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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 636


Senator HARRADINE (10.55 a.m.) —Last evening, when debate on this bill was adjourned, the committee was considering whether the removal of the medical benefits schedules from the schedule to the act would in any way limit the powers that the parliament currently has in respect of executive government decisions. I place on record my thanks to the government, the opposition, the Democrats and the Greens for having this matter adjourned so that further consideration could be given to the matter.

  I am sure that it would never have been the intention of the government to slip in a provision which would limit the powers of the parliament vis-a-vis the government—that would never have occurred to it—although I understand that such a provision could be contained in legislation that will come before this parliament in the not too distant future. As far as the other groups in this parliament are concerned, we are as one: anything that is contained in government legislation should not limit the powers of the parliament on behalf of the people to exercise its ordinary control functions in respect of executive government decisions.

  I have sought advice on this matter and I am informed that the action by the government in respect of matters referred to last night will not mean that parliament will lose any power it now has in respect of executive government decisions. It would have been a different matter had the schedules been able to be amended only by act of parliament. That is not the case with this particular legislation; the government does have the power under regulations.

  I am informed that this change is simply to ensure that future printing of the act will not need to contain the 150 to 200 pages of medical benefits schedules. I am also informed that the latest reprint of the act contains those schedules in a schedule to the act but that they are some 15 years out of date. It may not be 15 years, but they are certainly not up to date, if I can put it that way.

  I am then in a position to accept the assurances given to the committee last night by Senator Sherry on behalf of the government that this will in no way affect the power of the parliament to do anything it could not already do at this time. The only remaining matter is that I would be interested to know how much the government will save in this particular exercise.