Page 3303 - Week 10 - Friday, 26 August 2005

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Bills such as this one give me confidence that the dialogue about human rights is developing in a way that improves our capacity to respect, protect and promote human rights. Human rights are now at the heart of our policy-making processes and compatibility is the new litmus test. I believe this piece of legislation meets the test and I commend it to the Assembly.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (9.53), in reply: Mr Speaker, I would like to start by responding to a number of the matters that Dr Foskey raised this morning in her comments in the in-principal stage. Dr Foskey raised two issues of particular concern to her. The first was in relation to the role of the public advocate in being present at, and being advised of, an emergency tribunal hearing for an emergency ECT order.

It is worth reiterating for members that the provisions of section 94 of the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act still apply in this regard, and there is a requirement under that section that the Community Advocate must be given written notice of the proceedings. That is an ongoing requirement in relation to the role and the participation of the Community Advocate. They must be advised and they have every opportunity to attend because they have been formally advised.

In relation to the role of advanced agreements, Mental Health ACT has been in the process for the past 12 months of exploring and actually undertaking the use of advanced agreements. There has been mixed success so far, because this is a very new area of practice, but it is something which I and ACT Health are committed to continuing to pursue, because it does provide consumers with a greater level of engagement, particularly if they encounter episodes of serious illness where they would not otherwise be in a position to communicate their concerns, their requests and their desires about the type of treatment that should be made available to them.

Again, it is worth highlighting the matters that must be taken into account. Section 26 of the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act makes provision on what sorts of matters the tribunal must take into account when deciding whether to make any particular type of order, including an emergency order, for ECT. The second item in that section, paragraph (b), provides that the views and the wishes of the person, so far as they can be found out, must be taken into account by the tribunal. So the tribunal does have an obligation to seek to establish the views of the person in relation to any proposed treatment order.

Clearly, if the existence of an advanced agreement is known to the tribunal, and if the person is an ongoing client of mental health services you would anticipate that it would be known, the tribunal must take those matters into account. Advanced agreements are a mechanism which we will continue to develop in the ACT, but the tribunal must have regard to the views of the person about whom it is meeting to make a decision about an emergency order, in this case an emergency ECT order. That is already in place in legislation.

I thank the opposition for its support of this bill. It is an important piece of legislation. We are the only jurisdiction in the country that denies timely ECT treatment for those whose lives may be at risk if the treatment is not available. We have an unacceptable

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