This speech is to indicate the Liberal Party's position on the Health Services Charitable Gifts Bill.
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 23 February 2010.)
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (20:01): I rise to indicate the Liberal Party's position on this particular piece of legislation, which has already passed through the House of Assembly. In doing so, I would draw honourable members' attention to the contribution by our health spokesperson, Dr Duncan McFetridge, on 22 February 2011. In his contribution, Dr McFetridge spoke at considerable length about the importance of medical research in South Australia and some concerns that had been expressed relating to funding to be provided to those institutions.
I do not propose to repeat those remarks, but I think it is important for members to note those if they are interested in that particular aspect of the bill, but from my understanding that is not the primary clause, if you like, relating to this legislation, which is to modernise what is currently the Public Charities Funds Act 1935, which I think people would agree is quite an old bill. Part of what the legislation before us does is to update some of the language and particularly some of the governance for the commissioners and their powers in relation to decision-making.
I understand, from the letter that I have received from the minister, that there is some uncertainty in the current legislation relating to commissioners acting as individuals and acting as a body corporate, therefore, the bill will establish the Health Services Charitable Gifts Board, which will consist of the commissioners. The bill will also remove restrictions on some of the investment capabilities of the commissioners and establish an investment advisory committee. The minister states in his letter that the bill will provide greater public transparency and accountability through more detailed reporting requirements, and I would certainly support those particular aims.
At present the Commissioners of Charitable Funds are applied through the Public Charities Funds Act 1935 for the administration of gifts for the maintenance and support of public charitable institutions in South Australia, such that funds, which may include bequests, donations and gifts from corporate and community groups, are vested in the commissioners and held for the benefit of those particular institutions for which the assets are held. I understand that those funds are in the order of $80 million, which is largely funding for the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
The Commissioners of Charitable Funds have experienced some delay in lodging their 2008-09 annual report due to matters related to the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General has noted that gifts received on behalf of these institutions do not vest with the commissioners and therefore there is a need for some amendments to the existing provisions.
The responsibilities of commissioners under these new provisions will be to receive assets which are gifted to public charitable institutions, to administer those assets, to ensure security and integrity, to ensure that the assets are used appropriately for the benefit of that particular charitable institution, to ensure that prudential requirements are complied with, and so forth.
The member for Morphett also made some comments in relation to estates which form part of these funds. It is quite an interesting read in a historical context in terms of understanding where some of these considerable funds have been provided from, so I would refer people, again, to that particular speech.
I turn to the items that are contained within the bill. The government will be able to apply for public health entities to be proclaimed, which, I understand, excludes HACs (health advisory committees). They chose not to participate within this legislation. A number of bodies will be included, such as IDSC and Domiciliary Care.
There will be a board, as I have mentioned, and commissioners. Fairly standard clauses are contained within those sections, and I understand that specific clauses will provide for prescribed gifts which will enable chattels, and so forth, to be managed in an appropriate manner and which will allow for flexibility and also auxiliaries to apply funds to a particular purpose.
As described to me in my briefing (and I would like to thank the minister and his officers for the briefing), the key change in the bill is the application of charitable assets in that, subject to certain conditions, the board will be able to apply for funds to be applied to certain purposes, which it may not have been able to do so in the past. I was advised that this would avoid the board having to apply to the Attorney-General to seek a variation of intent through the courts.
I think that probably concludes my remarks, and I look forward to the committee stage of the debate.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. Carmel Zollo.