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Wednesday, 11 November 1959

Mr CLAY (St. George) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) must surely be a reincarnation of that gentleman who Disraeli said was inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity. Surely, a number of honorable members on his own side of the chamber desire to contribute to the debate on this bill. I know that there are some on this side who desire to contribute to the discussion. The last half hour has been entirely wasted, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have heard nothing new. We have heard nothing fresh, but merely a re-hast of what has gone before - a defence of the indefensible.

This Government lives in the past, Sir. If it can continue to deceive the electors for the next 100 years, it will, I am sure, still be defending itself in the year 2059 by pointing back to 1949, the year in which it managed to win office. We, on this side of the House, grow weary - and I have no doubt that the people, too, are growing very weary - of hearing these continual references to what was spent on pharmaceutical benefits, medical benefits, social services or something else in 1949. This Government has occupied the treasury bench for the whole of the ten years since 1949. It seems to ignore the fact that ten years have rolled by since it took office, and that vast changes have taken place in population and in the value of money. Its only defence on any matter is to hark back to 1949.

I think it is worth while to remind the House at this point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that, in the powers referendum proposals of 1946, as a result of which the Commonwealth was given power to legislate for social services, including dental and medical services, Labour caused to be included a provision preventing the nationalizing or socializing of doctors. We have to listen for far too long to the smear and the gibe that Labour wants to socialize the medical profession. In this connexion, I want to refer to placitum (xxiiiA.) of section 51 of the Australian Constitution, under " Part V. - Powers of the Parliament ". It appears at page 141 of the publication " An Introduction to the Australian Federal Parliament", which has been prepared under instructions from Senator the Honorable Sir Alister McMullin, President of the Senate. This placitum of the Constitution, which was inserted as a result of the powers referendum in 1 946, provides that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to -

The provision of maternity allowances, widows* pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, medical and dental services (but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription), benefits to students and family allowances.

I think this ought to silence once and for all the cry that Labour has set out to nationalize the medical profession. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is about time the Government stopped repeating that infamous lie.

I want to deal now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with what I describe as the enforced role of the pharmacists in the national health scheme. May I just observe, on this point, that the Government appears to be outsocializing the socialists. It continually refers to us smearingly as the socialists. But I suggest that, if this measure were being perpetrated in Moscow, the harshness of the attitude adopted by the rulers of the Kremlin in imposing on the pharmacists of Russia a scheme such as this would be severely criticized. 1 want to make a further reference to the constitution of this advisory committee about which we have heard so much. This is the refuge behind which the Minister for Health retreats in order to defend the indefensible. It is a committee of nine. There are four representatives of the pharmaceutical profession, four Government nominees and a chairman nominated by the Government. It would seem to every reasonably minded person that the Government would be inclined to nominate members who would be sympathetic with its beliefs. In fact, that seems to be how it has worked out. So the dice is loaded very definitely against the pharmaceutical profession in the formation of this committee. In fact, if this committee were operating in the reign of the Stuart kings it would have been part of the work of the Star Chamber.

Mr Turnbull - That is going back a long way.

Mr CLAY - I am going back a little further than 1949, but I will not dwell on that as the Government so often dwells on the 1949 period.

The cost of this scheme is to be found mainly in the cost of the drugs which are prescribed. I do not want to re-hash everything that has been said in this House on this subject but there is no attempt in the bill, as there should be, to place some curb on unnecessary prescribing by a minority of doctors. There is no doubt that once a doctor in a certain district sets out to prescribe all the most expensive drugs he can think of, the news gets around and he becomes regarded as a sort of local saviour or messiah, to the detriment of the other doctors. If they want to compete with him they have to follow suit. An attempt must be made to place some curb on this practice.

Why are some of our drugs so costly? One antibiotic which I was shown a few days ago in a pharmacy is sold under nine different names. Each one of the variously labelled and coloured bottles contains a different number of capsules and each bottle bears a different name. But the price is the same for the same number of capsules and that price is primarily dictated by the combine or monopoly of drug manufacturing houses. The chemist has no option but to give whatever the doctor prescribes. He knows, when he does so, that he could pick any one of the nine bottles and the patient would get the same result.

I think that an attempt should be made to examine the drug manufacturing industry because there can be little doubt that it is getting far too much profit. That is one of the reasons why the Government's scheme has been so expensive and has been such a drain on the taxpayer. The Government has decided to do what it did in the postal charges legislation and get a few million pounds back from the ordinary people. It is taking similar action in the field of national health and getting a few million pounds back at the expense of people who cannot afford it.

I have no doubt that millions of pounds are spent by drug manufacturing houses on research into new and very valuable drugs. I do not quibble at their right to recoup themselves for their expenditure even on a fruitless search for a drug which might be of great benefit to mankind. But we are left with a feeling that they recoup themselves several times over. I do not think that any organization, in any field of manufacture, should be entitled to recoup its expenses several times over. In this field, it seems to me that an attempt could have been made by the Government to enlarge the scope of the Commonwealth laboratories. I see no attempt being made to do that. The Commonwealth laboratories have already done great work. They have produced the Salk vaccine, in respect of which they did a very good job.

