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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2031

Senator BROWNHILL(7.25) —I thank the secretariat of the Senate Select Committee on Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes for the help its members have given me. I joined the Committee rather late in the piece. Considering the amount of time it has run, since 1981, I am very much a junior. Obviously, I will not be requiring a retirement home, as will some of the members who started with the Committee, seeing that the Committee has gone for so long. I support my colleague Senator Walters in her objections to the majority report and in our dissenting report which has been tabled here this afternoon. Senator Giles, in presenting the majority report, probably spent more time talking about the dissenting report than she spent presenting the majority report. That shows that she has taken a fair bit of notice of and given a fair bit of credit to our dissenting report.

The Committee, as I have said, met over a long time on this inquiry. Even by Senate committee standards, it was probably one of the longest running inquiries. The Committee heard a great deal of evidence and waded through an enormous amount of material. In the short time I was a member of the Committee quite a lot of evidence was given, particularly in respect of the accounting methods of private hospitals. The Committee has done a commendable job analysing and interpreting the evidence that has been presented to it. I do not wish in any way to criticise personally my fellow members of the Committee for the hard work they have done. Nevertheless, I felt rather uneasy on several occasions at the direction the Committee was taking. My dissenting report is the result of those concerns.

Freedom of choice is an essential element in any health care system if one is to maintain and improve health standards. In Australia we have seen an enormous growth in the private health care sector. No doubt, this rapid growth has attracted criticism from some members of the community who support the concept of socialised medicine. However, the private health care sector has every right to operate under precisely the same set of rules under which any similar business in Australia operates. It has a right to select what services it provides and where, based on a demonstrated need for those services. It has a right to determine its own financial arrangements and to operate under the appropriate State and Federal laws, just as any other business enterprise has. Therefore, I do not think it is appropriate for any government-Federal or State-to set standards or requirements that are different, that cause a problem to the private hospital system or that present a cost to any part of the system at the expense of another. The feeling of the report in some places is that there are more requirements on private hospitals than there are on public hospitals.

The PRESIDENT —Order! It being 7.30 p.m., under sessional order, I put the question:

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 7.30 p.m.