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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8598

Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (6:27 PM) —It is always interesting watching Joe on the run.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Fielding, you must refer to a senator by their job title.

Senator FIELDING —Sorry. From my recollection, Minister, you have had this amendment for weeks. I am sure your advisors are reasonably senior, and I am finding it very hard to understand—

Senator Cormann —He’s playing games.

Senator FIELDING —I will be real with you. You do not even have the decency to look at one of the amendments to this bill. Then you come in here and say, ‘It’s because you’ve rearranged the business.’ You turn things on a pinhead in here and expect me to follow, and I do. When something happens that you do not like, you do not have a clue what to do. This amendment is nearly identical to what has been passed before. It is a disgrace that you are not standing up for patient’s records. They are worried about their privacy. They are worried about their own clinical needs and not being seen by someone who is qualified. It is a disgrace that you are coming in here using as an excuse some sort of problem with rearranging the business. Frankly, you have not been able to arrange the business. You could not arrange the business out of a wet paper bag.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Fielding, you must address the chair.

Senator FIELDING —Sorry, Chair. I do get very concerned. We have seven groups of amendments, and this amendment has been out for some time. You would have thought they would be quite okay to work on this quickly. It is a very simple amendment. Then they come in here saying, ‘Look, you’ve reordered the business on us; we don’t know what’s going on.’ The reason we have had to reorder it is that you are, Minister, proving incompetent to do so. Fifty days next year—we will be in the same position—

Sitting suspended from 6.30 pm to 7.30 pm

Senator FIELDING —I am sure that during the dinner break the minister in charge tonight will have had a bit more time to go through the issue at hand. As I said, this amendment was put out weeks ago, so there has been plenty of time for the government to look at this issue. I am also advised that the words are very similar to the requirement that this parliament imposed for handling Medicare Australia pathology records.

To help those who may be listening, the amendment moved by Family First is intended to make sure that patients’ medical records are handled by appropriate people, not by non-medical employees. The amendment would ensure that where a document containing clinical details is provided to a medical practitioner who is an employee of Medicare Australia only a medical practitioner in Medicare Australia can handle that clinical information. This is a very similar requirement to that which is in place for Medicare Australia, under paragraph 23DKA(7)(b) of the Health Insurance Act 1973, with regard to pathology records that contain clinical details relating to patients and, for that reason, should be applied here.

I hope that the response from the minister will be focused more on the issue than on how to manage the chamber. I am happy to go there any day of the week, but let us try to stick to the debate if we can.