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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 157

Senator HARRADINE (10.40 a.m.) —I preface my next question to the Minister by saying that I acknowledge the need to strike a balance between ensuring the integrity of Commonwealth expenditure of taxpayers' money and the rights of those persons being investigated who on reasonable grounds are thought to be engaged in Medicare fraud. Certainly a balance has to be reached in all of these areas. I suppose in white-collar crime there is a difference. It is a difficult balance to strike in white-collar crime; nevertheless, it has to be struck because of the difficulties of unearthing the evidence. It seems to me, at all events, that this is weighing the balance down a little too much at present. Unless I can be convinced otherwise, I think it is going a little further than before.

Senator Lees —What was done before was not working.

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Lees says that what was done before was not working, and I acknowledge that. We have to try something else, and that is what we are trying to do here and what Senator Newman and others have been considering in the standing committee.

  When I refer to what has been tried before, I am not referring solely to the Medicare fraud business. I am talking about those areas designated by the minister and to which she referred when she talked about such legislation as the Nursing Homes Assistance Act, the Ozone Protection Act, the civil aviation regulations, the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Act, the ACT Weights and Measures Ordinance, the New South Wales Medical Practice Act, the National Health Act and the Nursing Homes Assistance Act. The Medical Practice Act refers to investigating complaints; the National Health Act and the Nursing Homes Assistance Act refer to the verification of accounting records, and the others cover the ascertaining of compliance.

  Presumably in those circumstances the authorised officer has the right to enter, to inspect records and to search. Can the Minister tell me under how many of those provisions notice is required? Under this provision there is no notice required. How many of those provisions require notice to be given by the relevant authority?