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Thursday, 25 August 1994
Page: 334


Senator FAULKNER (Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories) (10.45 a.m.) —I move:

  That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard

  Leave granted.

  The speeches read as follows—

HUMAN SERVICES AND HEALTH LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1994

This bill makes amendments to a number of acts within the Human Services and Health Portfolio. The amendments are largely of a minor procedural nature and are aimed at rectifying a number of drafting anomalies which have arisen.

This bill makes several minor procedural amendments to the Health Insurance Act 1973 and the Health Legislation Amendment Act 1986.

The pathology amendments are largely of a minor procedural nature and correct anomalies to clarify the supervision definition for the rendering of pathology services, restate the original intention of the pathology licensed collection centre scheme and remove the redundant references to temporary pathology collection centres since these licences ceased to exist on 1 February 1994.

The amendments to the definitions of `general medical services table' and `pathology services table' under subsection 3(1), the amendments of sections 4 and 4A and the repealing of Schedules 1 and 1A of the Health Insurance Act 1973 are to avoid the need to reprint the lengthy Schedules in reprints of the act. The Schedules repeat the content of the general medical services table and the pathology services table which are made or amended, and published, regularly, in the form of regulations under the act.

The current wording of the act requires that reprints of the legislation must contain some 150 to 200 pages of Schedules which are unnecessary.

The proposed amendments to sections 4 and 4A of the Health Insurance Act 1973 conform with the arrangements in the act for the Health Insurance (Diagnostic Imaging Services Table) Regulations.

The amendments to paragraph 16B(11)(d) of the Health Insurance Act 1973 provide for the extension of the "sunset" provision by two years to 1 January 1997 with provision to extend that date by regulations. Under the current "sunset" provision, from 1 January 1995, medicare benefits will no longer be payable for diagnostic imaging services rendered by medical practitioners who were exempted by the "grandparent" provisions in the 1991 amendments dealing with "arms length" requesting of these services. An extension will allow for the continuation of the payment of medicare benefits for R-type services in these circumstances.

The "sunset" provision had been previously extended from 1 January 1993 to 1 January 1995.

The amendments proposed will provide more time for the development, with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, of accreditation guidelines for general practitioners who provide radiology services.

Paragraph 5(1)(a) of the Hearing Services Act 1991 defines those who are eligible to receive Commonwealth hearing concessions from Australian Hearing Services. The amendment will substitute reference to the Pensioner Health Benefits Card with "Pensioner Concession Card". The purpose of this change is to ensure that pensioners continue to be eligible for hearing concessions after renaming of the Pensioner Concession Card by the Department of Social Security.

All references except for one to the term "in-patient" have been replaced with term "patient" in both the Health Insurance Act 1973 and the National Health Act 1953. However, the substitution has not been made to subsection 4(1AA) of the National Health Act 1953. The amendment I am proposing is a "house-keeping" type duty which will remove an anomaly that exists in the act. The proposed amendment does not alter the intent of subsection 4(1AA) which pertains to the rendering of a pathology service in a hospital or day hospital.

This bill makes three comparatively minor changes to the legislation governing the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The first of these gives effect to the decision announced in the 1994-95 Budget to restrict the issue of safety net concession cards to persons eligible for Medicare benefits. This amendment is estimated to result in savings of $0.4 million in 1994-95 and $1.0 million in subsequent years.

A second change is to permit the substitution by a pharmacist of a brand of a pharmaceutical benefit other than that ordered by the prescriber, subject to conditions agreed to by the Australian Health Ministers Conference. The adoption of this amendment will result in savings for consumers and reduced inconvenience for both pharmacists and consumers.

I commend this bill to the Senate and present the explanatory memorandum.

PRIMARY INDUSTRIES LEVIES AND CHARGES COLLECTION AMENDMENT BILL 1994

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991 to give effect to the amendments to the Horticultural Levy Act 1987 which broaden the basis for levy collection to give horticultural industries greater flexibility in choosing a levy basis appropriate to their needs.

