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Monday, 9 May 1994
Page: 448

Senator HARRADINE (5.26 p.m.) This is the final comment I wish to make. I have sought some information from the minister. I am conscious of the problems that are faced by the HIC. I am concerned that the integrity of Medicare be maintained or improved as necessary. I am concerned that those who are perpetrating fraud against the system be prevented from doing so. If that cannot be done through the compliance mechanism, and if the current mechanisms are insufficient to bring them to justice, then obviously that needs to be put in the balance.

  But I am also very concerned about the function creep. I am not prepared to have that entrenched into legislation even though there is a sunset clause here. If there is a particular problem for which no answer has really been given, it may well be that there needs to be a limited extension of the power. I have not given the government, the opposition, the Democrats or the Greens any advice about this, but it occurred to me that one way of not having this as a precedent for other legislation is to have the commencement date of Senator Newman's amendment extended for six or 12 months. In effect, that would mean that the government would have to live with its own proposal at the present moment. Government amendment No. 15 would stand as it is, but Senator Newman's amendment would take effect within six or 12 months. That is the reason why I asked the Minister whether the HIC would be in a position to act to overcome the particular problems that it sees at the present moment. I do not think that the Senate ought to be prepared to allow government amendment No. 15 to stand as it is and to be pointed to by other legislatures or by other people as precedent.

  I do believe, on balance, having looked at what was provided to the committee on the last occasion, this measure does amount to function creep. Therefore, if Senator Newman's amendment is defeated, I foreshadow that I will move an amendment, which is currently being drafted, in the following terms:

Government Amendment No. 15, at the end of proposed subsection 8S(1) add the following subsection:

"(1A) If, within the period of 12 months after the commencement of this Act, there is to be an entry under subsection (1) to which the occupier has not consented, an authorised officer must not enter the premises without a search warrant.".

I am sorry that this proposed amendment has just lobbed in the chamber, but it is a simple matter and I would like to hear from the minister about it.