Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 21 October 2010



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 21 October 2010

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Parliamentary Record 15


Debates for 11th Assembly 2008 - 2012; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 11th Assembly 2008 - 2012




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 21 October 2010 Let me reiterate: in April 2009, the Ombudsman of the Northern Territory criticised the Northern Territory Health department for implementing a policy which supported the unlawful arrest and detention of Territorians suffering from mental health problems. It is in the report. Last night, Eddie Cubillo, head of the Community Visitor Program, identified the department continued to use policies which involve the unlawful arrest and detention of Territory citizens. Unlawful detention of individuals leaves the Territory taxpayer exposed to potentially huge compensation claims. Today, the question was put to the Attorney-General - the Chief Minister was acting in the AttorneyGenerals place - what steps will be taken to ensure Northern Territory Health department policies are brought into line with the law. Clearly, they are not in line with the law. Section 30 was highlighted by the member for Port Darwin. Section 30 of the act says: Detention by medical practitioner or nurse (1) A medical practitioner or the senior registered nurse on duty at an approved treatment facility may detain a person admitted as a voluntary patient for up to 6 hours if he or she believes, due to the condition of the person deteriorating since his or her admission or from information obtained, that the person may fulfil the criteria for admission as an involuntary patient. It is there in black and white, minister - a person may be detained for up to six hours if there is concern about that persons welfare. However, Eddie Cubillo says in the report he has some serious concerns about it. With regard to risk management in Cowdy Ward, he says on page 16: Essentially the policy is that all consumers are not permitted leave in the first 24 hours after admission, despite the requirement that a person admitted voluntarily must be informed of the right to leave the facility at any time. That is in stark contradiction to the law of the Northern Territory. The opposition, minister, is seeking clarification - answer some questions. Are you able to table the legal advice you have regarding what charges health practitioners to detain people for up to 24 hours as opposed to the act, which says six hours? If the legal advice is there is some implied power, will you table that advice or provide me and the shadow Attorney-General with a briefing? Is that something you would do, minister, in the interests of this debate? We appreciate the lengths the minister has gone to explaining the process; however, he has not answered the question. Unfortunately, it is a hallmark of this government to avoid it. It can only feed into the culture of cover-up. Why will the minister not answer the questions put very succinctly to him in Question Time today and in this MPI? This is not an hysterical MPI, it is not an inflammatory debate. It is a debate addressing serious concerns around the deprivation of liberty and serious potential compensation claims which could result from a breach of the law as highlighted in section 30. Up to six hours! The policy highlighted by Eddie Cubillo in the report tabled last night suggests all consumers are not permitted to leave within the first 24 hours. It gives examples - I know, minister, you have a copy, we all do. Jock was admitted to the ward voluntarily. He told the community visitor he wanted to sit in the garden out the front to avoid the cigarette smoke. Despite his voluntary status, Jock was not permitted to leave the ward without an escort. Numerous examples are highlighted by the author of this report, and it is our role in opposition to hold the government to account, ask what is happening with the policy - does the policy clash with the law? It would appear it does, and the opposition is not satisfied the minister has offered an explanation to dispel that dissatisfaction. We will be seeking a briefing on this. We will ask the department where to from here, and would like to see legal advice if it exists. If the minister has legal advice, it could go a long way to satisfying the opposition. However, at this stage we remain unsatisfied and seek a briefing immediately. Discussion concluded. ADJOURNMENT Mr HAMPTON (Natural Resources, Environment and Heritage): Madam Deputy Speaker, I move that the Assembly do now adjourn. Mr WOOD (Nelson): Madam Deputy Speaker, I make my adjournment tonight on a sad note by acknowledging the passing of my part-time electorate officer, Mrs Dawn Hunt. Kim, Michelle and I pass on our sincere condolences to Dawns husband, Neville, and sons, Sinclair and Bradley. Unfortunately, Dawn lost her battle with cancer on Sunday, 17 October, in the Darwin Hospice after being well looked after by the people in palliative care. 6541