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Thursday, 14 May 1970

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) - I move:

Omit the clause, insert the following clause: "25. Section 73 of the Principal Act is amended -

(a)   by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section: (1.) The Minister may by regulation, after considering the report of the Committee, grant, subject to such terms and conditions (if any) as he thinks fit, or refuse, the application and, if he grants the application, he shall register the organisation accordingly.';

(b)   by omitting sub-section (4.) and inserting in ils stead the following sub-section: (4.) A register shall be open for public inspection.';

(e)   by inserting in sub-section (6.) after the word 'revoke' the words 'by regulation'; and

(d)   by inserting in sub-section (6.) after the word 'impose' the words 'by regulation'.".

The amendment proposes to place some obligations on the Minister for Health in relation to the way in which he carries out certain business. Where a report is made to the Minister in respect of an application for registration by an organisation in a State or Territory as a health insurance scheme, the Minister has certain powers. Under the provisions of the Act, the Minister may, by his fiat, without any reference to Parliament, grant, reject or subject an application to such conditions as he thinks are necessary. Our proposal is that he ought to do this by regulation. We feel that it should be incumbent on a Minister always to refer to Parliament decisions that he makes so that they can be available for public scrutiny, otherwise government will be conducted in secret. I am in no way casting a reflection on the present Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) or members of his Department. We feel that this is an important principle to establish and that as much as possible ali business handled by a government should be processed through the Parliament so that it can. where it is wished, be subjected to critical scrutiny.

The amendment seeks also the deletion of sub-section (4.) of section 73 of the principal Act and the insertion of a new sub-section (4 ) which provides that a register containing the details of organisations which seek registration and which eventually are approved by the Minister shall be open for public inspection. These health insurance organisations are propped up quite generously by public money - money from the taxpayers - provided by the Government. The public, therefore, has a vested interest. Whether or not they want to use the register is another matter, but any member of the public should be able to review the conditions and the details that are written into the register. I know of instances where information has been sought, even by members of the Health Committee, but it has not been forthcoming. People have written to some of the health insurance organisations asking for information about the regulations that have been established for the conduct pf the affairs of these organisations, but the organisations have refused to give that information. We want to be in a position where all of the details relating to these organisations are available to us. We feel that this is not unreasonable.

The amendment provides also that where the Minister takes action under sub-section (6.) of section 73 of the principal Act on the advice of the Registration Committee he shall do so by regulation. The reasons I put forward earlier stand in respect of this amendment. I do not think there is any need to delay the deliberations of the Committee further. Essentially what we believe is that there should be an obligation always accepted by the Government that matters decided by it should be processed through the Parliament wherever possible. We believe that these are clear cases where it is possible and, therefore, these things should be done by regulation. The regulation would be laid on the table and members, either on their own initiative or on the advice of certain anomalies and deficiencies by ' interested members of the public, could act to raise the matter for debate.

Finally, we believe that the register should be open for public inspection. The organisations are, after all, fairly substantially public property, first, because of the large amount of public money which props them up and, secondly, because they are providing a public service, albeit a somewhat inefficient one.

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