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Monday, 25 February 1985
Page: 112

Senator CROWLEY —I ask whether the Minister representing the Minister for Health has seen and noted the attacks on Dr Lindsay Thompson and the Australian Medical Association for their willingness to negotiate in the doctors dispute. Are these attacks representative of a general response from the medical profession? Are such attacks conducive to a reasonable and rapid settlement of the dispute? At what stage are the negotiations and what is the likelihood of a satisfactory settlement in the near future?

Senator GRIMES —Yes, I, like every senator in this place, have noticed attacks on the Australian Medical Association, on Dr Lindsay Thompson and others by a mixed group of people in the community. During Question Time on Friday I said that I was disappointed that someone such as the honourable member for Mackellar, Jim Carlton, should so quickly enter into this dispute, particularly as he is a former Minister for Health and realised the difficulty at a time when the present shadow Minister for Health and the Leader of the Opposition had not made any comments about the position of the AMA vis-a-vis the procedural specialists. It is even more disappointing to find since then that Mr Howard has joined in with Mr Carlton in these attacks on the Australian Medical Association. I gather that at last Mr Porter is now being heard and Mr Peacock, bringing up the tail, as usual, has now joined in the attack on the Australian Medical Association and Dr Thompson.

Today I was also interested to note that Mr Paul Gross, the Director of the Institute of Health, Economics and Technology Assessment, in an article warning the procedural specialists on their difficulty, pointed out that the Council of Procedural Specialists is now advised by Dr Peter Arnold. Dr Peter Arnold, formerly the President of the General Practitioners Society of Australia-I think he was a foundation president-of course, is not a procedural specialist, has nothing to do with surgery, and is an extreme right wing political activist who is far to the right of the soup spoon by anyone's calculation.

I think the fact that Dr Arnold is now advising the procedural specialists explains why for the first time, when they met with the Prime Minister last week, they actually had a concrete proposal. For the first time they had put something on paper-something they were unable to produce when they were negotiating with me. The requests they had put on paper were for changes to legislation which would mean the end of universal health insurance in this country. However, other people are now coming out in support of the Australian Medical Association. The Association of University Clinical Professors of Australia has in fact--

Senator Walters —Ha, ha!

Senator GRIMES —Senator Walters laughs. She does not think much of clinical professors because most of them are salaried people. But for years in this country they have taught the procedural specialists in the public teaching hospitals. The procedural specialists involved in this dispute have forgotten that they trained at public expense and that they received their specialised training at public expense in public hospitals. Senator Walters may be offended by that point, but that happens to be the fact. The Press statement issued by the Association of University Clinical Professors, which Senator Walters holds in such contempt, states that the Association:

. . . strongly supports the action taken by the AMA, the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales in entering into immediate negotiation to resolve the crisis in the provision of medical services in New South Wales . . .

Senator Walters should listen to the next line of the statement, which reads:

We also support the call from the presidents of the three senior clinical royal colleges for a moratorium on the implementation of resignations . . .

I remind Senator Walters that those colleges are the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. So Senator Walters holds them in the same contempt in which she holds the university clinical professors of Australia.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I raise a point of order. Clearly, again, the Minister is debating the question. I ask you to ask him to answer the question and sit down.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister clearly is replying to a question asked by Senator Crowley, but I ask him to restrict his reply to Senator Crowley's question and not Senator Walters's interjection.

Senator GRIMES —I was being helped by Senator Walters's interjections. I thought they deserved an answer. The simple fact is that not only the AMA, the presidents of the senior colleges and the Association of University Clinical Professors of Australia but also the editorialists of every newspaper in this country strongly support the idea that people should actually negotiate and discuss the matter. The only people who do not want to see negotiation are a few procedural specialists and Mr Jim Carlton, who is leading the Opposition on this occasion in its charge to see chaos result in New South Wales teaching hospitals. The New South Wales teaching hospitals have borne the brunt of this dispute. They have had to do that because the procedural specialists in the outlying hospitals, who do not do any teaching and who do hardly any work for public patients, have refused to assist them and, to use a crude term, have bludged on the teaching hospitals. The teaching hospitals are fed up. They deserve the support of those procedural specialists and I believe the clinical professors of this country deserve their support.