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Wednesday, 19 September 2012
Page: 11171


Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (10:00): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am very pleased today to be introducing the Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012.

Amendments to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991

This bill seeks to make minor amendments to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 to correct typographical issues and obsolete references.

The amendments are minor and will improve the readability of the act. They do not change the intent of the act or alter any of the regulations.

Amendments to the Health Insurance Act 1973

Prior to 1 July 2011, only trainee surgeons—with the Royal Australian College of Surgeons—could conduct a procedure under the direct supervision of a specialist in a private setting and have that service attract a Medicare rebate for the supervising surgeon.

The procedure was considered to have been performed by the supervising surgeon who retained the right to any bulk-billed Medicare benefit in relation to the procedure. This arrangement meant that trainee surgeons had greater access to clinical training opportunities.

A change to the regulations on 1 July 2011 made it possible for trainees of other approved professional medical colleges—not just surgeons—to also provide certain procedures under the direct supervision of a specialist.

Trainees in orthopaedic surgery, ophthalmology, obstetrics and gynaecology, internal medicine and anaesthetics are among those who can now provide certain procedures in a private setting under direct supervision and have those procedures attract a Medicare rebate for the supervisor.

This further expands the country's training capacity for specialists with no additional cost to government.

The change has been a successful one, and is expected to continue to help alleviate some of the training capacity issues for trainee specialists which are being faced by health systems. The government considers that it is appropriate that the policy should be recognised at the level of primary legislation.

Amendments to the Human Services (Medicare) Act 1973

Under the National Health Reform Agreement, signed by the Commonwealth and all states and territories in August 2011, the Commonwealth committed to establishing new primary health care organisations, known as Medicare Locals, to drive improvements in Australia's primary health care system.

All 61 Medicare Locals are now established.

The amendments will enable Medicare Locals and other bodies seeking to use the term 'medicare' to apply for an authorisation to use the term without breaching the act.

Amendment of the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989

The Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989 (the ICNA Act) establishes a system of notification and assessment of industrial chemicals to protect health, safety and the environment, to provide for registration of certain persons proposing to introduce industrial chemicals, and to enable making of national standards for cosmetics. The Department of Health and Ageing, through the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme, administers the ICNA Act.

This proposed minor amendment corrects a description of how chemicals are transhipped. It allows industry to decide on what is the most efficient short-term storage option while maintaining health and safety. It does not place any restriction on competition and does not place any additional requirements on business.

Under the ICNA Act, certain new industrial chemicals that represent a low risk are exempt from the notification and assessment provisions, in keeping with the best practice principle that the regulatory impost to industry should be in accordance with the risk posed. One such exemption relates to chemicals kept under the control of Customs during transhipment, where those chemicals are exported within 30 days of import.

The current ICNA Act includes an inaccurate description of how chemicals are kept under the control of Customs during transhipment, and the amendment will correct this problem without affecting the intent of the exemption provision.

There is broad stakeholder support across industry and the community for the proposed amendment, which has been developed in response to industry concerns and in consultation with industry, government and the community.

Debate adjourned.