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Tuesday, 18 May 1993
Page: 697


Senator NEWMAN (12.44 p.m.) —I thank the Minister again. Mr Chairman, I am sure you will understand why the Senate is fairly uncomfortable—certainly I am, and I gather there is more disquiet elsewhere—with the answers we are getting. We are getting answers from the Minister and from her officials. Honourable senators should not forget that we also had them during the election campaign, as I referred to in my speech. It was made clear that there was going to be use of the tax file number. When the Australian Privacy Foundation asked what all this was about, Minister Staples' staff and Mr Gration gave total assurances, which were confirmed and written down, that there would not be the use of the tax file number. Australians have already been misled, at the very least, on this issue. It is very difficult to accept what the Minister is now telling us with the certainty that we know where the Government is going on this issue.

  It says that it is only a proposal, but the officials have said that it is a proposal that the Government has accepted. Those are the words in the Hansard. The Minister is trying to suggest that what she said to the Senate that tax file numbers would be provided to Medicare offices may not be the case. During the election campaign we heard that, yes, there are going to be tax file numbers; and no, there are not going to be tax file numbers. We just cannot trust the Government. While we have made it clear we are not prepared to stop this enabling legislation going through because it will only expand the role of the Health Insurance Commission in terms of planning, we are extremely concerned about what the Government is up to. There is no clear message, and we cannot get clear answers.

  Bills agreed to.

  Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.