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Tuesday, 23 April 1985
Page: 1355

Senator SIBRAA —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Does the Minister consider that any purpose would be served by the Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, and the New South Wales Premier, Mr Wran, attending the meeting of procedural specialists in Sydney next Saturday? Will Mr Hawke be attending?

Senator GRIMES —I certainly do not see any purpose in Mr Hawke, Mr Wran or others attending the meeting of procedural specialists which has been called, as Senator Sibraa says, in Sydney next Saturday. Mr Hawke and, I understand, Mr Wran and others were invited by Dr Shepherd, the president of the procedural specialists, to explain the offer that the Government has made to the Australian Medical Association in an effort to settle the New South Wales dispute. That offer has been developed and has been explained at any number of meetings with representatives of the medical profession. Recently Dr Shepherd and his colleagues wrote to both the Prime Minister and the Premier asking for further minor explanations, and those letters have been replied to. Despite that, Dr Shepherd, within a few hours of the offer being announced, said that he believed it was unacceptable, that he was not going to accept it and that he expected his members would not accept it.

Dr Shepherd will be chairing the meeting next Saturday and he will sit there with 200 proxy votes which he may use himself, as he did at the last meeting. At the last meeting about 400 people attended-it is expected there will be fewer people this time-and those 200 proxy votes will decide any result, and the chance of Dr Shepherd changing his mind in the light of his statements I would expect is very unlikely.

Senator Crowley —How many proxy dollars?

Senator GRIMES —Senator Chaney and his colleagues have put several questions to Senator Walsh this morning about people living beyond their means. I would like to point out that the claims of Dr Shepherd and Dr Aroney and his colleagues would increase the public expenditure this year by $1,000m and would serve only to bloat the pockets of people such as Dr Shepherd, who earn many times the average weekly earnings in this country. Mr Hawke has announced and has informed Dr Shepherd that he will not be attending. I understand, after hearing Mr Wran, that it is most unlikely that he or any representative will attend. The Federal Australian Medical Association sees no purpose in attending. Explanatory letters, explaining why we will not go, have also been written.

The result of the meeting is almost a fait accompli. So in answer to Senator Sibraa I can see no purpose in the Government sending a representative to a meeting of this type. I just hope that a sufficient number of people at the meeting will convince Dr Shepherd that he should take notice of the fact that the plebiscite conducted by the AMA shows that the overwhelming percentage of doctors in this country believe that Dr Shepherd and his colleagues should return to work, should cease their industrial action. One can only hope that that will occur at this next meeting, but I do not think one can have too much faith in that result.