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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 637

Senator SCHACHT (Minister for Small Business, Customs and Construction) (11.02 a.m.) —The government acknowledges and thanks Senator Harradine and Senator Patterson for not proceeding with Senator Harradine's amendment. They have had their fears assuaged by advice they have received that there is no lessening of the parliament's ability to monitor, review and have the power over the regulations.

  I have just been given some advice. For the record, I had better read this out because I am not the minister in charge of the Human Services and Health Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2). I had better read this out correctly and get it on the record.

Senator Panizza —Like Senator Collins does these days.

Senator SCHACHT —As the duty minister, it is best that I read this information for the record. This is in response to Senator Harradine's proposed amendment, which he has now withdrawn. The information I am about to give puts on record the government's response. At present, the regulations which amend the general medical services table and the pathology services table are examined in the parliament under systematic scrutiny which applies to all regulations. The updated tables are incorporated in the Health Insurance Act each time there is a reprint of the act. The current reprint—only the third reprint since the act was passed in 1974—shows the tables as they existed through schedules 1 and 1A as of 31 December 1992. So they are a couple of years out of date; not 10 years, as Senator Harradine might have been concerned about.

  The amendment seeks to omit the reference to schedules 1 and 1A in sections 4 and 4A because reprinting the tables and the schedules as at a point in time only duplicates the tables already scrutinised by the parliament in the form of regulations. Every few months the tables are updated through amendments to the regulations which occur from time to time, in addition to annual regulations which contain the entire tables. The schedule represents in volume more than one-third of the bulk of the act—140 pages out of the 360 pages in the December 1992 reprint.

  The estimated cost savings on the cost of the act for official use—such as copies supplied to the parliament, some 1,400 copies—would be $5,000. There would also be a reduction in the retail price of copies of the act on sale through AGPS to the public. I am informed by my advisers that, by being able to buy the act separately from the regulations, the public will be able to pay less for one or the other than having to pay for an unnecessary attachment of regulations at the moment, which is 140 pages out of 360 pages. On behalf of the government, I put that information on the record and thank the senators for their cooperation.

  Bill agreed to.

  Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.