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Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Page: 6953

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (9:52 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Midwife Professional Indemnity (Commonwealth Contribution) Scheme Bill 2009 obviously flows from the Health Legislation Amendment (Midwives and Nurse Practitioners) Bill 2009, which was just introduced into the House and I spoke at length on. The purpose of this bill is to allow the Commonwealth to provide, via a contracted private sector insurer, affordable professional indemnity insurance to eligible privately practising midwives.

This bill is an important component of the government’s maternity reform package. The package will improve the choices that are available to women in relation to maternity care.

The bill will effectively remove a longstanding barrier for appropriately qualified and experienced midwives who wish to provide high-quality midwifery services to Australian women as part of a collaborative team with doctors and other health professionals.

There is currently no professional indemnity insurance product available for such midwives, as the risk is perceived to be high and the potential pool of premiums to be relatively small.

In order to address this gap, the bill establishes a scheme to provide support for eligible midwives.

The government will, through a tender process, engage an insurer to create a suitable insurance product for eligible midwives.

This insurer will manage claims and provide valuable support to midwives—many of whom would never have had their own professional insurance cover.

When claims arise, the government will contribute an amount to the insurer in relation to claims against a midwife if the claim exceeds the threshold set in the legislation.

The thresholds that will apply for claims against eligible midwives are:

  • for claims more than $100,000 but less than $2 million—the government will contribute 80c in the dollar; and
  • for claims more than $2 million—the government will contribute 100c in the dollar.

The bill is not intended to provide for direct subsidy to individual midwives. It does, however, ensure that midwives who meet eligibility requirements and wish to purchase professional indemnity insurance will be able to purchase such cover at an affordable cost.

For the purposes of this bill, an eligible midwife is one who is licensed, registered or authorised to practise midwifery under a state or territory law and who meets any other requirements specified in the rules.

The scheme proposed under the bill will be administered by Medicare Australia. There are also mechanisms in this bill to ensure that funds are paid out accurately and appropriately.

Overall, this bill contributes to a new era for midwifery services in this country, by addressing a longstanding impediment that has limited the availability of a wider choice for women.

I commend this bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Wood) adjourned.