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Thursday, 13 October 2016
Page: 1764


Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (12:42): This is not my first speech. I rise to speak very briefly on this package of reforms and to indicate the Nick Xenophon Team's in-principle support for this package. Establishing a national register should go a long way towards reducing duplication and unnecessary red tape across jurisdictions and, more importantly, assisting with the management of bowel and cervical cancer screening programs.

These bills, the National Cancer Screening Register Bill 2016 and the National Cancer Screening Register (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2016, certainly have not been without criticism, but this is less to do with the underlying policy objectives and more to do with the contentious nature of the tender process that preceded them. The fact that the government chose to enter into a $220 million contract with Telstra Health prior to the passage of the enabling legislation demonstrates a complete disregard for the important role of this place in the legislative process and in ensuring transparency and accountability. Given the nature of the data that will be maintained in the national register, there are a multitude of privacy considerations that ought to have been considered before the awarding of the tender, particularly when the tenderer is a non-government entity. These criticisms, amongst others, have to a large extent formed the basis of the inquiry by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee. That committee process has certainly been worthwhile in fleshing out these concerns. At the very least, we now have a redacted contract that we can also refer to for further consideration and clarification.

In terms of amendments, the opposition has indicated it intends to proceed with its proposal to restrict the operation of the register to a government agency or not-for-profit organisation. It claims Telstra Health does not have the requisite expertise to adequately manage the sort of sensitive data that would be kept on the register. I indicate for the record that the Nick Xenophon Team will not be supporting that proposal. However, I indicate that my colleague Senator Xenophon will also be moving a second reading amendment aimed at addressing at least some of the concerns around the tender process. That amendment will not prevent the passage or implementation of the bill but it will request that the Auditor-General undertake a review that looks at issues of value for money and efficiency in the contract. It is important to point out that the amendment does not require the minister to direct the Auditor-General—and the advice I have is that it is quite appropriate for the parliament to refer matters—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Reynolds ): Senator Griff, it being 12.45, we will now move to government business, and you will be in continuation.