The bill amends the definition of producer to include the producer of a product presumed to be produced. This will enable levy to be collected under the Horticultural Levy Act 1987 on a presumed level of production of a horticultural product.

Liability to pay levy on leviable products will arise when a producer of products presumed to be produced in Australia purchases certain prescribed goods for use in the production of those products. The seller of the prescribed goods will collect the levy from the producer. This should reduce levy collection costs because levy will be collected early in the production chain, and reduce the involvement of agents and first purchasers in levy collection.

The draft amendments put forward in this bill will not directly affect government expenditure. However, by expanding the range of options under which industry may implement a levy, the proposed amendments may encourage additional horticultural industries to become levy paying members of the Australian Horticultural Corporation and the Horticultural Research and Development Corporation (HRDC). The government has a commitment to match levy contributions to the HRDC up to a maximum level of 0.5 per cent of the GVP of the industry.

The draft amendments will have no staffing implications for the Department of Primary Industries and Energy.

I commend these bills to honourable senators and present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.

HORTICULTURAL EXPORT CHARGE AMENDMENT BILL 1994

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Horticultural Export Charge Act 1987 to specify that the export charge is not payable on chargeable horticultural products that have had levy paid on them under the Horticultural Levy Act 1987.

This will ensure that only one of either the levy or the export charge is paid on leviable horticultural products.

The proposed amendment to this bill will not affect government expenditure and will have no staffing implications for the Department of Primary Industries and Energy.

I commend this bill to honourable senators and present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.

HORTICULTURAL LEVY AMENDMENT BILL 1994

The purpose of this bill is to introduce amendments to the Horticultural Levy Act 1987.

The Horticultural Levy Act 1987 in conjunction with the Horticultural Export Charge Act 1987 and the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991 provides the framework for the imposition of levy and export charge on horticultural products which are produced in Australia. These three acts provide the means of raising industry funds to support national marketing and promotion through the Australian Horticultural Corporation, and research and development through the Horticultural Research and Development Corporation.

This bill, in conjunction with bills to amend the Horticultural Export Charge Act 1987 and the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991, seeks to amend the existing legislation to enable levy to be collected on the basis of the area under cultivation or other horticultural inputs to the production process, such as the number of trees, shrubs, plants, bulbs, corms, or tubers under cultivation. In order for levy to be imposed in this way it will be necessary for a presumed yield from these horticultural inputs to be specified in the regulations.

The proposed amendments to the horticultural levy legislation will broaden the basis for levy collection and will give horticultural industries greater flexibility in choosing a levy basis appropriate to their needs.

These amendments are being made at the request of the nashi fruit industry which is proposing to alter its levy arrangements from a levy imposed at the first point of sale to an arrangement whereby levy is based on the number or area of nashi trees a grower has under cultivation. This will enable levy to be collected from the grower based on the presumed level of production of nashi fruit.

These amendments will also enable the strawberry industry, which is considering the issue of a national levy for research and development, to consider implementing a levy, payable by the strawberry grower at the point of purchase of strawberry runners, based on the assumed production of strawberries.

The amendments to the Horticultural Levy Act 1987 enable levy to be imposed on horticultural products presumed to be produced in Australia, with the levy being collected based upon the area of production, number of trees or the cultivation of other horticultural inputs. The maximum rate of levy of a horticultural industry is set so as not to exceed 5 per cent of the average gross value of production (GVP) of the first three years of the immediate past 4 financial years.

The draft amendments put forward in this bill will not directly affect government expenditure. However, by expanding the range of options under which industry may implement a levy, the proposed amendments may encourage additional horticultural industries to become levy paying members of the Australian Horticultural Corporation and the Horticultural Research and Development Corporation (HRDC). The government has a commitment to match levy contributions to the HRDC up to a maximum level of 0.5 per cent of the GVP of the industry.

The draft amendments will have no staffing implications for the Department of Primary Industries and Energy.

I commend these bills to honourable senators and present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.

  Debate (on motion by Senator O'Chee) adjourned.

  Motion (by Senator Faulkner) agreed to:

  That the Human Services and Health Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1994 be listed on the Notice Paper as a separate order of the day.