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Thursday, 16 May 1985
Page: 2075

Senator MISSEN —My question, which I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, relates to the recent claims that the Government has cut general practice attachment subsidies to the family medicine program run by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. I am aware of the homily that the Minister gave us on the subject of the Royal College today. I am also aware of the fact that the May mini-Budget does not make this matter clear in any way. Will the Minister confirm or deny reports that the Government's financing of the training program is to be cut by as much as 40 per cent in the coming year? Is the Minister aware of the catastrophic effect that such a cut would have on patients and the future cost and quality of health care, particularly in Victoria where 670 of the 1,800 medical graduates under the family medicine program are currently being trained? Finally, will the Minister assure the Senate that the level of general practice attachment subsidies will be maintained so as to ensure that the valuable work performed by the family medicine program is able to continue?

Senator GRIMES —I quote from a telex to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners from Dr Blewett dated 14 May 1985. The telex states:

Dear Dr Finnegan,

I am writing to you in the context of the statement made by the Treasurer in respect of savings which the Government must make in the 1985-86 Budget Context.

There has been considerable recent speculation that the family medicine program would be severely curtailed. I am pleased to advise you that this is not the case and that the current funding level for this program will be maintained in 1985-86.

If that does not convince the college and Senator Missen, I do not know what will. My homily, as Senator Missen put it, is about the attitude of a college like the College of General Practitioners, whose members trained in universities at public expense, were residents in hospitals using facilities provided by the public purse and later received training by way of salary subsidies-and that is what the College of General Practitioners training program is largely about-again at public expense, were provided with extra qualifications, and then on receiving all those qualifications, demand the right to charge what they like, where they like and when they like the very same people who funded those programs. That is my complaint about the College of General Practitioners. Despite that, it is still getting its funding and that funding will be maintained next year.