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Wednesday, 10 September 2003
Page: 19785


Ms WORTH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing) (10:35 AM) —in reply—I thank the opposition for their support for this legislation, but I am compelled to point out that the Health Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2003 has nothing to do with Centrelink, electorate surveys or private health insurance. If I were to stand here and talk about the letters that come into my electorate office or even the results of my own surveys, I would be telling all those who would sit and listen to me—as I listened without interjecting to such a long story which was not in any way related to the bill—that private health insurance is very valued by the community.

My constituents and many others across Australia—it is a pity the member who made all these claims is walking out the door and will not hear what I am telling him—are very scared indeed that, should Labor come to power, they will do away with the 30 per cent rebate to make private health insurance more affordable. I should also add that a recent independent survey and research paper shows that between the years 2001 and 2002 there was over $4 billion worth of services carried out in private hospitals that might otherwise have been carried out in public hospitals, and that is a very important thing indeed.

This government is very strongly committed to Medicare; let me place that clearly on the record. We are also strongly committed to keeping the 30 per cent rebate for private health insurance, because we know that the public wants to have a strong private sector working closely with a strong public sector, and that is what is best for the Australian people. An extra $917 million is being made available for fairer access to Medicare and to make bulk-billing accessible to some people in Australia who have never ever had it before. That is hardly being opposed to Medicare, and those opposite should take these points on board.

Returning to what this bill is about, it eliminates any doubt as to the amount of compensation being fixed at the time of the judgment, settlement or at a later time, where it can be ascertained after the date of judgment or settlement. The bill is not retrospective and does not affect judgments or settlements that have already been finalised. This bill ensures that payment of moneys rightfully owed to the Commonwealth is fully enforceable, thereby ending the ability to double-dip by claiming Medicare while also retaining the compensation part of the settlement for the same medical or residential care expenses.

This amendment bill to the Health Insurance Act 1973 expands the scope of the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register to include previous foreign immunisations. This means that the register will contain a complete immunisation record for more children and that national immunisation coverage rates will be able to be reported more accurately. It is an important bill and I commend it to the parliament.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.

Main Committee adjourned at 10.39 a.m.