Page 2196 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 4 June 2013

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Ombudsman is responsible for the scheme in Queensland and there is probably a stronger link between the Ombudsman’s role than there is in the Public Trustee’s role. That is one of the issues that I am considering and seeking further discussion on.

The bill clarifies the range of visitable places. I recognise that in some respects this is an improvement. However, I think there is also room for further discussion here about removing the requirement for a service to receive government funding to be considered a visitable place altogether. People are vulnerable, regardless of whether or not the service they are receiving is government funded or not. I believe that any distinction based on this is artificial and that this is an area where I am willing to have further discussion.

The bill also clarifies access to health records. One issue that the clause does raise is that where a person is not able to give consent, an official visitor will need to seek consent from the person’s guardian to view the records. As knowledge of the health records may be an important part of the OV’s role in ensuring that appropriate treatment and care are being given, a process will need to be set up to ensure that ongoing, proactive consent can be given by guardians so that OVs can inspect a health record during their visits.

In relation to the crisis support unit at the AMC, I am comfortable that the changes do not substantially affect the current arrangements in the ACT where both the Corrections official visitor and the Mental Health official visitor can visit people detained in the CSU. The bill articulates a process for each OV to work within their role and scope of skills. I think that the official visitors are more than capable of exercising their professional judgement to make any reporting and complaints resolution arrangements work in an efficient and effective way.

Overall, the Greens support the bill in principle. I would like to acknowledge the productive approach that has been taken to working between officials and the minister, with me and my office, to ensure that we have in place an effective scheme that reflects the views of the community that has been so clear in what it wants from the official visitors. As is often the way with new ways of working, there are indeed some aspects of the original bill that could be improved and it is a testament to the good will of all the parties present that we continue to refine this important protection and reporting service in the desire to care appropriately for those that need it most. Those comments made, and noting the discussion I am still undertaking, the Greens support the bill in principle.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Health and Minister for Higher Education) (10.22): I thank other members for their support for this bill.

The Official Visitor Amendment Bill 2013 was developed in close consultation with government and community stakeholders, with significant effort and careful attention to detail. The effort to produce this bill reflects the government’s commitment to maintain the policy intent of the Official Visitor Act and the schemes that existed before it—in mental health, juvenile justice rehabilitation and adult corrections.

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