This speech is to indicate support for the Health And Community Services Complaints (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:47): I also rise to indicate support for this bill, but I would like to place some comments on the record in relation to the process of this bill, which has been outlined by some of the previous speakers, in that it has been brought on early. It was tabled on Tuesday, and according to the conventions that we used to have operating in this place for a long time, the bill should sit on the Notice Paper. Now, I understand that the government is embarrassed that it does not have enough business to deal with, but I think that is to the detriment of proper scrutiny by this chamber in terms of legislation.
For the record, I would like to say that I am not particularly happy with these practices. I am a fairly cooperative speaker on behalf of the Liberal Party in this place, as with the building licences bill in terms of consumer affairs last year, but this is not a practice that I wish to continue to be part of in the future because we all like to be ready and prepare additional remarks.
I would have liked to examine the Social Development Committee's report in much more detail, if I had had the time, and I really do not appreciate the way that the government is managing business in this place. I have cooperated a couple of times, but I am actually losing my patience and am clearly quite annoyed. I am grateful to the officers and thank them for providing me with a briefing. It was originally due to be next Tuesday, and I was happy to have it this morning, but I do not feel like I have had adequate time to prepare my remarks in relation to this bill.
I will now turn to some of the provisions within this particular piece of legislation, which, I understand, is the result of two particular matters. One is a statutory review of the act which took place some two years ago now in 2008, so why the urgency is upon us I am at a loss to understand. The other, as I mentioned, is the Social Development Committee's inquiry into unregistered health practitioners, which, I think, was quite informative in providing examples of some fairly disgraceful behaviour by people preying on vulnerable people who were in desperate search of cures which, unfortunately, they were not going to avail themselves of by going through those health practitioners.
I understand that New South Wales is the only other jurisdiction that has some form of legislation to protect consumers from these practitioners who may be indulging in dodgy claims. I understand from the briefing that it will be on the discussion for the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council next month and that there may then be further amendments to legislation arising from that.
The Health and Community Services Complaints Act is to be amended with what look to me to be some technical matters. The provisions that relate to unregistered health practitioners will provide that there will be codes of conduct, interim actions, penalties of $10,000 or imprisonment for two years or both, and the commissioner may require that health services providers will provide explicit statements about what their intentions are in terms of correcting some statements that have been found to be incorrect.
There are appeal provisions to the Administrative and Disciplinary Division of the District Court for those health practitioners. There are further amendments to the council and a matter of returns, which will need to be provided to the commissioner. This topic was explored in great detail by our health spokesperson, Dr Duncan McFetridge, whose contribution was made on 10 February.
Dr McFetridge raised in that discussion many things which relate directly to the provisions within this particular bill and also went into great detail on some of the matters that have been raised in the public domain about funding for the Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner. I have to say that some of the suggestions about how funding should be raised amount to additional tax and they are not things that would be supported. Indeed, if this agency is to be properly funded, then it should be funded from general revenue. I would also appreciate any comments that the minister might have about those issues that have been raised about funding for this agency.
With those remarks, I indicate that we will be supporting this bill. I think we would have been derelict in our duty if we had put this through to the end of the debate. I flag for the government that, if they try these tactics again in future, we certainly will not be supporting the rushing through of legislation unless there is a really good reason.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. G.E. Gago.