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Wednesday, 11 October 2006
Page: 193

Mr FARMER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, Science and Training) (10:42 AM) —In summing up the second reading debate on the Medical Indemnity Legislation Amendment Bill 2005 I first of all thank the member for Riverina for her very good contribution to the speeches made about this bill here today. She pointed out a very important point, and that is that we can only amend things for the future and make a good system even better through good fiscal policy—and that has been achieved by the Howard government placing itself in a position where it can support the doctors and support changes to this bill as far as indemnity is concerned.

I would also like to thank the members opposite for speaking on this bill. I note that there is no opposition to this bill and that there has been total support. It is sensible that this is so because it is a bill that will make a difference to a lot of people’s lives—in particular the patients and the doctors who are involved.

The bill is intended to increase the level of certainty around the provision of run-off cover for doctors who have left the medical workforce, and to simplify the administration of the scheme, following concerns raised by the medical indemnity insurers and medical practitioners. The principal change concerns doctors who, for various reasons, may have left gaps in their medical indemnity cover during their careers.

The legislation before us here today will make the system simpler to administer for the medical indemnity insurers and eliminate any uncertainty for doctors about their eligibility for ROCS—the Run-off Cover Scheme—which may arise out of the limitations of historical records of indemnity cover. This shows that the government is continually monitoring and updating the medical system to improve outcomes for all Australians. This legislation further refines the government’s medical indemnity package, which demonstrates the government’s continued commitment to the viability of the medical indemnity insurance for doctors and patients. The government has continued to work closely with doctors and insurers to insure the ongoing effectiveness of medical indemnity schemes.

These changes enable the Run-off Cover Scheme to provide cover for doctors equivalent to that provided under the last policy a doctor had before becoming eligible. This provides more certainty for doctors than the previous requirement that they have cover at the time of the incident, and simplifies the administration of the scheme by aligning it with the current industry practice.

These refinements will help insurers to work more effectively with the government in implementing the medical indemnity reforms. This is good news for doctors and certainly good news for their patients, and it is a great example of how the Howard government’s commitment is making a good medical system even better.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.