Posted on 30. Apr, 2012 in Clayton Update, Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I am pleased to speak on the Health Professions Registration (Repeal) Bill 2012. This bill completes the transfer of the registration of various health professions from a state‑based system to one national system. Over the last few years I have spoken on a number of bills about health registration, and I welcome the opportunity to again contribute to this important area. I have spoken on several occasions about the registration of practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, and it is fitting that the transfer of the registration of health professions is concluded with the transfer of the registration of Chinese medicine practitioners.

This bill is not a new initiative of the Baillieu government. There are not many initiatives to speak of in relation to this government. Rather the bill finalises the transfer of the registration of health professions and completes important work undertaken by the previous Labor government. In the lead‑up to the transfer the previous Labor government ensured that Victoria had the strongest and most modern health registration system of all states.

We commenced the process by introducing the Health Professions Registration Act 2005, which brought 12 health professions under uniform legislation. Amending bills in 2007 and 2008 took into account the discussion of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on a national scheme. Pending the introduction of this scheme, these bills ensured that Victoria had modern and up‑to‑date legislation, including strong and effective disciplinary provisions. The former Labor government introduced in 2009 the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Victoria) Bill 2009 for the purpose of implementing the 2008 COAG agreement to bring the registration of health practitioners into a national scheme by 1 July 2010.

We know two health professions, however, did not transfer at the commencement of the introduction of national registration in 2010 — namely Chinese medicine and medical radiation practice. In the case of Chinese medicine, Victoria was the first state to register Chinese medicine practitioners. I was heavily involved when the bill was introduced in this Parliament. We take pride in the fact that Victoria is the only jurisdiction outside of mainland China and Hong Kong to introduce relevant registration. The introduction of that bill was an incredible achievement at the time.

This was a result of not just lobbying from a whole range of Chinese traditional medicine practitioners — I am not going to name many of them — but also the growing Chinese population of Victoria. According to the latest census figures of last year the Chinese population is something like 300 000. The range of practitioners in Melbourne and Victoria are catering for this growing need not just within the Chinese community but within other communities as well who have incredibly benefited from Chinese medicine. I have seen firsthand and with my own eyes how many ailments cannot be cured by traditional Western medicine and have been effectively cured by Chinese traditional medicine. I have seen grateful patients who felt their lives were saved by traditional Chinese medicine. It is with a sense of pride that I take part in this debate knowing that Chinese medicine has contributed significantly to the health and welfare of many people in this state.

The passage of this bill, which will transfer the registration of Chinese medicine practitioners to a national uniform level, has not been as smooth as we expected. I hope the minister, when making remarks at the conclusion of this debate on the bill, will pay attention to these concerns. We in Victoria have had relevant registration going back 15 years — to 1996 — yet now, because of the introduction of the national uniform registration scheme, there have been some new professional requirements and a querying of the capability of some professionals to deliver their services. Some of these issues are to do with their language and ability to speak English. That has created some angst, concern and unhappiness amongst the ranks of these professionals, because for 15 years they have been recognised, registered and allowed to practise and there has not been any incident because the registration requirements are so strict. The requirements enabling them to practise in Victoria have been most rigourous. To now suggest that they should be put through the ringer and have to pass certain tests is a mockery and insults their profession. There are a whole range of other concerns that Chinese medicine practitioners have brought to my attention. I hope the minister will take that into consideration.

Having said all that, it is appropriate to mention that it is important that in the 21st century Australia have one national system for the registration of health professionals. Health professionals should be able to practise unencumbered across state borders. Most important of all, Australians, wherever they live, are entitled to be confident they are obtaining the services of well‑qualified, competent and properly regulated health practitioners. The previous government is to be commended for its work which led to the bill now before the house.

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