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Monday, 9 May 1994
Page: 450

Senator CHAMARETTE (5.38 p.m.) —I want to speak to the principle of what Senator Harradine is raising, which essentially stands as a 12-month trial period of the particular amendment to see whether the HIC can handle the powers that are going to be granted by this legislation if Senator Newman's amendment is defeated. I want to raise the Greens' position, which is similar to that mentioned previously by Senator Lees. The provision of a trial period to give powers that are not presently police powers—that is, the right to enter premises without a search warrant—and expecting that to come into play immediately, without necessarily being able to guarantee the training and the proper carrying out of those powers, is not likely to be a very good trial in any case.

  I want to reiterate the Greens' concern that, in principle, we do not see this as a positive way to go. To foreshadow our position, we will still be supporting the amendment put forward by Senator Newman. As I understand Senator Harradine's proposed amendment, we are less happy to have the trial period of giving those powers. I think that, too, sets a precedent.

  I wish to clarify a remark that I made regarding an alternative to giving these powers to the Health Insurance Commission. I mentioned the role of professional associations and peer pressure to ensure compliance of particular practitioners to the inspections. The minister implied that I was indicating some kind of reward, punishment or good or bad feeling on behalf of the rest of the profession. I meant something far more practical than that. If there is a genuine concern that medi-fraud cannot be dealt with effectively without some kind of compliance inspection, I see it is a much more positive and preventive role that professional associations should be willing to ask of their members as part of their professional standing as pathologists or whatever, that they voluntarily agree to compliance inspection to prove their credibility within the profession. Essentially it is the profession also that loses out greatly when one of its members betrays the professional ethic and gets involved in extensive medi-fraud.

  In not supporting the government's approach to this matter and in voting for Senator Newman's amendment, I see greater pressure being brought to bear at a more preventive and proactive level by the professional organisations rather than through superior power being granted to the Health Insurance Commission.