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Thursday, 11 March 2004
Page: 21363

Senator MURPHY (12:22 PM) —With regard to the process that operates now with respect to the RRMA classifications, they change on a regular basis. They are reviewed I think at least biannually or triannually and sometimes annually. They change because of population changes, either in the positive or in the negative. So there is an unknown factor to the costing anyway.

The government has programs that it administers under the RRMA system. Those costs will vary from year to year. There is a health budget. I agree with the argument that has been put that the system has been fundamentally flawed and there have been anomalies. I have argued about those anomalies for a long time. The reason I congratulate the minister is that he recognises that and he has asked the department to devise a new classification system.

Senator McLucas —You have been told you can't do it.

Senator MURPHY —I agree. We have been told. I have been there and I have been told consistently that it cannot be done. But the fact of the matter is that this minister has asked his department to devise some other mechanism. That is a positive step.

Of course you cannot cost it, nor could you cost it in the past. To a limited degree maybe you could. But there have always been changes and there have always been unknown factors. Obviously when they devise this new mechanism they will look at the potential costs, and that is something that the government will then have to come to grips with. If it means a significant increase in cost, that is something that the government will have to confront. But this is a step in the right direction. I think it is one that a lot of people have been trying to get an outcome on. Despite the fact that it is just in the form of a letter, it is a fairly significant commitment to devise a new classification system. I hope it will be one that will deliver a fairer outcome.