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Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2761


Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(11.48) —Senator Peter Baume knows that it is sensible to introduce exemptions of this type, particularly to cover the cases of long term acute psychiatric patients, acutely ill neonates and people with terminal carcinomas, in order to save doctors the task of having to repeatedly fill out 3B certificates. It will also relieve the health funds in some ways of the administrative burden and costs of having to monitor certificates for these patients. The reason why the appeal provision is not written into the legislation in the way that Senator Peter Baume would like it to be and the reason why these determinations will be subject to tabling and disallowance in the Parliament is that we are exempting classes of patients here rather than individuals. For that reason the method of tabling and disallowance is the preferred method for cases of this kind.

The principle of exemption is sound. However, we do need a proper definition, as Senator Peter Baume said. For this reason an undertaking has been given to the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia and to the medical profession in this country that no action will be taken under new section 3A without full consultation with the industry. Thus, both the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia and the Australian Medical Association have been given these assurances by the Minister for Health (Dr Blewett). It is sensible that sound medical criteria be used and it is also eminently sensible that we should not run around excluding classes of people and causing great difficulties to those in the private health industry. For that reason the Minister has already announced that there will be these careful consultations and that is really the best that we can do in these circumstances. Parliament will have the capacity to disallow any irresponsible exemptions of this kind. I think it is important that it can do so. I think this is the best approach to take to the vexed question of these certificates. As I have said, the certificates are necessary because of the problems which arose under the existing system. I think this is really just a tidying up and a refinement of a system which should work very well.

Clauses agreed to.

Clauses 57 to 66-by leave-taken together.