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Thursday, 18 June 2009
Page: 3714

Senator BOYCE (1:56 PM) —The coalition takes the view on the Health Workforce Australia Bill 2009 that we have been assured by the minister, by the department and by all governmental witnesses that there is no intention whatsoever for the developing Health Workforce Australia to take over the accreditation roles of the various health professional and medical organisations in Australia. In our view, if that is the case then there is no reason why this cannot be spelt out very clearly in the bill. Our greatest concern is that, given the size of this organisation and given that the majority of its representatives will come from federal and state health departments, there is a strong likelihood that over time this organisation will not only want to look at the training and education that is necessary for health professionals but also start having views about what that actually should look like—what sort of training it would be and what sort of accreditation it would finally have. There will be a strong push for this organisation to start to set all the rules, to decide how long a course should be and to decide what constitutes a reasonable level of skills in profession after profession. The AMA, all of the universities, the deans of the medical colleges and numerous other groups have given us evidence about their very strong concerns about the centralising tendency that this legislation could ultimately lead to.

In our view, this is the most flawed aspect of this bill. We certainly need some national health workforce planing; the states have not proved capable of doing that. But to give over to those same states the power to decide what constitutes a reasonable level of education and training before people can practise as doctors, surgeons, nurses and many other health professionals is in our view a very poor way of attempting to cope with the very serious workforce issues in this area. I believe that we need the assurance of this amendment to go into the legislation so that we can confidently say to our health professionals that the current very high and respected standard of Australia’s health workforce will be maintained and will not be overrun by state health departments and state public hospitals seeking to cut corners and save money. This tendency is quite possible and certainly must be resisted.

Debate interrupted.