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Wednesday, 25 March 1998
Page: 1612


Ms WORTH (10:28 AM) —in reply—Before thanking my colleagues for taking part in this debate and before summing up the Health Legislation Amendment Bill 1997 , I will table the supplementary explanatory memorandum and also the corrigendum to the explanatory memorandum. The bill is about good government, and the fact we are debating this legislation in the Main Committee of course is a clear signal that the opposition are supporting this legislation. I thank them for their cooperation in this matter, because there are a number of important aspects to it.

The bill is about good government. It is about regulating effectively, not regulating where there is no need to do so, and ensuring that government has a sensible, flexible approach to governing. The bill contains provisions allowing for the electronic claiming of Medicare benefits and enabling an institution to more easily use pharmaceutical stock at hand to allow for sensible customer service. The bill contains provisions to correct anomalies in the current secrecy provisions, to extend Medicare coverage to offshore domestic flights and to correct silly bureaucratic rulings that have disadvantaged government customers in the past.

The bill contains provisions allowing for consumer protection, providing a penalty for charging public patients for provision of public hospital services in prescribed circumstances, and adding a consumer representative on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee—which I think is a good thing. But, of course, that committee must remain independent from government in all the decisions that it makes.

We have heard comments here this morning about the issue about Neocate. In defence of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, they made a decision based on the information that was provided to them by the manufacturer of that product. However, I am pleased to say that the government was able to very quickly rectify that situation and I am pleased to have taken a hand in that. I would not want to see any child disadvantaged from a decision made by such a committee.

This bill works to assist research through authorising the release of de-identified immunisation data for research purposes. That is very important. Research is always important if we are to look at good health outcomes in the future. All in all, this bill, while minor in nature, contains important reforms to make government more sensible and responsive, and better protect patients. I commend this bill to the House, but before I sit down I would like to speak briefly about the foreshadowed amendments.

The amendments the government is moving to the bill continue the theme of sensible government. We are removing one provision from the original bill and adding two new provisions. By removing item 23 from the original bill, a provision allowing the Health Insurance Commission to reclaim payments, we are protecting the clients of the commission. It was thought that item 23 would not achieve the desired result.

The first new provision allows for the minister to appoint members to the specialist recognition committees in the absence of the required number of nominations from the groups specified in the act. The second allows for all medical practitioners to provide assistance at operations that attract a Medicare benefit. This will allow newly graduating doctors the ability to assist a principal surgeon and attract a benefit for that service. I know from practical experience that that doctor will gain very valuable experience in doing so.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.