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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1135

Senator AULICH —Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health seen the report prepared for the special Premiers Conference on National Campaign against Drug Abuse which indicates that cigarettes were responsible for 81 per cent of all drug-related deaths in 1983? Is the Minister concerned that the greedy antics of the New South Wales procedural surgeons is partly responsible for, firstly, obscuring the impact of medical tragedies indicated by those types of statistics and, secondly, diminishing the status of the medical profession as a whole?

Senator GRIMES —I did see the report which came out at the drug summit and which was compiled from various reports over the years on deaths from drug abuse or drug misuse in this country. I have been fully expecting a reformed smoker such as Senator Aulich to ask me a question about it. I think everyone in this Senate is aware of the dangers of cigarette smoking and of the health problems it causes to Australians. The problem is to convince all Australians and particularly young Australians that this is so. I suppose Senator Aulich is right in that when we have a dispute like the dispute with the New South Wales procedural specialists it is very difficult to get any other news of any medical interest in the papers because of this great distraction. Equally there are many people suffering from illnesses of the type that Senator Aulich describes who are not getting adequate treatment because of the attitude of these specialists.

I note, however, from the Press today that the procedural specialists in some Sydney teaching hospitals, including, I am especially proud to say, my old teaching hospital, have now gone back to work and are working normally. I hope that this happens in all the other centres. Of course, one of the difficulties is that the surgeons are led, as I said yesterday in Question Time, by a couple of right wing fanatics who have no regard for patients or for any economics except their own pockets. They also, I suppose, receive some assistance from the antics of some members of the Opposition. Mr Greiner, the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, who is close to this matter and realises the sorts of tragedies that are happening, has said that the doctors should act like good winners instead of bad winners and return to work.

However, Mr Porter, who is the shadow Minister for Health, we believe, in the present Opposition, has said that he agrees with the surgeons and that they should persist in trying to inflict on this country what he calls a free enterprise health system, with all the inequities that arise from that. Of course, he is only carrying on the good work of the previous Minister for Health and shadow Minister for Health, Mr Jim Carlton, who, as Senator Tate said, is an occasional spokesman on health when people cannot raise Mr Porter. Mr Carlton, of course, is a very firm supporter of the New South Wales surgeons, but then Mr Carlton is a former New South Wales Secretary of the Liberal Party and his principles of economics are the same as those of the late Sir Robert Askin-the best way to get money is to get into somebody's pocket and get it out quickly. So, we can expect that attitude--

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw that imputation against a member of another House.

Senator GRIMES —I am sorry; a member of another House?

Senator Walsh —I thought he was dead.

The PRESIDENT —I am referring to remarks the Minister has made--

Senator GRIMES —Against Mr Carlton. Yes, I withdraw; I am sorry.

Senator Walters —It is not funny.

Senator GRIMES —I suggest to Senator Walters that she read well a very good book by David Hickie called The Prince and the Premier and then pass it to the person sitting next to her. As Senator Aulich said, the situation in New South Wales has been serious, but I believe that it will be resolved very soon.