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Thursday, 16 May 1985
Page: 2067

Senator TATE —Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been drawn to a letter published in the Mercury last Wednesday purporting to be written by Dr Neil Graham who signed himself as the Chairman of the National Trainees Association of the Family Medicine Programme in North Adelaide? In that letter Dr Graham said words to this effect:

I am appalled at the recent Federal Government decision to cut $2.9m from the budget of Australia's only general practice training scheme, the Family Medicine Programme.

Is it a fact that any such cut was made?

Senator GRIMES —Yes, I did read the letter purporting to come from Dr Neil Graham who, as Senator Tate said, calls himself the Chairman of the National Trainees Association of the Family Medicine Programme. As Senator Tate and other honourable senators know, there is no truth at all in the letter. No such cut was made. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has been informed that its funding will be maintained.

During the last four or five weeks I, like many other senators-the letters concentrated particularly on Senator Crowley and me-have received many letters from members of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners talking about cuts that it believed would happen in its program. I might add that during that time I received no letters from any of those doctors concerning the problems facing the New South Wales medical profession or the activities of their colleagues in New South Wales who were claiming up to $1,000m from the public purse.

Over the years, before every Budget, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners conducts a campaign of this type and over the years its funding has been maintained by conservative and Labor governments. When I have replied to those letters over the years I have usually pointed out to my medical colleagues that the vast majority of them are conservative voters, that the vast majority of them support cuts in government expenditure and that the vast majority of them, as a rule support the contractionary policies proposed by conservative governments in this country, but they always claim that everyone else rather than themselves should have to bear the cost cuts. They always claim that they have a right to receive considerable public funding for their training. Yet when they complete their training they want the untrammelled right to charge what they like.

My only reply to letters like Dr Graham's and others is that certainly in future Budgets with which I am connected I will look at their claims with a jaundiced eye.