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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 1418

Senator XENOPHON (10:26 AM) —I thank Senator McLucas for her response. This is a new agency. It is supposed to give robust and independent advice to government. I cannot see the downside for government if that advice is released after a period of 12 months on the basis that the government does not have to adopt that advice. I think it is important, given the resources being put into this agency and given the importance of preventative health, to actually allow a process whereby the public—the people of Australia; the taxpayers who are paying for this agency—can see what advice is being given. If we want to talk about the whole issue of robust and fearless advice, let’s look at an example of an entity that has been in the news lately—the Productivity Commission. Governments cannot tell the Productivity Commission what advice it should give. The commission regularly gives advice that is made public in its memoranda, its reports and its inquiries that is out there for all to see. I think that enhances the public policy debate. This agency also has a very important role in enhancing the public policy debate in relation to health, particularly preventative health. That is why I think it is important that this agency publishes its recommendations, its advice, after 12 months has elapsed. I do not think anyone would accuse the Productivity Commission of being timid or fettered or frustrated by virtue of its reports be made public, and I think the same argument ought to apply here.