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PARLIAMENTARY REPORT


border protection failures, the Prime Minister has finally seen the sense in what the opposition has been proposing all along and she has indeed picked up the phone to the President of Nauru—at last”. In the Senate the Leader of the


Australia Green, Sen. Christine Milne expressed her party’s opposition to the legislation. Senator Milne commented that “I think it is a tragedy in Australian


AUSTRALIA


public life that we have got to the point where the government and the coalition are trying to outdo each other on the level of cruelty and punishment they are prepared to inflict on refugees who are seeking asylum in our country”. Sen. Milne argued that the


notion of seeking to deter asylum seekers-refugees from coming to Australia is flawed. She stated:


THIRD READING: NEW ZEALAND


Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Act 2012 The Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records Act provides for any Australian to register for an e-health record and they will be able to choose the settings for who can access those records and the extent of that access. The then Minister for Health, Hon. Nicola Roxon, MP, commented that the legislation “prescribes the circumstances in which e-health record information can be collected, used or disclosed and imposes civil penalties for knowing or reckless unauthorized collection, use or disclosure”. The Minister advised that “the Australian Information Commissioner will be the key regulator for the system and will have the capacity to conduct audits, commence investigations and impose a range of sanctions, accept enforceable undertakings and investigate complaints”. Ms Roxon concluded that “many people may see this system and legislation as being about technology. That is a mistake. It is about health care. It is about helping patients and doctors to prevent, cure and treat, and it uses technology to do that”. During debate in the Senate,


the Shadow Minister for Ageing, Sen. Concetta Fierravanti Wells


advised that the Coalition will not be opposing the legislation. She indicated that the Coalition has a strong record on delivering on e-health noting that under the Howard Government “computerisation of general practice increased from 17 per cent in 1997 to 94 per cent in 2007”. She stated that “the Coalition has always supported the concept of shared electronic health records. Indeed, it was the Coalition that originally started the focus on a shared electronic health record”. However, Sen. Fierravanti-Wells noted that “unfortunately, despite the focus and direction that was established under the Howard government towards e-health, Minister Roxon and the Labor Party’s implementation of the system since taking government in 2007 has received severe criticism from industry for its poor management of the programs being developed. She noted that a Senate Committee inquiry into the legislation identified four key areas of concerns namely “functionality and interoperability of the system; confidence of consumers and clinicians in the proposed e-health system; governance and conflicts- of-interest problems in the system designed to hold the health records of every Australian; and risk and patient safety”.


226 | The Parliamentarian | 2012: Issue Three


“Why are we putting in place this notional view of deterrence when we are talking about people who are genuine refugees? No amount of punishment that we give people is going to be worse than the situation from which they have run”. Sen. Milne further commented


that “nobody is talking about open borders. What we are talking about is lifting the humanitarian intake to recognize that, when there are periods of war and persecution around the world, there is an increase in the number of people seeking asylum. “Australia, the land of the fair


go, the generous country, takes less than two per cent of the world’s refugees, and yet we feel like we have to deter them because suddenly we are going to be overcome by this two per cent of the world’s refugees,” she said.


On 16 August the legislation


passed the Senate and was assented to on 17 August.


Australian Green Party Leader step down On 13 April 2012 Sen. Bob Brown resigned as Leader of the Australian Greens and indicated that he would resign from the Senate in June. Sen. Brown was elected to the Australian Senate for Tasmania in 1996 and had a remarkable career as an advocate for the environment and human rights issues. Sen. Brown commented


that “I have been contemplating parliamentary retirement for some time. I started 10 turbulent years in the Tasmanian Parliament beginning with the Franklin River blockade in 1983, and ending with the very successful Labor-Green accord of 1989-92: witness Tasmania’s Freedom of Information laws, economic reforms, educational outcomes and 650,000 hectares of new World Heritage wilderness.” Sen. Brown noted that “there have been 12 exciting years in


the Senate with the Greens since Tampa, defending international law on refugees and leading calls for self-determination in Timor, Tibet and West Papua. “We have spearheaded


political action for the Murray- Darling Basin and other rural lands threatened by dams and mining, the nation’s wild forests and marine ecosystems, the Northern Territory’s right not to have a nuclear waste dump, the Kimberley, the Great Barrier reef, the Traditional Owners’ plea to protect the wild rivers flowing to Lake Eyre, and every city’s need for bikeways and pedestrian amenities and fast, clean, cheap public transport”. Sen. Brown concluded: “It


is now time for me to hand on leadership to the experience and talent of my colleagues. I am, after all, 67. I want to leave of my own volition, content that the Greens will stay in good hands”. He advised that the “Party Room unanimously elected Sen. Christine Milne as Leader. Christine has been my great colleague and friend for the past 25 years and she will be a fantastic Leader of the Australian Greens”. Sen. Milne was elected to the


Australian Senate for Tasmania in 2004. She was previously elected to the Tasmanian Parliament in 1989 and became the first woman to lead a political party in Tasmania in 1993. In selecting her as Leader,


the party highlighted Sen. Milne’s “deep policy knowledge about climate change and her unparalleled experience with power-sharing minority governments led to the establishment of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee and its successful negotiations to design the Clean Energy Future package which will place innovation, opportunity and clean energy at the forefront of the transformation of the Australian economy for the 21st


century.”


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