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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 154


Senator CHAMARETTE (10.20 a.m.) —I want to challenge the minister's current explanation and say that I am not persuaded by those arguments. The compliance inspection analogy the minister makes sounds very plausible; however, there is a big difference. In this case that inspection can lead to very serious criminal charges. The minister stressed that that is the importance of conferring those powers. So it is very different from compliance inspection models.

  Secondly, I understand that there is no community support for police powers being extended to not require a search warrant when an inspection or a search is being made that may lead to criminal charges. What we are discussing here is giving powers that the police do not have to agencies that have not been trained to respect the rights of the individuals upon whom they may be intruding. Even in the case of police who are trained to respect those rights, we know that there are concerns about the way those powers are exercised. The principle here is very different from compliance inspection. In this case, powers that the police do not have are being extended to non-policing agencies.

  The concerns the minister addresses are real, but there are other alternatives. I believe that we ought not to give powers inappropriately to health insurance commissions; instead, we should work on the professional associations. The minister says that these associations support the principle underlying this particular legislation. They should be encouraged to promote within their professions voluntary permission for compliance inspections. In that way we can use peer pressure and the professional associations themselves can assist the health insurance commissions to prevent medifraud. I believe that that would be a much more constructive way to go. The Greens certainly do not support this legislation, in any case, because of that extension of powers, but we feel that this amendment is worthy of support because it at least counteracts one very damaging aspect of it.