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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8604


Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (7:50 PM) —The government do not support increasing red tape for doctors, who perform a valuable and important task within the Australian community. The proposed amendment suggests that audits should occur routinely, perhaps without any perceived reason or justification for the audit—and I am sure that is not the intent. The amendment also proposes a set method for responding to audits, whereas the bill provides flexibility to providers who may be audited by allowing them to respond with the document via a channel that best suits their mode and style of practice. This was an important element that came through the stakeholder consultation process where many doctors requested that the bill not place new record keeping requirements on them. The process set out in the bill proposes that a targeted compliance audit program requires that Medicare Australia have a reasonable concern that a Medicare payment exceeds the amount that should have been paid. This limits audits to situations where there is a risk that taxpayer money has been spent incorrectly. The government are of the view that limiting audits to situations where there is a reasonable concern is appropriate as it ensures the government only audits where there are justifiable reasons.