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Tuesday, 25 May 1993
Page: 1220

Senator NEWMAN (5.34 p.m.) —I thank the Minister. I conclude by saying that I find it extraordinary that the Commonwealth has not made it mandatory for people to obey its undertaking. In addition, it has people coming into the country who may well know the whereabouts of such people who may have been exposed to TB, but who refuse to give information to State health authorities to prevent the exposure of other people to TB, all in the name of privacy. I find that extraordinary.

  I cannot believe that this situation can be allowed to go on, especially when we are sitting in the middle of an area that is rife with TB and we are taking a large number of migrants from that area. We must have measures in place to protect Australian people from exposure to TB. In my view, it is no justification for the Commonwealth to refuse to give information to those whose duty it is to treat people with TB and to find out who their contacts have been.

  When somebody with a notifiable disease comes from another country into this country and spends over two years, five years or whatever it might be here, somebody who obviously has been in contact with a lot of other people, it is absolutely imperative for the health authorities in this country to be able to trace those contacts and to get the help of the Commonwealth in doing so.

  It is a total failure of the Commonwealth's responsibility, in my view, to hide behind the veil of privacy on this issue when public health is at stake. I am very glad, therefore, that the Minister for Health (Senator Richardson) is prepared to follow it up. I am astounded at what I see as a total failure of responsibility by the Commonwealth—by the department of health and the department of immigration, both of which I believe are culpable in this matter.

The CHAIRMAN —Are there any questions or matters to be raised in relation to questions taken on notice before or during the committee's hearings for which answers had not been received by 18 May?