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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 775

Senator HAINES —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of an editorial in a New South Wales free newspaper called the Guardian that argues that people who support Medicare should break the law to show their support? In case he is not, the relevant paragraphs of that editorial read:

If by any circumstances you are required to attend a doctor who does not bulk- bill, then DO NOT PAY for the service. Take the bill to Medibank and get a 'pay doctor' cheque (for 85 per cent of the scheduled fee) and give that to the doctor as payment in full.

It is most important that the public rally to the defence of Medicare.

We must not stand idly by while these greedy mercantile doctors--

whatever they are--

carve away at our right to a national medical system such as Medicare.

Does the Minister agree with the description of doctors who do not bulk bill as 'greedy'? Does he support the course of action recommended in the editorial? Can he say what repercussions could follow the taking of such action by patients?

Senator GRIMES —No, I have not seen the article referred to by Senator Haines. I do not read the Guardian-that great free New South Wales newspaper. I do not, under any circumstances, support the breaking of the law by anyone, although I doubt whether not paying a bill to anybody in this country is really breaking the law. Certainly, it is then up to the doctor to take some civil action to get his or her return. I do not support breaking the law under any circumstance, be it by doctors or anyone else, just as I do not support the medical profession introducing a new element into the debate by discussing the private medical histories of children or relatives of members of this Parliament. I think we are in for a great new era in this place and it will do no good for this institution if that is the sort of behaviour we are going to have to put up with. I notice that not all honourable senators agree with me in the light of a notice of motion that was put down in this place yesterday by Senator Walters who, of course, would have no compunction about having private medical records of senators' relatives discussed in this place. I do not know the details of the matter that Senator Haines is talking about but I will make sure that I get the journal in question, have a look at it and consult with the Minister for Health so that I can give Senator Haines the detailed reply she deserves.