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Monday, 24 March 2003
Page: 13370


Mr STEPHEN SMITH (7:43 PM) —As I indicated during the course of the second reading debate, these amendments reflect the statement made by the Prime Minister on, from memory, Wednesday of last week, where he indicated a range of technical and other amendments to the legislation. I said that, sight unseen, we supported the thrust. The amendments and the supplementary agenda were circulated when I was on my feet. I confess I have not had the opportunity of going through them but, on the assumption that they are technically correct, we will of course support them in the other place. I assume they are correct, but we will obviously do that checking.

In the course of my remarks in the second reading debate, I also indicated that, in terms of the representations that have been made to us by the affected medical defence organisations, run-off cover was one contentious issue and blue sky was another contentious issue. So far as the small medical defence organisations are concerned—for example, the Tasmanian defence organisation—worries about the change to the insurance contract nature were another contentious issue. I also indicated, on the basis of discussions I had had with Minister Coonan, that the government seemed to be saying that they were happy to countenance some form of review of blue sky and run-off cover. That gave some comfort to the professional groups, including the AMA and the small medical defence organisations.

I urge the government to listen more acutely to what the small defence organisations are saying in respect of what they regard as the adverse work force implications that will come from the change to the insurance arrangement. As I said, we support that change, in principle, and understand the strength of the government's argument that you do not want to move down a road which leaves that open to the smaller defence organisations—they may see themselves ending up in a comparable position to UMP, which in some respects was the start of all of this. I think there is a bit of water to go under the bridge before we come to a final conclusion in the other place in the course of this week. But, so far as these particular committee stage amendments are concerned, on the basis of the Prime Minister's statement last week and the parliamentary secretary's comments, in principle we support them. We will just do the detailed checking to make sure.

Question agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.