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Thursday, 3 March 2011
Page: 2191

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (9:02 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

As you will recall, the purpose of the Midwife Professional Indemnity (Commonwealth Contribution) Scheme Act 2010 and the associated Midwife Professional Indemnity (Run-off Cover Support Payment) Act 2010 was to support the new MBS and PBS arrangements by enabling the establishment of a government supported professional indemnity scheme for eligible midwives from 1 July last year. Those acts removed a longstanding barrier for appropriately qualified and experienced midwives who wish to provide high-quality midwifery services to Australian women as part of a collaborative team with doctors and other health professionals.

The Midwife Professional Indemnity (Commonwealth Contribution) Scheme Act 2010 currently excludes ‘employed’ midwives from accessing a Commonwealth contribution and a run-off cover Commonwealth contribution to ensure there is no intentional cost shifting from employers of midwives to the Commonwealth.

The bill tidies up the act by placing the rule-making powers in a more appropriate section and thus ensures that eligible ‘self-employed’ midwives are not excluded from access to a Commonwealth contribution for claims that are made while they are in the workforce and also any claims that are made after they retire. By doing this, the act will continue to exclude other ‘employed’ midwives (such as those employed by private hospitals) to prevent cost shifting to the Commonwealth by employers.

The changes to the act proposed by this bill will also allow a specific rule-making power to appropriately address any new and innovative midwife self-employment models that may arise in the future. This will ensure that the bill will be able to accurately describe midwives and their employment arrangements that are within the scope of the government’s maternity reform policy.

This bill also corrects a typographical error in the Midwife Professional Indemnity (Run-off Cover Support Payment) Bill 2010 that would, if left unchanged, impose a higher than intended tax on insurers of eligible midwives.

This bill is essentially a technical fix for two minor elements the act.

The bill is an important component of the government’s maternity reform package. The package aims to improve the choices that are available to women in relation to maternity care. The total cost over four years of the professional indemnity for midwives component of the package is $25.2 million. I commend these small changes to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Billson) adjourned.