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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2838

Senator LEWIS —At the request of Senator Cooney and on his behalf, I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, Senator Cooney will withdraw Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in his name for the next day of sitting and relating to disallowance of the Optometrists (Amendment) Ordinance 1986 as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 51 of 1986. I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave granted.

Senator LEWIS —The Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances has been corresponding with the Minister for Territories (Mr Scholes) about this Ordinance and the Minister has agreed to make certain changes to protect the rights of optometrists. The Committee thanks the Minister for the advice and assistance he has given it. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a short summary of the Committee's scrutiny and I seek leave to table the Committee's correspondence for the information of honourable senators and others.

Leave granted.

The summary read as follows-

The Committee wrote to the Minister for Territories asking that he make amendments to the above Ordinance to protect the rights of optometrists. For example, the Optometrists Board can reprimand an optometrist who would then have no right of appeal against that decision if he or she thought it unfair or unjustified. If the person's professional status had been cancelled or suspended there would have been a right of appeal. Consistency and justice suggested that reprimands should also be appellable and the Minister has agreed to this.

Under the Ordinance where the Board disciplined an optometrist, details of the reasons could be published in the Commonwealth Gazette after an A.A.T. hearing, although the individual may have lodged an appeal to the Federal Court on a point of law. The Minister has explained, and the Committee has accepted, that when the merits of the case have been before the A.A.T. (whose proceedings are public) there is no justification for further delaying publication of the Board's reasons for disciplinary action.

The Committee was worried by the definition of ``unprofessional conduct'' because of the vagueness of the drafting and because it allowed an optometrist to be disciplined for merely associating, wittingly or unwittingly, with an employing optometrist who was advertising in breach of the regulations. The Minister has requested the Attorney-General's Department to draft an amendment to the Ordinance to remove both the vagueness and the possibility of guilt by association.