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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8602


Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (7:43 PM) —I want to dispel a couple of assertions that have been put here this evening. It seems to have been suggested that only a medical practitioner would handle the document, and that seemed to have been qualified by saying it might be in a manila folder. Common sense should prevail here. If it is a doctors surgery, there are people within the doctors surgery who understand the requirement to maintain confidentiality for privacy purposes and the need to keep confidential information about patients secure. They do the filing, the writing, the tabulating, the receipting of all of these matters and they are not doctors. They are usually receptionists who are highly trained.

Within Medicare Australia, doctors will be required to deal with the aspect we are talking about. Medicare public servants understand the APS values and code of conduct. They are highly professional and understand privacy. They have been taught privacy and respect privacy because they are public servants with a long history of maintaining the confidentiality of all their work. They would do the writing, filing and tabulating of documents, as they have done in the past with other documents that have required auditing within the system.

I have made an open offer to Senator Fielding that I think we can get to where Senator Fielding wants to go, if he gives us the ability to come back and deal with this. I do not want to amend it on the run because that is fraught with danger. I think the principle stays. I understand if Senator Fielding insists on dealing with it tonight. I will continue to honour the commitment that we will look at it no matter what Senator Fielding does with this amendment. I would prefer if the amendment were not moved—I will not pick up my bat and ball and go home over it. I will deal with it in a practical way and ensure that the minister and the agency can deal with this in a way that may meet some of the issues Senator Fielding raises. I am not sure I can meet the opposition’s position, which seems to be a little further than Senator Fielding’s, quite frankly, as it was articulated—though that may have just been in the telling. In short, although the government oppose it, it is opposed on the basis that we would not mind another look at it to see if we can meet some of the issues raised.