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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 150

Senator CHAMARETTE (10.00 a.m.) —I was caught in mid-flow yesterday when we adjourned the Health Legislation (Powers of Investigation) Amendment Bill for another matter. I would like now to continue my remarks. I had already stated the Greens (WA) support of opposition amendments 3 and 4 and I had begun to recount our position in relation to the amendments and this legislation. The Greens do not support the principles underlying this legislation for reasons I will presently outline, which are also reasons for supporting these amendments. Nevertheless, we are voting on the amendments as a way of improving the bill from our point of view, as we understand it will be passed with majority support.

  Our concerns relate to the fact that this bill gives powers to the Health Insurance Corporation to investigate frauds arising under the Medicare scheme, and removes that responsibility for the investigations which currently lies with the Australian Federal Police. The rationale for this move is that the Australian Federal Police have not been interested in or, possibly, capable of investigating frauds in this area.

  A number of criticisms of the bill with potential for infringement of civil liberties have been either met or are covered by amendments proposed by the Australian Democrats, which is why the Greens are in support of all the amendments put up by the Democrats. However, there is also the question of whether police powers should be granted to persons outside the police. The danger with a number of organisations having police powers is that it is more difficult to ensure that adequate control is exercised over them. For this reason, we believe that the requirement to have a search warrant in order for the HIC to enter premises without permission of the occupier is a reasonable one. We therefore support the amendments.