Page 3307 - Week 10 - Friday, 26 August 2005

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If Dr Foskey has concerns about the efficacy of ECT or if she has concerns about the adequacy of mental services more generally in the territory, there are ways and means for her to raise those matters, both in this place and in the committees of this place, and the government will engage in that discussion quite openly and fully. The provision of mental health services is a contentious and difficult area in our community. Views are strongly held on a whole range of issues.

But that is not what this bill is about. This bill is about whether or not we should provide for emergency ECT treatment. This is a treatment that already exists. This is a treatment that is already used in the mental health system. There is already provision for emergency treatment in legislation. This bill is about saying that emergency treatment should not have to wait three days. That is what this bill is fundamentally about.

There have been recent coronial inquests into deaths of mental health clients and one of those coronial inquests has raised the absence of timely emergency ECT treatment as a matter of serious concern. This view has been supported by the parents of the individual who, tragically, was the subject of that coronial inquiry.

This is not, as Dr Foskey says, a matter of us making a judgement based on belief. I did not say that. I did not say this is about believing versus hard evidence. I said this is about making a judgement as legislators as to whether or not we believe it is appropriate for emergency orders to be made available for ECT treatment in a period of time shorter than that which is currently available, which is three days. That is what this is about.

No, we are not psychiatrists. There are no psychiatrists in this chamber. There are no doctors in this chamber. But we legislate a whole range of things where we are not the experts. We rely on the advice of officials, of officers of the administration. We rely on the views of those outside the territory administration, stakeholders, people who use the system, people who are subject to the system, and so on.

This is about making a judgement about what we believe is in the public interest. I strongly believe that it is in the public interest that we have provision for emergency ECT treatment in a way that is far more timely than is currently allowed for under the legislation, in very limited and restricted circumstances, and with all the safeguards that are set out in the bill and in the existing legislation. For that reason, the government does not support this referral to the committee.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (10.14), in reply: I am glad that we have given this issue the respect of more than a perfunctory discussion in the house. I think it deserves that.

In response to issues raised by Ms MacDonald, if we are not going to have a broad-ranging inquiry, why not a narrow inquiry? Why not look at those issues that I raised in my speech that I do not believe have been dealt with that the officials are going to have to go away and deal with? How do we access the public advocate over weekends? How can we promote advanced agreements and make sure that as many people as possible have them? We could have that inquiry. Mr Corbell insists that the bill is in the public interest. We have to try to weigh up the public interest versus the private individual’s interest. Today we are probably arguing that the individual’s interest is in the public interest.

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