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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 224

Senator SHEIL(11.09) —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. It would be nice to be classed in maiden company again but I understand that an old war horse like me could not expect anything like that. I must say that Senator Lewis has left me reeling with his startling revelations about the situation in Victoria. I just hope that message has got through to the proper place where it can do a bit of good. However, I too would like to congratulate Senator Aulich and Senator Cooney on their maiden speeches in reply to the Address. I thought they were thoughtful and interesting speeches and I would like to congratulate them, not only on their election, but also on their speeches. I also congratulate the other newly-elected senators to this place, plus all those who were re-elected. In addition, I pass on congratulations to the President himself for instituting the expanded orientation course that all new senators had available to them before the session started. It really was a knock-out. It provided information to new senators that would normally take them four or five years to glean. It was well worth while. I thank all the officers of the various departments of the Parliament, from the Clerk of the Senate down, and including the staff of the Records and Table Office, Hansard, the Parliamentary Library and other departments. Everyone was really marvellous to us, up to and including the Real Estate Institute of the Australian Capital Territory, with which we had a very helpful interview.

A couple of things that came out of the orientation course had me worried. One was the new and peculiar sitting hours. It seemed fairly obvious to me that the sitting hours would interfere with the committee work of the Senate. As the Senate's committee work expands and because it is really the life-blood of the new work in the Senate, I would not like to see anything that attenuated the work of our committees. I understand that somebody is looking into this and I would be quite happy to make a submission on that because our committee work is what makes our Parliament tick in a big way, particularly with the new system for the review of Bills, which can be done very quickly. The other thing that upset me a bit was to find out that a new edition of J. R. Odgers's book Australian Senate Practice has not been published since about 1976. I hope that someone is working to update that book because it is the prime authority on just about everything that goes on in this place and I would not like to see it lapse. However, I had better turn to the Address-in-Reply.

Initially, I turn to Medicare and the health issue. I have a feeling of deja vu, almost, in having to address the Medicare issue because when I was first elected to this place I had run an enormous campaign, storming up and down Queensland fighting against Medibank. When I was finally elected after a long count I came here to find myself in Opposition. At that time the Whitlam Government was in office and it had forced a joint sitting of the Parliament to ram through Medibank. It took years to whittle away and finally get rid of it. Actually, we got rid of it just as Mr Fraser lost his election. Now I am fighting another campaign against Medicare, which is bigger and worse than Medibank ever was, and I find myself back in Opposition again. That is why I have this feeling of deja vu. If persistence is worth anything, I have the persistence to keep fighting.

Honourable senators can see what is happening to health care. Senator Lewis mentioned what is happening to health care in Victoria, where private hospitals and nursing homes are all in trouble. We can see what is happening in New South Wales, where we even have doctors resigning from service. These sorts of schemes have been tried all around the world. The only thing they have in common is that every one is a failure. Why we have to persist with this sort of thing I do not know. Our scheme is modelled on the Canadian scheme. Canadian doctors have had nothing but strikes in almost every province since its introduction, so there must be some reason other than the people's health for bringing it in.

The logic of it is unbeatable. If we promise people free health care at the point of delivery-I think they are the words the Government uses-we create an unlimited demand for medical services. Of course, the Government has only a limited budget with which to satisfy these unlimited demands for service. Indeed, as the demand goes up and we spend the money the two diverge. They cannot meet. So we have dissatisfaction in the hospitals-among staff, doctors and patients. Everybody is dissatisfied. People become dissatisfied because the Government has to restrict the service. It is the only way it can possibly run such a health scheme. All national health schemes have to be restricted schemes. So it is a false promise to say that people can have free health care services at the point of delivery. They cannot; the Government has to have restrictions, regulations and controls. Those are the sorts of things that the doctors revolt against. They will not accept them, so they just resign. I am not the only one to hold this view; it is also held by doctors on the other side. I remember that Dr Everingham said that no government could afford to provide fully fledged government health services. I think Dr Dick Klugman also said that it was a dream incapable of fulfilment. I agree with that. It is impossible to have a totally government-funded health service because such a service must be restricted.

Health care falls into four easy divisions-medical research, education, preventive medicine and curative medicine. It is obvious that the more the Government puts into the research, education and preventive medicine, the less it will have to put into curative medicine. It is in curative medicine that private enterprise can really come to the rescue and take the load off the Government. We in Queensland have a free hospital system. When private medical insurance was allowed, with gap insurance, the people settled at about 50:50. Fifty per cent were happy to go to public hospitals and fifty per cent wanted private insurance. I think that is a very amicable separation of the people. They are willing to trade their time waiting in outpatient clinics and their privacy for free health care. The Government has to take care of the workers' compensation cases. There are many people on the pension of whom it needs to take care, including Veterans' Affairs patients. It needs to provide teaching material. Many people are quite willing to sacrifice their privacy and their time in order to have free health care, but half the people want and go for private medical insurance. This is what we obviously should go for.

