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Thursday, 22 September 1983
Page: 1182


Dr BLEWETT (Minister for Health)(4.48) —I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

There are six amendments in the schedule returned from the Senate. The first amendment is to clause 40. This is amended to reduce the period of 12 hours to eight hours for the purposes of defining a hospital day for the payment of private hospital bed day subsidies. The second and third amendments are to clauses 49 (1) (a) and (b). They are amended to allow the Minister to consult with the Australian Medical Association and such other organisations or associations as he considers appropriate in relation to medical practitioner membership of the Medicare Benefits Advisory Committee. The fourth amendment is to clause 73, as amended, to provide for directions by the Minister to the Health Insurance Commission to be tabled in both Houses of the Parliament and to be subject to disallowance. The fifth amendment is to clause 101 which is amended to provide that, where the Minister revokes an exemption under new section 73BAA, which deals with registered organisations not being able to carry on another business, or new section 73BAB, which deals with exemption from meeting the two month minimum reserve provision-the revocation shall be tabled and may be subject to disallowance. There is a sixth amendment which is simply consequential. This is an amendment to clause 107 and is consequential on the amendment to clause 101.

I want to say a few words in recommending to the Committee that these amendments be agreed to. As I indicated both publicly and in the second reading debate, the Government was perfectly prepared to accept any reasoned amendments produced either here or in the other place provided they in no way infringe on the fundamentals of the Medicare legislation. None of these amendments do so.

We are quite happy to accept the amendment to clause 40 which reduces the period of 12 hours to eight hours as the definition of a day for the purposes of payment of a subsidy to private hospitals. We wanted to move away from the customary present situation of four hours, which is clearly open to abuse. We believe that the period of eight hours will sufficiently meet the needs of the Government in preventing abuse. The Government is therefore perfectly happy to accept that amendment.

The second amendment relates to the Minister consulting with the Australian Medical Association and other such organisations in relation to medical practitioner membership of the Medicare Benefits Advisory Committee. As I indicated to the honourable members during the Committee debate at an earlier stage, the Government did not intent to exclude the AMA from consultation. It was simply concerned that the AMA be not the only organisation named and given that exclusive position. The amendment which has come back from the Senate is perhaps somewhat more polite than the Government's original proposal. But it certainly achieves the same objective-that is, it does not limit consultations simply to the AMA, but to other appropriate organisations when the Government gets advice in relation to medical practitioner membership of the Medicare Benefits Advisory Committee. The Government accepts this amendment.

The other two amendments are amendments which the Senate has moved in order to ensure that instructions to the Health Insurance Commission and revocations relating to registered private health insurance funds be tabled in both Houses of Parliament and subject to disallowance. It is my view that the effect of both of those amendments will prove contrary to what the move has intended. But the Government is perfectly happy to accept both of those amendments.