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

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Tags: Legislation

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.