Bills Digest 114 1996-97 Hearing Services and AGHS Reform Bill 1997


Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

WARNING:
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History

Hearing Services and AGHS Reform Bill 1997

Date Introduced: 5 February 1997
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Health and Family Services
Commencement: As specified on the 'Main Provisions' section of this Digest

Purpose

The major amendments proposed by the Bill:

  • remove the eligibility of seniors health card holders for hearing services;
  • lower the age limit for people receiving hearing services from 21 to 18 years of age; and
  • corporatise the Australian Government Health Service.

Background

The reader is referred to the Digest for the Hearing Services Administration Bill 1997.

Main Provisions

Corporatisation

Part 2 of the Bill deals with the corporatisation of the Australian Government Health Service (AGHS). The proposed corporate structure for the activities of the AGHS is called the nominated company.

Clause 5 provides that the Minister may declare that a specified company is the 'nominated company'. That company must be incorporated under the Corporations Law and have a share capital.

Clauses 10-12 provide for the transfer to the nominated company of AGHS assets, contractual rights and obligations and liabilities.

Clause 20 provides for the nominated company to be exempt from stamp duty and other taxes under State or Territory law as long as it is Commonwealth owned and carries on activities within the legislative powers of the Parliament.

Clause 22 provides for the payment of just compensation by the Commonwealth where the operation of this Part would result in the acquisition of property other than on just terms. Where the Commonwealth and the affected person cannot agree on the amount of compensation payable, the person may institute proceedings in the Federal Court for recovery from the Commonwealth of such compensation as the court determines.

Commencement: Royal Assent (clause 2).

Amendments to the Hearing Services Act 1991

Part 1 Schedule 1

Item 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Bill substitutes a new paragraph 5(1)(a) in the Hearing Services Act 1991 (the Principal Act) the effect of which is to provide that a person who holds a Pensioner Concession Card, Health Benefits Card, or Repatriation Health Card is an eligible person for hearing services.

Note: Paragraph 5(1)(a) of the Principal Act currently provides that a person who holds a Pensioner Concession Card, Health Benefits Card or a Personal Treatment Entitlement Card is an eligible person for hearing services.

Item 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Bill repeals paragraphs 5(1)(ac) and (ad). These paragraphs currently provide that a holder of a seniors health card is an eligible person for hearing services.

The effect of item 5 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Bill is to lower the age limit for people receiving hearing services from 21 to 18 years of age.

Commencement: Royal Assent (clause 2).

Part 2 of Schedule 1

Section 8 of the Principal Act sets out the functions of Australian Hearing Services (AHS). It is a function of AHS under paragraph 8(1)(a) of the Principal Act that it provide hearing services to eligible persons. New paragraphs 8(1)(a)-(ad) are being substituted in the Principal Act by item 24 of Part 2 of Schedule 1 to make it a function of AHS to:

  • provide hearing services to voucher holders under the proposed Hearing Services Administration Act 1997;
  • provide declared hearing services to Australian children (see item 29 below for the meaning of 'declared hearing services');
  • provide declared hearing services to referred Comcare clients;
  • provide declared hearing services to referred Commonwealth employees; and
  • provide declared hearing services to designated persons.

A new paragraph 8(1)(g) is being substituted in the Principal by item 27 of Part 2 of Schedule 1 which makes it a function of AHS to develop standards in relation to noise levels in the community in connection with the prevention of hearing loss.

Note: Paragraph 8(1)(g) of the Principal Act currently makes it a function of AHS to develop standards in relation to hearing products, the provision of hearing services and noise levels in the community in connection with the prevention of hearing loss.

Item 29 of Part 2 of Schedule 1 provides the Minister, subject to disallowance by Parliament, with power to determine that a specified hearing service is a 'declared hearing service' for each of the groups listed in item 24 (see above).

A new section 16A is inserted in the Principal Act by item 37 of Part 2 of Schedule 1 which provides the Minister with the power to dismiss all of the Directors of AHS if he or she believes the performance of the Board has been unsatisfactory for a significant time. The same power of termination is proposed in respect of an appointed Director and Managing Director under items 59 and 71 of Part 2 of Schedule 1.

Note: Neither the Explanatory Memorandum or Second Reading Speech to the Bill define the term 'unsatisfactory'.

Proposed subsection 62(1A), which is inserted in the Principal Act by item 80 of Part 2 of Schedule 1, allows the AHS to charge for hearing services in accordance with an agreement entered into under Part 3 of the proposed Hearing Services Administration Act 1997. Under Part 3 of that proposed Act, AHS may be engaged by the Commonwealth as a contracted service provider to provide hearing services to voucher holders.

Commencement: 1 July 1997 (clause 2).

Amendments to the Privacy Act 1988

The Privacy Act 1988 (the Privacy Act) applies primarily to the actions of Commonwealth agencies. Item 2 of Schedule 4 of the Bill extends the definition of agency in the Privacy Act to include the nominated company (see clause 5 of this Bill) or an eligible hearing service provider (see the Hearing Services Administration Bill 1997). Effectively this brings these two bodies within the ambit of the Privacy Act.

Item 7 of Schedule 4 extends the definition of acts and practices of Commonwealth agencies to which the Privacy Act applies to those of an eligible hearing service providerin connection with the provision of hearing services under the proposed Hearing Services Administration Act 1997 Similarly, item 9 of Schedule 4 of the Bill extends the definition of acts and practices of Commonwealth agencies to which the Privacy Act applies to those of a Minister in relation to the affairs, and records of affairs, of an eligible hearing service provider in connection with the provision of hearing services.

Commencement: Royal Assent (clause 2).

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Ian Ireland
11 March 1997
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1323-9031
Commonwealth of Australia 1996

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1997.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 9 April 1997



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