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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8588


Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (5:43 PM) —In closing the debate on the Health Insurance Amendment (Compliance) Bill 2009, I am pushed to thank senators for their contribution, but I will respect the chamber and thank senators for their contribution. I will not deal with the matters that were dealt with earlier; I will address the bill itself. This bill will enable the chief executive officer of Medicare Australia to give a notice requiring the production of documents to a practitioner, or another person who has custody, control or possession of the documents, to substantiate whether a Medicare benefit paid in respect of a service should have been paid. However, before a notice to produce documents can be given to a person the CEO must fulfil several conditions—and I will not go through each of those. This bill addresses what has been a long-outstanding matter in the health area, particularly around ensuring that we have an effective compliance scheme. I understand that there is broad support in this place for a compliance scheme and the procedures that are outlined within it.

We have listened carefully to the short contributions from both the opposition and the Greens. We do understand that there are some issues that the opposition and the Greens have, and that they are seeking to use the committee stage to propose amendments. We will deal with those amendments shortly, as we go into committee stage, but Senator Scullion has outlined one concern. As the senator acknowledged, the government has had good discussions with the opposition in relation to these issues. We do think we may need further discussion in relation to some of those, to finalise those matters, but there are of course some that we can address in a meaningful way.

The bill itself has been, as I think we have indicated, subject to consultation and has been through a Senate inquiry and report, which has made various recommendations. I will deal with some of those during the committee stage of the bill as quickly as I can. However, can I say categorically to Senator Cormann that, in respect of the cataract amendment, we will not be accepting anything dealing with cataracts outside of what is dealt with within the reasonable scope of this bill. I understand Senator Scullion has carriage of this bill. To the extent that we deal with the substantive matters, we are in meaningful discussion with Senator Scullion in relation to this. This bill has been brought on without the government setting the agenda. It does mean that it will be difficult to address some amendments, as they have not been through our process. We will provide a call where we can to ensure that we can deal with this in a meaningful way. I will conclude on that basis and thank the senators for their contributions.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.