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Thursday, 4 May 1939

Mr BARNARD (Bass) .- The motion to disallow this ordinance was moved some months ago by the late hon orable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker). In submitting the motion, he pointed out its objectionable features, and I expected that to-day some member of the Government would have answered the points then raised.

Sir Frederick Stewart - I am waiting to see if any additional points are raised so that I may deal with them too.

Mr BARNARD - That is an excuse, and not a reason. On that occasion the principle embodied in this ordinance was discussed at length. That principle, which apparently remains to-day, savours of the appointment of a dictatorship within the Australian Capital Territory. A change from this situation is not only desirable but also overdue. Members of the present Government may claim that they have not had time to investigate the matter, but, after all, the changes in the Ministry have not been very great. If the Minister for Health and Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) can give any indication that the Government proposes to alter the ordinance, I shall be happy not to pursue the subject further.

Sir Frederick Stewart - If the honorable member will explain which features he wishes altered I shall endeavour to discuss them.

Mr BARNARD - The ordinance deals with the method of electing the Hospital Board. The control of the hospital has been removed from the community and placed in the hands of the Medical Superintendent. This is equivalent to substituting for democratic control dictatorship control. That was the subject of the complaint of the late honorable member for Griffith and I support it. The principle of the ordinance is definitely undemocratic. As I regard the present Minister for Health and Social Services as a man who believes in democratic principles, I hope he will remedy my complaint. I object to the Medical Superintendent of the hospital exercising powers previously vested in an elected board, and I also object to the restricted franchise for hospital board elections. I hope that the Government will agree to alter the ordinance at an early date, and place the hospital under democratic control.

Sir FREDERICKSTEWART (Parramatta - Minister for Health and Social

Services) [5.20]. - Being new to my present office, I was unaware of the full implications of the ordinance under discussion, but, having perused in Hansard the remarks made by the late honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) when he submitted this motion, and having supplemented that information somewhat by listening to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), I have gathered that the principal objections to the ordinance fall under three headings. It is alleged that the present method of electing the Hospital Board is undemocratic; that the wives of taxpayers have no votes ; and that the hospital is controlled 'by a dictator superintendent. As a matter of fact, this ordinance, so far from being undemocratic, is, in its very essence, more democratic than the ordinance which it superseded. Under the provisions of the original ordinance, the Hospital Board consisted of five members, three of whom were nominated, and two elected. The present ordinance provides for a completely elective board of six members. Earlier speakers to this motion referred to the fact that wives of hospital taxpayers residing in Canberra were not eligible to vote. Honorable members who have not yet been informed on the subject will be glad to learn that a subsequent Ordinance, No. 26 of 1938, has made provision for wives of persons who pay the hospital tax to vote equally with their husbands. The grounds for the allegation of dictatorship on the part of the Medical Superintendent, and also the complaint that he is under the control of the Minister, have also been removed. Under Ordinance No. 3 of 1939, the superintendent is appointed by the elected board. He controls the hospital, subject to the over-riding control of the board, which itself is electedby the vote of almost all the citizens of Canberra. These alterations indicate clearly that the Government is prepared to consider representations for the correction of any irregularities. As the Minister now administering the Departments of Health and Social Services, I shall be prepared to receive any representations regarding matters which are considered to inflict injustices on any section of the community in Canberra.

Question resolved in the negative.

Debate resumed from the 6th October, 1938 (vide page 498, Vol. 157), on motion by Mr. Baker (since deceased) -

That Ordinance No. 22 (Hospital Tax) of 1938, made under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act and the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, be disallowed.

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