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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7244

Senator BARNETT (10:39 AM) —I am happy to attempt to respond to Senator Harradine's questions, unless the Minister for Health and Ageing wants to. The answer is that the code is still in place; the non-government organisation is still in place. Instead of creating bad law—and for the code to be changed from time to time and for people to be subject to the code—what these amendments do is take that out of the bill altogether. So any changes to the code have to be recognised by those who are subject to the code. This does not make any reference to the code whatsoever in the bill. It is an improvement to the legislative effect of the bill in terms of parliamentary scrutiny because, prior to these amendments being moved and under the existing bill that the minister has put forward, it would have left it way open. I wanted to close that loophole. I think these amendments will close it, but I think Senator Harradine has raised a good point about improvements being made to the code—how they will be addressed and how they will be exacted and implemented. I am only assuming, Senator Harradine, that that will be a voluntary act. The participants who are subject to the code—the ART centres— will no doubt be complying with the code. That is for them to decide; it is basically self-regulation. We are setting up a regulatory regime, and these are the offence provisions. That is my response; the minister might care to make a response.

I am happy to also comment on some of the responses I have heard regarding these amendments. They have been around for several days, so I do not accept the fact that they are as a result of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee report. I have been discussing this at some length with the minister's office, so this was an idea in advance of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee report being handed down. That report has now backed up those amendments, for which I am very thankful. With respect to Senator Stott Despoja's comments about the concerns with the amendments, there were no concerns expressed last night to the amendments that I put—not in this chamber. The minister simply requested that the amendments be postponed and looked at this morning. I thought they were good amendments, and I still think they are good amendments, but we have different amendments which achieve the same purpose.

I commend Senator Stott Despoja for her participation in the committee and in this chamber and for the manner in which that has been done. I am thankful for that. I also commend Senator Brown for the contributions he has been making during the debate; I think they have been very positive and helpful. I hope that helps to answer some of Senator Harradine's questions. If the minister would like to respond, that would be good, too.