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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6196

Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for Health) (16:42): Mr Deputy Speaker Irons, let me begin by thanking you for your passionate advocacy for the Curtin Medical School in Western Australia. Without you and others, this would not have happened, so you've played a very important part in ensuring additional resources for additional doctors and additional nurses in rural and regional Western Australia, and hopefully they will also practise elsewhere in Australia.

This bill amends the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Act 1987. The bill will modernise governance arrangements at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the institute, by implementing a board which collectively possesses skills or experience or significant standing in a range of different fields. Prescriptive eligibility requirements will be removed, as will ex officio positions and other representative positions. The changes will ensure that the board has the necessary expertise to focus on the key strategic issues and challenges faced by the institute in an increasingly contestable market for its services. The bill will recognise jurisdictional interests, with up to three members of the board to be nominated by state health ministers. This is critical to ensure the ongoing production of high-quality and relevant data and statistics. The bill will ensure that vacancies are filled in a timely manner, with the Minister for Health rather than the Governor-General being responsible for appointments to the board. Furthermore, the measures will bring greater stability to the board through membership terms of up to five years.

The bill also makes other amendments designed to improve the operations of the institute, including changing the title of the director to 'chief executive officer'; assigning the board responsibility for appointing the chief executive officer; and removing the need for ministerial approval of contract limits. The bill modifies the institute's functions in relation to data collection activities, with the institute to consult with rather than seek agreement from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on the collection of health and welfare related information and statistics. The bill also includes transitional arrangements to ensure that the chair and the CEO can continue in their positions for the balance of their current terms, along with clarification on delegation of powers. I particularly want to congratulate both the current director, Barry Sandison, and the current chair, Louise Markus, for the AIHW's Australia's health 2018, a comprehensive review that was released last week. It highlighted many of the strengths and many of the challenges in Australia.

I note the member for Makin's comments about the need for stronger support for rural and regional Australia, which underpinned perhaps one of the most significant budget measures—the $550 million stronger regional outcomes package, which will deliver 3,000 new nurses and 3,000 new doctors to rural and regional Australia. But I do agree that the results in Indigenous Australia are simply not acceptable. Neither side in this place will rest, or even consider resting, until we achieve parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.

In that context, I particularly want to thank the opposition for the bipartisan way in which they have approached this bill. Ultimately, through this bill the board will be better equipped to focus on the strategic issues and challenges faced by the institute. The bill will also reduce the administrative burden associated with the appointment of new members to the board, resulting in greater stability and the timely filling of vacancies.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is a national resource. It is staffed by the most extraordinary group of men and women, who give frank and fearless advice. They provide data that helps us to understand and to improve our health system. I thank them and congratulate them. I thank all of the members in this House for their contributions to debate on this bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Irons ): The question is that the amendment moved by the member for Makin be agreed to.

Question negatived.

Original question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.