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Wednesday, 29 November 2000
Page: 20088

Senator NEWMAN (Minster for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) (10:54 AM) —I can see where the opposition is coming from a bit better, but can I just point out what could be the result of it that would surely give all of us concern? It is not unusual to have a mixture of things covered by the existing legislation—for example, where there is a mixture of administrative error on the part of the administration together with a misrepresentation by the customer as to their circumstances. So you can have two things coming together in the one situation. Currently, under the legislation as it was amended by the previous government in 1995, only the administrative error would be waived. If the word `solely' is introduced, the certainty is gone, as I say, because we have to wait until that has been interpreted and a court would ask: `Why did the legislature find the need or choose to change it?' The danger in this circumstance would be, for example, that they would say, `There was a reason for this; we should perhaps waive both the admin error and the misrepresentation of the customer.' That is an example that I have quickly gleaned from my advisers. I really cannot see the benefit of putting in the word `solely'. I can see dangers. I urge you to think again about it. It is working as was intended by the legislature. I do not think that there is any evidence, really, that it is working badly. Senator Bartlett did refer to good faith when he referred to the Prince case. But the Prince case is not relevant here, because that was an issue of good faith. We are not talking here about good faith. This is about the word `solely' being inserted.