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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 6286


Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (8:08 PM) —I have to agree with what Senator Evans said. I am not always going to agree with Senator Evans, but on this occasion I will agree with him. As I said before, the bill states:

The persons undertaking the review must consult:

... ... ...

(b) a broad range of persons with expertise in or experience of relevant disciplines ...

This would involve adequate public consultation. We have to remember in this situation that it is an attempt and, as Senator Evans has said in this chamber, it is not often that we get all the states and territories attempting to have consistent legislation. Oh, that they would in indemnity issues! It would make my life easier. But in this issue we are attempting to have some sort of national approach, and it is appropriate that COAG has a role in it. They were the ones who initiated this. The Senate, or the House of Representatives, can initiate an inquiry at any time, as Senator Harradine knows, and it can be a very significant and in-depth inquiry. I would not put it past the Senate to be involved in doing that at the same time as this review takes place towards the end of three years.

I do not know that I can add any more. We could stay here all night having this discussion. I have just indicated that I will not be supporting the amendment. I am of the opinion that the consultation processes are sufficient. The Senate or the House of Representatives could propose an inquiry. I suppose that a joint inquiry could be proposed. But the Senate in its own right, at least, could have a quite extensive public consultation and inquiry. So I believe that there is adequate opportunity and scope for public consultation to be undertaken, and I will not be supporting the amendment.