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Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2755

Senator PUPLICK(11.07) —Pursuant to standing order 196A I move:

That the Health Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1985 be referred to the Standing Committee on Social Welfare for inquiry and report by the first sitting day in February 1986.

As the Opposition indicated some time ago, it intends to move during this session for the reference of a number of Bills to an appropriate committee. The Health Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1985 is one of them. If the Trade Practices Amendment Bill 1985 is proceeded with in this session it will similarly be the subject of a reference as will the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (No. 2) 1985, the Broadcasting and Television Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) and, if they are proceeded with in this session, the National Capital Development Commission Amendment Bill 1985 and the Federal Airports Corporation Bill 1985.

The Opposition has moved this motion because it believes that a number of Bills raise matters which would benefit from reference to a Senate standing committee. This Bill is described by the Minister for Community Services, Senator Grimes, as a small Bill which has amendments to touch basically only on the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. If that is the case there could be no objection to the Senate Committee investigating whether, in fact, the matters raised in debate about the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories are correct and proper. The Committee would investigate whether the amendments will have the effect that the Government claims; whether the ability of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to undertake the exercises that it undertook in relation to the Fawnmac group of companies or David Bull Laboratories Pty Ltd makes unnecessary the expansion in its powers provided for in this legislation; and whether the clause 11 amendments regarding partnership arrangements are correct and proper. Reference would allow testing of the contended argument about the rates and rent that Commonwealth Serum Laboratories pays. Senator Grimes has said that they are all correct and at the proper level. Senator Peter Rae's interjection, to which the Minister referred and which will be found on page 2724 of yesterday's Hansard, in fact, questions whether they are proper. Senator Peter Rae said:

It does not pay proper rates or proper rent.

The reference would allow that matter to be determined. Similarly, the amendments made concerning fraud against the Health Insurance Commission Act, and their impact in relation to bulk billing, which has been a matter of dispute in the course of the second reading debate, would undoubtedly benefit from some Senate inquiry.

Finally, the Committee would consider the planning of the Australia Card and whether it is necessary for the Health Insurance Commission to proceed in advance of the report of the Joint Select Committee on an Australia Card, which is to be established and which was agreed to by resolution in the Senate last Friday. We should bear in mind that this legislation is already different from the amending legislation which was introduced into the House of Representatives. The Government has already made one change to the Bill to remove some of the financial authorisations which were included in the Bill when it first came into the House of Representatives, after Opposition pressure for the establishment of the joint inquiry. This was made clear by Mr Porter in the other place and it was indicated, with the support of Senator Haines, that we would seek to refer this matter, that is the Australia Card per se, to a committee. So the Bill already has changed from the form in which it was originally introduced into the House of Representatives by the Government. I wanted to state only briefly the reasons why the Opposition believes that this would be proper legislation to refer to a committee. There are a number of matters arising which would benefit from examination by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare.

Senator Peter Baume —It generally has benefited legislation, has it not?

Senator PUPLICK —Indeed, as my colleague Senator Peter Baume said, there have been a number of instances in which references of Bills-particularly those with a fairly short reporting time framework-have identified a number of deficiencies to which the Government's attention has been drawn and where remedial action has been taken. I have indicated the other Bills which might come forward in the course of the week to which a similar resolution will be moved by the Opposition. I do not believe it is necessary to take any more time of the Senate to explain the reasons behind this motion for reference of this Bill to the appropriate Senate committee for report by the first day of February 1986.