House debates

Wednesday, 28 March 2018


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Amendment Bill 2018; Second Reading

10:42 am

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

In particular, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (the institute) is recognised as a world leader in the production of data and statistics in health and welfare.

For 30 years, the institute has been at the forefront of supplying the evidence we need to inform national priorities. The institute has significant data holdings and publishes around 180 reports annually. These reports are used to help inform evidence based policy in the health, housing and welfare sectors.

In 2015, the Independent Review of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare(the independent review) made a number of recommendations to improve the way the institute operates. Most of the recommendations related to internal processes or administrative arrangements with its main partnering departments.

Consistent with the recommendations of the independent review, this bill proposes a skills based board appointed by the Minister for Health for terms of up to five years. This will provide the necessary strategic governance of the institute to ensure it grows its role across governments.

Members collectively will have skills or experience or significant standing in a range of fields including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and welfare, statistics, finance, business and law, as well as expertise in health, welfare and housing.

The board will comprise 12 members, including a chair, a deputy chair and the institute's chief executive officer.

I would note for the benefit of the House that both the current leader, Barry Sandison, and the current chair, Louise Markus, are doing, in my view and in the broad view of the government, an outstanding job, as are the other members of both the executive and the board.

The institute could not do its job without the strong cooperation of the states and territories. To ensure that this continues, up to three members of the board will be nominated by state health ministers. This will ensure that the board maintains its linkages to the key policy advisers of governments to keep the institute aligned with broader national policy.

The bill will also ensure that decisions on the terms of employment for members, including terminations, resignations and leave of absences, will be the responsibility of the Minister for Health. This is consistent with the change in responsibilities for appointments from the Governor-General to the Minister for Health.

Other amendments include changing the title of the head of the institute, changing responsibility for the appointment of the chief executive officer from the Minister for Health to the board, removing the need for contract limits to be approved by the minister, removing the requirement for the institute to seek agreement from the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the collection of health and welfare related information and statistics and providing transitional provisions to ensure that the chair and the institute's chief executive officer can continue in their positions for the balance of their current terms as well as specifying delegation powers under the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Act 1987.

The institute has rightfully earned its reputation across all levels of government as an independent leader in the provisions of health, housing and welfare information. This bill therefore seeks to make the necessary improvements in governance and administration to ensure that its reputation and, most importantly, its performance continue to grow. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.