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Monday, 13 May 1985
Page: 1794


Senator RICHARDSON —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of a no-confidence motion against the President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Lindsay Thompson, who has advocated acceptance of the Government's package designed to end the New South Wales hospitals dispute? How will the result of this motion affect the dispute and how many doctors have responded positively to the Government's package?


Senator GRIMES —Yes, I am aware of the meeting which was held in Canberra on Saturday at which an attempt was made to declare no confidence in Mr Lindsay Thompson, President of the Australian Medical Association. As Senator Richardson and I am sure everyone else here knows, the motion was roundly defeated. Interestingly enough, the AMA used proxy votes, as it does, in the same way as Dr Bruce Shepherd used proxy votes at the meetings he organised in New South Wales to maintain this unfortunate dispute. I think it is important that Dr Shepherd, or Mr Shepherd as he prefers to be called when working in hospitals, Mr Aroney, Dr Catts and their colleagues now realise that the general public, the Government of New South Wales, the Federal Government and the medical profession as a whole wish them to accept.


Senator Walsh —They have all had a gutful.


Senator GRIMES —Yes, they have all had a gutful of the behaviour of Mr Shepherd and his colleagues. Mr Bruce Shepherd and those other people should accept it. I understand Dr Catts has done that and has said: 'We have lost; we have not won our case and we should all go back to work'. But Dr Shepherd, I noticed this morning on AM, announced that this does not make any difference to him. He will be forming a new organisation of specialists to counter the Australian Medical Association. I think his only hope must be that the only supporters he and his colleagues have left in politics are Mr Peacock, Mr Porter and Mr Carlton. Dr Shepherd and his colleagues do not even have the support, as far as we know, of anyone in this chamber. We know they do not have the support of Mr Greiner or the Liberal Party in New South Wales. So we have two groups marching out of step with the rest of the community. I think it is time they realised that they have lost this debate. They have lost the war that Dr Bruce Shepherd announced he was starting some 18 months ago.

As for the results in New South Wales, it is my understanding that some 600 surgeons had, in fact, withdrawn their resignations as of the weekend. It is my understanding also that this week many more than that will return. But the Federal Government will not know until we have had a report from Mr Mulock, who is the Minister for Health and the Acting Premier of New South Wales, later this week. However, I anticipate that legislation to fulfil the package we offered the Australian Medical Association will be introduced into the Parliament this week and, in anticipation that Mr Mulock will have reported, that the dispute has, in fact, ended.

I think if people such as Dr Shepherd, Dr Aroney and others wish to go into private practice with no assistance they should find somewhere where they can do that. They should not even do that in private hospitals in New South Wales, which are funded considerably by the Federal Government. If they are going to stand on what they call their principles they should practise so that they do not accept any Federal money directly or indirectly through their patients. If they want to be in that situation, they can be. I know Dr Shepherd would not starve because he has other means, but some of the others would. But if they are going to try to hold this community, and particularly the sick people of this community, to ransom in the way in which they have in the past, I do not think that should be tolerated, nor do I think they should be hypocrites and talk about principle on the one hand and take the money with the other.