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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 823

Mr GROOM(11.09) —Since the honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman) has used up his opportunities to speak on this clause, he has raised with me an important issue which affects Tasmanians. I would like some answers from the Minister for Health. He said that employment within Tasmania would not be adversely affected. That is certainly not the advice that my colleague the honourable member for Bass and I have received from some funds in Tasmania. For example, we understand from MBF in Tasmania that there is likely to be a loss of some 100 jobs. There is an additional computer capacity which will not be able to be used because of the health insurance changes. That in itself will mean some loss of employment. As we understand it, there will not be a capacity within Medicare to employ those people who might lose their jobs.

Another point is: What computer facilities will be used? Will they be based in another State, and not in Tasmania? Generally I would like some comments from the Minister as to how the employment factor will affect Tasmania. I also make the more general point that I think this is a sad day in many respects because we will now have increased control through the bureaucracy. This is an increasing tendency. Life is becoming much more complex and we have much more control by faceless officials within departments. What concerns me very much is what protection there is for the privacy of individuals. A year or so ago I raised with previous Ministers this problem of the privacy of patients. Government interference and control, which is obviously increased by this legislation, means increased government surveillance.

Mr Holding —Oh!

Mr GROOM —The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, sitting behind the Minister for Health, says: 'Oh!'. He is not concerned about increased government surveillance . I will not get into the Combe affair and that sort of thing, but 1984 is almost here and we have Big Brother controlling us.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Millar) —Order! I think the honourable member is expanding his remarks beyond the point of relevance.

Mr GROOM —I will try to get directly back to the point. My immediate point concerns protection of the privacy of individuals. One case drawn to my attention concerned someone investigating alleged fraud or overservicing by a medical practitioner. A patient received a knock at his door, and there stood an investigator. The investigator asked: 'Were you treated by a certain medical practitioner? Did he see you so many times? Were you treated by him so many times?' This becomes, I think, a very serious invasion of privacy. I hope that the Minister, who I know is a concerned person, will be concerned about this question of the privacy of patients. I would like to know what measures he has introduced to ensure that all the computer details are private and what steps are being taken to protect the privacy of the contract between a medical practitioner and his patient. There are very important issues and we would like answers tonight.