the health profession in relation of the issue. The government is aware of those and is very sensitive to them. But we do not support the approach that is being proposed here, which would have the effect essentially of forcing the Human Rights Commission to close any complaints that related to registered health professionals, indicating a possibility that there might have been a failure in that particular instance to comply with professional standards.

Under the provisions of the bill, the Human Right Commission is not precluded from investigating concerns about the way in which registered health professionals provide health services. Indeed, I think it is obvious that there would be many people in the community that would expect the Human Rights Commission to be able to look into those issues using the specialist expertise of the health services commissioner. In fact, it is very much part and parcel of his role and responsibility.

But it should not be assumed that the health professional boards in any way will have their particular responsibilities affected by the fact that the health services commissioner, through the Human Rights Commission, will have a role to play in ensuring the high quality of service is maintained by health professionals. The health professional boards will continue to do that.

The bill, as drafted, provides specifically for a combined approach to health service issues. We are concerned that the amendments that the shadow attorney proposes would sever the relationship between the Human Rights Commission and the health professional boards. In addition, the amendment would make clause 78 inconsistent with clause 92, which facilitates the health services commissioner and the relevant health professional boards dealing together on issues raised and complaints about registered health professionals. So the government will not support the amendments.

Amendments negatived.

Clause 78 agreed to.

Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.

Sitting suspended from 12.30 to 2.30 pm.

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