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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 818


Mr NEWMAN(10.43) —I would like to reinforce what was said by my colleague the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) on this issue.


Mr Cunningham —You would not know anything about it.


Mr NEWMAN —For heaven's sake, if the honourable member for McMillan cannot make a contribution he should leave the place. Let us have some rational discussion. That is what the Minister for Health (Dr Blewett) has been asking for. I reinforce what was said on this issue by my colleague the honourable member for Mackellar. Many members of the Government have asked how they might help to prevent overservicing if this is encouraged by the existing system. One clear way of doing this is to make sure that there is a contribution from the patient. In that way there is a natural curb on the patient's willingness to go to the doctor time and again.


Mr Groom —That is pretty obvious.


Mr NEWMAN —As my colleague the honourable member for Braddon has said, that is a very obvious proposition. But of course these clauses remove that completely from the scheme. I would like also to add to what the honourable member for Mackellar said about overservicing. Perhaps I can take it from another point of view. Whilst I think the honourable member for Mackellar said that 80 per cent of the population would now be looking for bulk billing, let us look at this question from a doctor's point of view. I do not think we will have a problem with those doctors who presently bulk bill. I think the advisers of the Minister for Health who are seated behind him in the chamber will agree that these practices that now have large, bulk billing procedures-say 70 per cent-have a very good relationship with the departments in the various States. They are providing a service to those large numbers of people whom they bulk bill. There probably is no question, either in their dealings with their patients or with the Department of Health, that they are trying to overservice.

The problem really is this: We believe that the pressures that the Government is putting on other doctors to bulk bill will mean that they will be looking to make up lost income. This could involve up to 15 per cent of lost income. Those are the doctors who will be tempted to overservice as a result of this new procedure. Again I ask the Minister whether he can give us some indication of what he will do about that. He said that, in a month or two, he will be telling us what he will do about the surveillance of the profession and that that will cope with overservicing. He said that the Government will probably take up some of the recommendations of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. But it would be reassuring if tonight the Minister could tell us how he will cope with this problem.

Perhaps I could just put in a nutshell the problem about which we are concerned . We are not worried about those people who presently bulk bill. We are worried about the number of doctors who will be forced to bulk bill in the future. Because they have lost income they will be tempted to overservice. I have previously described the way in which they can easily do this. I ask the Minister please to let us know how he will cope with that very real problem of overservicing so that the cost to the Government will not overreach the Budget that he has placed on the scheme.