I remember that when I made my maiden speech here I gave the cartoonists of the major dailies a fortnight's fun when I said that I disagreed with the Robin Hood principle of government under which we take from the rich and give to the poor. I did then and I do now. I remember saying at the time that no matter how well we thought of Robin Hood, he was still a hood. Thinking about it subsequently, I thought the Sheriff of Nottingham, who one could say was representing the government, was not such a nice guy either, but we cannot fix a situation by having all crooks. If the sheriff was a crook and Robin was a crook the situation in Sherwood Forest was pretty bad. What is happening is that we have this Robin Hood-type of government and everybody is trying to cheat the Government in order to make ends meet.

Senator Ryan —Not everybody, fortunately.

Senator SHEIL —Well, a fair number of them are trying to get around to that. If honourable senators opposite think that they will stand at the next election on their record, they are welcome to do that. There are plenty of records they can stand on: Record spending for a start, record taxes, record deficit, record debt and, probably, record devaluation of the Australian dollar. I would say that it is not the best record to stand on. I am sure that we will get into the detail of all that later.

I am particularly interested in defence and maintenance of law, which I would say are fundamental functions that governments should perform. We have had an enormous defence rundown, not only in personnel but also in materiel and morale. On top of that, we have been undermining our treaties with New Zealand and the United States of America and doing things that make one feel ashamed, such as refusing to service the Invincible. I think just about all real Australian's were ashamed that we would not look after that vessel when it was disabled. I listened to what was said yesterday about the closing of our ports to nuclear-armed or propelled ships. What was said made me feel ashamed. We should not be doing things like that. I think people have been carried away by a lot of emotional claptrap.

Senator Sir John Carrick made a wonderful and sensible contribution to the debate yesterday. We have had the experience of a nuclear war and unilateral nuclear disarmament. The people of Japan did not have the bomb during the last war. Indeed, two bombs were needed to force that country to surrender. Those nuclear explosions did not lead to the nuclear winter that people talk about. They certainly killed a lot of people, but they led to a quick finish to the war. I am sure that without the balance of terror under which we have been living we probably would have had a war 10 years ago.

I see the run-down of our defence forces as a desperate situation. The forces do not have enough fuel to carry out their exercises. They do not have enough ammunition to practise. This situation must be most demoralising to the personnel who are trying to man our defence forces.

I would now like to say something about the maintenance of law. Our judiciary seems to be shot through from top to the bottom, from the High Court to the magistrates courts. I do not want to say a lot about this matter because court cases are pending. However, the people's confidence in the judicial system must certainly be undermined. It is most important that we have confidence in the administration of our laws. If we denigrate our legal system we undermine the very fabric of society. The Government must address the fundamental issue of the maintenance of law.

Senator Lewis made a powerful contribution to the debate on education. I think that education has come under the same threat as have private hospitals. I think it is the object of this Government to get rid of private enterprise as best it can. In the case of medicine it is doing this by withdrawing gap insurance. It has made gap insurance illegal. It is forcing doctors to accept contracts that are able to be varied by the Minister without reference to the doctors. It is categorising hospitals. In the case of education, of course, the Government is using straight out financial strangulation. My side of politics would see the expansion of the private schools system as the desirable goal. We do not want to see the private school system eradicated and the number of public schools expanded. As I said, I thought Senator Lewis's contribution was very good.

In my view, people seem to believe that unemployment is a disease. It is not a disease. Unemployment is a symptom of a disease, and the disease is high taxes and high fixed minimum wages. The only way that the trade unions can get the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to act is to create a dispute. The unions have to create a dispute by making unrealistic demands in order to activate or trigger the Commission. I think the Commission has got punch drunk from these recurring requests. It has handed down terms and conditions that have made it unattractive for employers to employ anybody. I think that we now have employer resistance. It is almost as if the courts hated employers. Conditions such as holiday loadings, severance pay, redundancy pay and high penalty rates make it unrealistic for employers to employ people. It is a sad state of affairs that employers have been clobbered to such an extent that they feel hostile towards employing people.

I am happy to make my contribution to this Address-in-Reply debate. I listened carefully to the Governor-General's Speech. I also listened carefully to the legislative program that the Government hopes to implement to bring about its objectives. I have my own view. I think I will just watch that program with the highest of hopes and expect the worst. If I do that I am sure not to be disappointed.

Debate (on motion by Senator Ryan) adjourned.