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Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Page: 65


Ms ROXON (1:52 PM) —I need to indicate the Labor Party’s concerns about the late notice that we have had for these amendments. As I said in speaking on the bill as a whole, there were two sets of major reforms passed by this House only months ago; we are here again debating changes to them and, in addition to that, last night we received these further amendments, which relate to conflicts of interest for the council members of PHIAC.

I cannot indicate that we are enthusiastic supporters or strident opposers of these further amendments, because, frankly, they have not been properly considered; we have not had any opportunity to talk with stakeholders about them. Contrary to what the member for O’Connor said earlier—that this was just a simple matter; it was the sort of way that conflicts of interest had been dealt with since time immemorial—this is a change which is completely contrary to the sorts of approaches that have been taken in the past.

It sounds to me, from the minister’s opening comments, that these are sensible changes. We clearly do not want to be in a position where six members of the council cannot deal with certain regulatory matters simply because they are policyholders. I do think that it would be appropriate for there to be some consideration from others as to whether this is the appropriate way to deal with these changes. I am concerned that the council members themselves will determine whether or not there is a sufficient conflict of interest to require them to disqualify themselves.

We are left in a position where we have to trust that the government has properly considered the importance of maintaining the highest standards of independent decision making. I flag that we will pursue this matter in the other place if need be. It seems, from the government’s own description of what is intended by these amendments, that they are sensible ones. We will take advice and a little extra time to assess whether or not Labor supports these changes.

I encourage the minister, if he is interested in legislation passing smoothly through this House, to provide the opposition with appropriate notice and appropriate briefings. We had his staff and departmental officials in the office first thing this morning, briefing us on another piece of legislation which has urgently been required to be rushed through the House. It might have been sensible to flag, at that time, that these amendments were there and to provide a briefing to the opposition. These are just basic courtesies as to the way parliament should work. We are anxious that the minister still continue with those, although his mind is clearly focused on electioneering rather than the detail of health legislation. It would make the processes of getting bills through this House much simpler if he would comply with those basic courtesies.