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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 78


Senator NEWMAN (6.45 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

3.Proposed paragraph 8S(1)(a), omit "enter", substitute "with the consent of the occupier, enter".

4.At the end of proposed subsection 8S(1) add the following subsection:

"(1A) If the occupier does not consent to entry under subsection (1), an authorised officer must not enter the premises without a search warrant.".

Amendment No. 3 makes it clear that the Health Insurance Commission must first try to seek the consent of the occupier before entering the premises, under proposed new section 8S. Proposed new section 8S(1) and the government amendment No. 16 together only mean that the HIC must decide whether it is reasonably necessary to obtain consent; and we are not satisfied with that measure.

  Turning to my amendment No. 4, it follows that, if consent is not obtained to access desired information and the HIC still wishes to search the premises, this amendment means a search warrant must be obtained. That, of course, I believe, is critically important. We are concerned here with fraud against the revenue, but we also have to be concerned about people's civil rights.

  A search warrant is entirely appropriate in these circumstances. The government's own amendments to section 8S make it clear that HIC officers may enter premises if they have reasonable grounds for believing that an offence has been or is being committed—an offence. That means that we are talking about criminal law. If it is believed that an offence has been or is being committed, then surely a search warrant is the appropriate method of proceeding.