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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 4298

Senator HUMPHRIES (11:43 AM) —On behalf of Senator Brandis, I am very pleased to indicate the opposition will support this legislation, the Crimes Amendment (Royal Flying Doctor Service) Bill 2010. The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia is one of the largest and most comprehensive aeromedical organisations in the world. The Royal Flying Doctor Service delivers primary care and 24-hour emergency services throughout all of Australia. A fleet of 53 aircraft, with 21 bases across the country, provides assistance to over 270,000 people every year—one every two minutes. The purpose of this legislation is to affect the way in which the contents of medical chests that are used by the service are replenished, particularly the conveying of prescription drugs through devices such as Australia Post.

At the present time, only authorised registered custodians are permitted to manage medical chests and are encouraged to have a senior first aid certificate. The Royal Flying Doctor Service receives Commonwealth funding to replenish chest items free of charge to remote locations where there is a duty of care to the public, such as outback schools, stations, nursing posts, Indigenous communities and roadhouses. The Royal Flying Doctor Service is responsible for 3,000 medical chests around Australia, and they were replenished up until the beginning of this year through delivery by Australia Post.

The bill makes an urgent amendment to ensure that emergency medicines may be made available to treat serious illness or injury throughout Australia in remote areas. It will amend section 85W of the Crimes Act 1914 to insert an exception to the offence of ‘causing narcotic substances to be carried by post’ for Australia Post and the Royal Flying Doctor Service and their officers, employees, agents and contractors. It ensures that those organisations may arrange for the carriage of medicine by Australia Post for the purpose of enabling the service to administer its medical chests program. The amendment will enable prescribed persons and bodies to arrange for the provision of vital medicines to remote Australian communities utilising the delivery services of Australia Post in certain circumstances and it will be very important in ensuring that the vital work of the Royal Flying Doctor Service continues and that access to appropriate medicines continues. I commend this bill to the Senate.