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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1803


Senator TOWNLEY(11.19) — We are dealing with the potential disallowance of an ordinance and of some regulations for the Australian Capital Territory relating to health matters. I have always taken what I regard as a fairly basic outlook on any legislation; that is: Why do it if it is not necessary? Why should legislation be passed if it is not necessary? Senator Grimes did not seem to address that which I feel is the central issue before us. The fact is that not one example has been produced of doctors in the Australian Capital Territory charging more than the schedule fee for these diagnostic and radiology services that come within the precincts of these matters. Patients can have all the hospital treatment and investigations they require free, if they so choose. Nobody need pay a fee at all. Furthermore, the cost to the Government is the same whether or not a doctor charges the schedule fee. That is quite clear. Therefore, as Senator Baume mentioned, there is no problem at the moment and the ordinance and the rules are completely unnecessary.

It seems to me that this is just a case of the Government in Canberra trying to get more and more control for Canberra. I am against Canberra trying to get control. It seems to be a pattern with socialist governments to try to get control over as much as they possibly can. I think this is an example of that happening. At the moment the Government is trying to intrude unnecessarily into private medical practices. As Senator Baume pointed out a few minutes ago, this could eventually alter the quality of health care available in public hospitals. If the doctors who leave the public hospitals because of the controls imposed upon them are the radiologists and the pathologists, they will be most difficult to replace because, as we all know, there is a shortage of those specialists throughout this country. They are not the type of people who will be messed around by petty government control that has proven to be unnecessary.

Senator Walters, by way of interjection a little while ago, said that she had many examples of the attacks this Government has made on the doctors of this country. The fact that there are so many doctors in this Parliament points to the level of admiration, if you like, with which the public of this country regards doctors, and I believe rightly so. I believe the Government should slow down its attack on and its continual attempt to denigrate the doctors of this country or we will end up, as was suggested earlier, with a two-tier medical system, the public hospitals giving one level of service and the private system giving another. I believe the private one would give a better service. In other words, the people who go to the public hospitals would be the ones to suffer.

The only reason the Government can want these regulations is as part of an attempt at long term price control of the fees of this profession. The lawyers could quite easily be the next group to anticipate this kind of price control being imposed upon them. It is quite obvious that the Canberra socialists like control and that this is a move to get more unnecessary control for Canberra. As I said a moment ago, this is the thin end of the wedge to control other professions throughout this country. These regulations and this ordinance are unnecessary and, in my opinion, they should be rejected by the Senate.