Health and community services complaints (miscellaneous) amendments bill

Mr DULUK (Waite) (11:37): I also rise to make a few comments on the Health and Community Services Complaints (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2018. I will perhaps begin where the Deputy Premier finished off and talk about the value of reports and understanding them. If we reflect upon, over the last 16 years, one of the areas that the Deputy Premier was reflecting on with regard to child protection, we had the Layton report, the Mullighan inquiry and the Nyland royal commission report in an area of government where all three reports highlighted the systemic failure of government, of agency and of ministers.

As I said, the government at many times receives reports from experts, by and large, in their fields and, as the Deputy Premier indicated, I think it is incumbent upon us as parliamentarians, with broad interests on many issues, to heed and follow them where possible.

The bill seeks to bring South Australia in line with the national standards and to adopt of the national code, which of course will be adopted by states and territories so that a nationally consistent approach will be taken aimed at strengthening the regulation of unregistered healthcare workers across the entire nation. The National Code of Conduct for healthcare workers, approved by the COAG Health Council for adoption by the states and territories, will replace the Code of Conduct for Unregistered Health Practitioners—the South Australian code—which is currently in the regulations under the act.

The purpose of the National Code of Conduct is to protect the public by setting minimum standards of conduct and practice for all unregistered healthcare workers who provide a health service. The code will apply to practitioners such as naturopaths and homeopaths. It will also apply to social workers, nursing assistants and aged-care workers. At this time, when there is a lot of justified scrutiny of the aged-care sector and the provision of aged-care services, we are taking a national approach. The royal commission established by Prime Minister Morrison just goes to show, in my view, his ability and his leadership at the national level on this issue and is certainly a reason he is an outstanding Prime Minister. The type of framework that will apply in the aged-care space is also covered under this legislation.

Volunteers will be included under the act, which is very important as well. If a volunteer places the health or safety of the public at risk, they need to be held accountable so that ultimately the public can be protected. The vast majority of healthcare workers practise in a safe way and certainly to a competent high standard and in an ethical manner, and that is so important. However, at times a small proportion can present a risk to the public for a wide variety of reasons, whether it is a predatory nature, an impairment of ability or perhaps illegal conduct. It is important that we have a framework to deal with those matters.

If there is risky behaviour by a registered health practitioner, I think it is prudent that their registration is cancelled and their right to practise is withdrawn. We need to say to people that if they are not a registered health practitioner but they are in their mind providing a like service, then an accountability regime should apply as well. We need to protect the people of South Australia, particularly people who may be suffering from a disease or illness and who can be especially vulnerable to the promise of a miracle cure.

Giving treatment to a patient without reasonable evidence of success fails, in my view, to take care of the patient. Doctors in Australia have a code of conduct, as should all who practise in the medical field. Good medical practice is the code that describes what is expected of all doctors who are registered; it sets it out in that regard. We have the same code, and we have a code of conduct for suppliers and manufacturers to comply with safety standards. As such, why not have it apply to this space as well?

I think it is very important that we have this legislation. It is fairly non-controversial in its nature. It does make a few amendments to various sections of the act, which is incredibly important. It is also to give the consumer a better understanding of language that will be used; for example, consumer health services will now be called 'community service users' and those types of things to reflect the nature of the provision of the service that is being sought at times and of course ultimately provided.

The Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner has been consulted in regard to this proposal and is supportive of it. The national code was the subject of a national consultation and was overwhelmingly supported at the South Australian round of that consultation. The commissioner will be responsible for communicating with the community and with health and aged-care workers about the national code when it is included in regulations under the act.

As the South Australian community is already familiar with a similar code, it is unlikely to be controversial in nature. With those few words, I know that the consumers in my electorate of Waite will benefit from this code. I also think that it will be a great alignment between registered professional health providers and everyone else practising in this field.