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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 10 May 2018) . . Page.. 1759 ..

The current complaint provisions in the ACT create duplicative and costly processes that delay complaint resolution and underutilise the technical skills of the board. The bill will enable the board to now: impose a fine of up to $1,000; impose conditions; require payment of specified costs relating to any hearings; and, if justified, impose interim suspension of registration prior to taking the veterinary practitioner to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for occupational discipline. Matters of occupational discipline, which may result in the suspension or cancellation of registration for practitioners or premises, continues under the bill to be subject to an application to ACAT. This process ensures the ACAT as an independent arbiter determines whether a veterinary practitioner’s registration should be suspended or cancelled.

The bill will allow the board to more efficiently address malpractice in the sector and to take appropriate action regarding the severity and effect of noncompliance. The ACT’s current legislative provisions to jointly consider complaints with the Human Rights Commission have been retained under the bill. However, the provisions for joint consideration have been made clearer on when and how the board jointly considers complaints. The ACT is a human rights jurisdiction, and a joint complaint process with the Human Rights Commission ensures the regulatory body is abiding by human rights principals. Through joint consideration of complaints with the HRC and through ACAT appeal provisions the bill addresses potential impacts to veterinary practitioners’ and veterinary premises’ right to a fair hearing and any impacts to their rights under the Human Rights Act.

As the bill enhances the regulatory powers of the board, greater public reporting and accountability provisions have been incorporated into the bill. These provisions will enable scrutiny of the board’s work and provide the community and the profession with greater assurance that the board is working in line with its legislative duties and performing efficiently. Under the bill and based on the outcomes of consultation with the veterinary profession the board composition includes seven members. These are a president; four members who are registered veterinary practitioners with continuous registration for a period of three years immediately prior to the day of appointment; a community representative who is not a veterinary practitioner; and a member who is not a veterinary practitioner.

The president cannot be a person who works in a veterinary practice or has a material interest in a veterinary practice. This deals with the governance issue that has been identified for potential or perceived bias of the presiding member. It also opens the president’s appointment to both veterinary practitioners and non-practising veterinary practitioners.

Under the bill there will be minimal changes to the registration of veterinary practitioners and veterinary premises. The bill will retain the ACT’s current registration categories for veterinary practitioners, which are general registration and specialist registration. Recognition is also provided for a general registration where the veterinary practitioner is non-practising, such as when retired. This allows for the requirement for insurance to be waived. A non-practising practitioner will be captured by offence provisions in relation to undertaking restricted acts of veterinary science.

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