But I feel that in the field of antibiotics, when we are being exploited by the drug houses, the Commonwealth laboratories could be safely entrusted with the task of breaking the combine.

There are two other matters to which I desire to refer. First, I wish to refer briefly to hospitals for the aged. I note that the scheme fails to make provision for the financing of what I call " semi-hospitals " - institutions which house and care for the old. The Government's scheme, as revealed here, is vague and amorphous. At the moment many old people can receive their age pension and, with eight weeks' advance membership in a hospitals contributions fund, a further £7 per week from the Government, making a total of £11 15s. per week, which is still about £3 or £4 less than the weekly fees in hospital homes for the aged. The Minister says that as long as the invalid is receiving treatment comparable with the treatment that he would normally receive in a recognized hospital, he will be included in the benefits of the scheme. I hope that the interpretation placed upon this section of the bill will be broad and charitable. Here, a very great responsibility will fall upon the Minister.

Only a couple of miles away from where I live, there is an excellent home for old people, to which I have referred previously in this House. It is run by two nurses. It generally has in it 30 old people, one of whom, incidentally, is 104 years of age. She is a most remarkable old lady, and can carry on an intelligent conversation and read books or papers although physically she is quite feeble. But she is characteristic of the people whom you find in these homes. I would say that the two nurses who run the home are the nearest approach to angels that you could find on earth. Apparently you do not have to go to Heaven to be an angel. In institutions such as this, it is largely a matter of keeping the old people comfortable. Whether they are in a public hospital or not makes little difference. I feel that there should have been a more precise and definite approach to this kind of institution in order to give these people the same entitlement to hospital benefits as anybody else.

Finally, I want to refer to a field of medicine for which this bill makes no provision whatsoever. There is a system of therapeutics which is based upon the theory that disease is caused by interference with nerve functions. The Minister will know about this system. It is based upon the premise that ali the physiological and other processes of the human body are controlled and co-ordinated by the nerve system. Its therapeutics attempts to restore normal function of the nerve system by manipulation and treatment of the structures of the human body, especially those of the spinal column.

Daniel David Palmer, an American citizen, began to formulate this theory in 1895 and he established the Palmer School of Chiropractic at Davenport, Iowa, in 1903. Later, other schools were founded in different parts of the United States, and by 1941 the National Chiropractic Association had extended accredited ratings to twelve colleges teaching scientific courses of four collegiate years. The practice of chiropractic has been accorded legislative recognition in 42 States of the United States of America as well as the District of Columbia, Alaska, Hawaii and several provinces in Canada. It was estimated several years ago that there were 18,000 chiropractors practising in the United States and Canada. It is worthy of mention that the name chiropractic comes from Chiron or Cheiron, who, in Greek mythology, was one of the centaurs, the son of Kronus and Philyra, a sea nymph. He was famous for his wisdom and his knowledge of the art of healing. Accidentally pierced by a poisoned arrow shot by Herakles, he renounced his immortality in favour of Prometheus and was placed by Zeus among the stars as the constellation Sagittarius. Incidentally, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and I are Sagittarians.

A very celebrated Sydney gynaecologist many years ago visited the United States and there familiarized himself with the science of chiropractic and has since been associated with some very unusual cases. I myself years ago was smitten by spondylitis or arthritis of the spine and I reached the point where constantly recurring bouts of pain were so excruciating that I thought suicide was the only form of relief. Honorable members opposite may have cause to regret in a few years' time that I did not commit suicide. Those who have suffered the excruciating agony of spondylitis or arthritis of the spine will appreciate that one feels there is only one way out - an overdose of morphine or death by some other means, so great is the pain. The particular gynaecologist of whom I am speaking is a member of the British Medical Association. He is a Macquarie-street man who learnt the science of chiropractic in the United States and who has attempted to apply it in Sydney. Fortunately, somebody who had been treated by him recommended him to me. For twenty years, I had been drinking bottles of medicine and swallowing thousands of pills. I had been subjected to deep X-rays, ultra violet rays and all kinds of other rays. After receiving treatment I was able to live free of pain and have been free of pain ever since, thanks to somebody in the ranks of the B.M.A., who knew something about chiropractic. I have known this man to leave his gynaecological practice in Macquariestreet at 7.30 p.m. to treat a large number of patients waiting for him at his practice in Castlecrag, Sydney. The Minister will know about whom I am speaking - the famous Edward Rivett. I used to see patients go to his hospital at Castlecrag so crippled with pain that they could only progress an inch at a time with somebody supporting them on each side, I have seen such patients enter the doctor's surgery and emerge five minutes later walking quite free from pain.

There are at least 18,000 chiropractors in the United States and Canada. In those countries there are four-year collegiate courses in chiropractic, but there is still no recognition of this branch of medical science in Australia. It is time the B.M.A., of which the Minister is a member, recognized chiropractic, even as it belatedly recognized the science of hypnotism.

I desire to conclude with the hope that the Government will leave one type of drug at least free for all. I refer to tranquilizing drugs, because after the taxes imposed on our patience by a government very much upon the defensive, I feel that we aire sorely in need of the best tranquillizing drugs free of charge.

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