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Wednesday, 17 October 1984
Page: 1837


Senator WALTERS —I seek leave to make a statement.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —What is it about?


Senator WALTERS —It is a statement relating to the speech by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes).


Senator Grimes —I suggest that Senator Walters use the Standing Orders. One of our people was refused leave yesterday. Unless she tells us what the matter is about we cannot grant leave.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Is leave granted?


Senator Grimes —No.


Senator WALTERS —In that case, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Leave granted.


Senator WALTERS —There are several areas in which Senator Grimes claimed that I was not telling the truth in my speech last night. I would like to deal with those one at a time. First, when I was speaking about the 3B certificates that must be signed by doctors after patients have been in hospital for 35 days, I was explaining that under our system when we were in government doctors could use four different guidelines. Under the present system there is only one, and that is acute care. I said that the doctors were objecting to this. Senator Grimes said that that was not true. Again today, he said that the doctors have asked the Government to withdraw the four and make it only one. I have been speaking to the Australian Medical Association, following the speech last night, and at the same time as Senator Grimes was making those untruthful statements in the Senate today, and I was assured that the AMA had never asked the Government to withdraw those-


Senator Grimes —Who were you talking to? Say who you were talking to, come on.


Senator WALTERS —I was talking to George Repin.


Senator Grimes —Oh! Dear, oh dear, oh dear.


Senator WALTERS —Senator Grimes is suggesting that George Repin is not telling me the truth?


Senator Grimes —I am suggesting that you were not asking him the right questions . I take a point of order, Mr Deputy President. We have had a request for a personal explanation to be made in this place, because, one would assume, Senator Walters claims to have been misrepresented. With due respect, she is now making another second reading debate speech.


Senator WALTERS —No, I am not.


Senator Grimes —Wait a minute. Senator Walters is saying 'I made this speech last night; Senator Grimes disagreed with me; I have now gone away and got new evidence'-and all that sort of thing. If we allow this, we will have personal explanations endlessly after every speech made in this place. I do not mind people giving personal explanations. I certainly think that people should have the right to claim that they have been misrepresented. But when it is extended to the extent that we have a repeat second reading debate speech, I think that the whole system will break down.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Thank you, Senator Grimes. I am ready to rule on that point of order now. Senator Walters, you have leave to make a personal explanation. You have to confine it to how you are affected personally, and so far, in my view, you have been adhering to that, but you must not stray beyond that point or debate the matter at all.


Senator WALTERS —I will not stray, Mr Deputy President. I was told that I was not telling the truth. I am just indicating that I was expressing the truth. George Repin told me this morning that the AMA never asked the Government to withdraw the four. He said that the 3B certificate, as a fait accompli, was presented to the AMA and the AMA was asked for its response-that is, the single acute care section on its own. The AMA's response was that if the doctors had the full choice of whether patients stay in or not, they would not have any complaint. The AMA has since asked the Government for guidelines.


Senator Grimes —I said that.


Senator WALTERS —That is not what Senator Grimes has said.


Senator Grimes —I have said that, Senator.


Senator WALTERS —Indeed, Senator Grimes made it very clear that the AMA asked the Government to withdraw the four.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Walters, you are getting very wide of the point. You have leave to make a personal explanation. You are not seeking to do so on the ground of misrepresentation, which is a different ground. You must show how you were personally affected. I accept the earlier point, where Senator Grimes said that you misled the Senate in some way; that is proper. But you must confine your remarks to how you were personally affected by what has happened.


Senator WALTERS —Senator Grimes has just been proven to be telling untruths. On the second issue, as regards Dr Blewett's use of Medicare, I said last night:

He did not just take the doctor on duty. It was not good enough for him.

That is the situation. Generally, in all the capital cities apart from Canberra, if Australians have a problem and they have no private--


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Walters, I cannot see how this is affecting you personally. You must confine your explanation as to how you were personally affected.


Senator WALTERS —I have been misrepresented in the situation that Senator--


Senator Crowley —Mr Deputy President, I take a point of order. Standing order 418 states that no senator shall use and/or imply any imputation of improper motives. Senator Walters has just implied an improper motive to Dr Blewett. It is untenable. It is contrary to standing order 418. I ask that the honourable senator withdraw it.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Thank you, Senator Crowley. I ruled on this matter last night. Certainly standing order 418 has that nature, as you have said, but describing the behaviour of the Minister for Health, in these circumstances, is not criticising his motives within the terms of standing order 418. Senator Walters, on this explanation for which you have leave, you must confine yourself to how you were personally affected, and you must not reopen the debate.


Senator WALTERS —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. All that I said was that he did not use the system as the rest of Australia must use it.


Senator Crowley —That is not what you said, Senator. You said that it was not good enough for him. That is to imply that you understand what he thinks. It is outrageous.


Senator WALTERS —He did not use the system as the rest of Australia must use it, and I still maintain that that is exactly what has happened within Canberra.


Senator Grimes —You are a disgraceful woman; absolutely outrageous.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Grimes will cease interjecting.


Senator Grimes —It is the sort of behaviour she goes on with in Tasmania.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Grimes!

Question put:

That the words proposed to be added (Senator Peter Baume's amendment) be added.