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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 179


Senator MASON (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing) (6:36 PM) —I thank Senator McLucas for her thoughtful contribution. The government does not accept this amendment, and let me explain why. In its report on the bill, the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs made five recommendations, as Senator McLucas alluded to. The Australian government has accepted all of these recommendations and amended the bill accordingly. The fourth recommendation made by the committee was that the new arrangements be reviewed after 18 months in order to assess the implications for aged-care providers and to ensure that stated benefits are in fact achieved.

Although the recommendation is accepted, the Australian government does not feel it is necessary to amend the bill—the putative legislation—to incorporate a requirement in legislation for a one-time review, as it unnecessarily binds the relevant future minister in a way that may limit the timing and scope of the review. Importantly, the government does commit to reviewing the new arrangements 18 months after the act takes effect but does not intend to limit the scope or effectiveness of the review by imposing statutory time limits.

Specifically, paragraph 4 of the amendment moved by Senator McLucas imposes a six-month time limit on the person or persons who conduct the review. The government believes that it is not possible, prior to commencement of the new funding arrangements, to predict with any degree of certainty the scope and complexity of the review to be conducted. The imposition of a time limit may therefore place the reviewer in the difficult position of either failing to meet a legislated time frame or of performing an inadequate review of this important change in order to meet that time frame.

Additionally, the proposed amendment would require that the review commence two years after the act is granted royal assent. The bill commences on a date to be proclaimed, which is likely to be 20 March 2008 or a date 12 months after royal assent. It would be possible for royal assent to be granted in July this year and the provisions in the bill to take effect as late as July 2008. The proposed amendment therefore could require the review to commence as little as 12 months after the new arrangements commence. Instead, the Australian government is committed to reviewing the new arrangements 18 months after the act takes effect, when some mature consideration can be given, but it does not limit the scope or the effectiveness of the review by imposing statutory time limits in the legislation.