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Community, Health, Human Services And Related Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2018 - Second Reading

27 November 2018
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Greens 
to support the Community, Health and Related Services Legislation (
Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2018. I would like some clarification 
around the change to terminology within the Mental Health Act 2013. The 
fact sheet does not provide any information about the purpose for that 
change. I can assume that it may relate to the accuracy, or rather the 
inaccuracy, of the existing terminology, where the term 'continuing care 
order' is used and is now proposed to be replaced with the term 'treatment 
order'. I would like to understand the reason for that change. I do not 
have any problem with it and I assume it has been supported by the 
stakeholders, but perhaps the minister could provide me with some 
information about who raised that as an issue that needed to be changed 
and whether there was any discussion or disagreement or controversy about 
the basis for that change.

I have some more substantive questions in relation to the amendments 
proposed to the Pharmacy Control Act. This seems to be a very important 
change. I would also like a bit more information about exactly what it 
provides. Not being of legal training myself, I want to understand the 
motivation for this change. I assume it relates to ensuring quality of 
service provision within companies that apply to be credited as a pharmacy 
business and to ensure that the agglomeration of business interests that 
is occurring more and more under the current global economic environment 
does not lead at some point to a dilution of quality in the people 
involved in pharmacy businesses and essentially that these do not just 
become shelf companies running pharmacies without the appropriate 
qualifications and the duty of care as professionals to put the interests 
of the community, the consumers, first above business interests.

Also in relation to that section of the bill, I note there are some 
changes that enable regulations to be developed to regulate pharmacy 
depots, so it is again tightening up on the regulations for those pharmacy 
depots. Could the minister please clarify whether a pharmacy depot could 
be a supermarket? The second reading speech said 'a general retail shop 
in geographic areas without a pharmacy'. As I read the act, pharmacy 
depots are places without a pharmacy where prescriptions can be deposited. 
We are not talking here about making any changes to the dispensing of non-
prescription medications. It is this delicate balance that we have, 
particularly in regional areas and remote areas, of making sure we do not 
change the conditions so that big pharmacy suppliers cannot come in and 
take over the space accredited pharmacists provide as a service to their 
local community. I would like the minister to discuss what a pharmacy 
depot is, but otherwise that sounds like a very sensible move.

With respect to the changes to the Right to Information Act, I have 
listened to the member for Franklin, Ms Standen's comments and she raised 
reasonable questions. The Greens do not believe the points that have been 
raised by Labor are enough to outweigh the recommendations of two 
independent Commissioners for Children and Young People. Mr Mark 
Morrissey, in July last year, recommended that the Commissioner for 
Children and Young People be excluded from the Right to Information Act. 
That was supported by the acting commissioner, Mr Clements, in December.

We respect the concerns. There are reasonable questions about why this 
Government has been so laggardly on amending that part of the Right to 
Information Act. In government the Liberals have been as tardy and 
obfuscating as possible about the application of the right to information. 

This Government is totally obstructive and will do everything it possibly 
can to hold on to information and not reveal it to the public. We are 
talking about the part of the Right to Information Act that deals with the 
decisions of ministers and delegates to not be reviewed. That is a 
fundamental breach of the spirit of right to information. Liberal 
ministers delegate certain decisions to senior staff so they are not able 
to be reviewed under the Right to Information Act by the Ombudsman. This 
is a recognised loophole in the Right to Information Act 2009 confirmed by 
the Ombudsman in a response to a question which we wrote to the Ombudsman 
earlier this year. The Liberals choose to not amend that loophole. 

The Greens introduced a bill on 15 March this year and the Liberals voted 
against plugging that loophole. It was a public display of self-interest 
to make sure the secretive processes which underpin the actions of the 
Coordinator-General's office, underpin the sale of Crown land to private 
interests around Tasmania, underpin the abuse of the tourism proposals and 
the sham that is going through at the moment around Lake Malbena and the 
corrupted processes with that approval. All these things are hidden as 
much as possible from public eyes. 

An example last week was the Minister for Primary Industries refusing to 
release a joint letter from two members of the Marine Farming Planning 
Review Panel, their letter of resignation and their letter with reasons 
for resignation.

Madam SPEAKER - I am sorry, Dr Woodruff, I have been advised you are 
straying off the subject matter. 

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Madam Speaker. The reason I am providing these 
examples is because it needs to be on the public record that the minister, 
in bringing forward this bill, has not made the most important change to 
the Right to Information Act, that the ministers' delegates must be able 
to have their decisions reviewed by the Ombudsman. The Right to 
Information Act does not provide the transparency it ought to because of a 
loophole in the Act.

I understand Labor's concerns about providing an exemption for the 
Commissioner for Children and Young People and their question why? Why 
focus on this now? Why not focus on the real abuse of the Right to 
Information Act, which this Government practises every day by keeping 
essential information away from Tasmanians to make sure that the interests 
of big business are met. The interests of the public, the community whose 
land it is, whose marine system it is, whose wilderness areas it is, whose 
nature and recreation areas like the top of Rosny Hill it is are not met. 
Ministers repeatedly delegate decisions to senior staff so they never have 
to be reviewed, so there is no paper trail, so there is no possibility for 
legal review or challenge, so there is no way people can really understand 
how much money is being siphoned out under Liberal ministers to private 
interests.

I look forward to the minister's response for why he did not plug the 
loophole in this bill. It is an obvious opportunity for this 
miscellaneous amendments bill. It should have been done. The Liberal 
Government will not increase accountability and transparency for the 
Tasmanian people unless there is a major rupture in what is happening on 
that side of the House. We may well see that happen today.