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Tuesday, 9 April 1946

Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) . - I move -

That, in proposed new paragraph (xxiii.a.), the following words bo left put:-" sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services ".

I move this amendment for the reasons stated in my second-reading speech. The experience of the Government during the last four or five years shows that it cannot successfully approach the subject of a national health service in the way it is attempting. It forced the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill through the House during an all-night sitting, but it has not yet been able to reach an agreement with the chemists. I have no objection to the Commonwealth having power to legislate in regard to public health, but the matter should be dealt with in an amendment covering all phases of the subject. The Attorney-General directed our attention to the list of powers con- ! erred on the Commonwealth by the Constitution. In that document, the powers are stated clearly and crisply. For instance, it is stated that the Commonwealth

Parliament shall have power to legislatein respect of trade and commerce, taxation, posts and telegraphs and other like services, quarantine, invalid and oldagepensions, &c. The Government's present proposal provides that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to legislate for -

The provision of maternity allowances, widows' pensions, child endowment, unemployment, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services, benefits to students, and family allowances.

To include such a' hotch-potch of items is to make a mockery of section 51. As the Government would not accept the amendment of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), it should, at least, frame workmanlike proposals of its own in regard to public health. Its attempt to deal with the matter from the top downwards is stupid, and must lead to confusion and conflict. For instance, the Commonwealth has been paying a subsidy of so many shillings a day for each hospital bed, when the fact is that we are hopelessly short of hospital beds. In fact, the need for hospital accommodation is even greater than the need for houses. We should make a frontal attack on this problem.

Amendment negatived.

Sitting suspended from 11.50 p.m. till 12.20 a.m. (Wednesday).

Wednesday, 10 April 19£6.

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