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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2224

Senator MURPHY (3.34 p.m.) —I support the motion to take note of the answer given by Senator Richardson with respect to both questions that Senator Newman says she addressed in her motion. Firstly, I would like to talk about Aboriginal health and the remarks made as to Senator Richardson's actions in this area.

  I lived in a community in the outback of New South Wales that had a high number of Aboriginal people living in it. I have to say that I lived there during the years when the Fraser Liberal government was in power. If people want to know something about Aboriginal health and the way that issue was treated, they only have to look back to that time. It would reflect badly on any government, the way Aboriginals were treated with respect to health and other matters by the conservative government during those years.

  One thing those opposite cannot accuse Senator Graham Richardson of and which they are trying to accuse him of is doing nothing. Quite the contrary is the case. One thing he ought to be given credit for is that at least he has always tried to do something. Indeed, with respect to health in the overall sense, in the last few months he has achieved more with respect to seeking to bring about change in the health area than anyone else has done previously. Senator Richardson has sought to address the issue of private health insurance. Whether we agree or disagree with the types of approaches that he had to that, the fact of the matter is that he sought to address the issue and, I have to say, with a lot of support from within the industry. For the first time in a long time, doctors acknowledged that there was somebody within government that they could actually talk to—and that goes for the lot on the other side as well.

  History shows that is the case because all those opposite ever did was try to prop up doctors so that they could rip off the general public. Talk about health costs! We did not hear too many questions coming from those opposite with regard to the health misadventure costs to this country of some $536 million per year to 146,000 people because of the malpractice of either doctors or other people in the medical profession. There were no questions about that, but I do note that Senator Richardson—

Senator Newman —Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Murphy is currently canvassing a matter which is the subject of a bill before the house. I understand that under standing orders he cannot do that. The opposition has shown its support for that particular piece of legislation on fraud anyway.

  Senator Murphy interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Murphy, I think I know the standing orders well enough to respond. The convention has been in recent times and less recent times, Senator Newman, to allow debate which infringes upon and visits legislation on the Notice Paper.

Senator MURPHY —There were certainly no questions or comments with respect to those matters. No criticisms were made of the doctors or the health profession—no, sir!

Senator Sherry —Double standards.

Senator MURPHY —That is double standards, exactly. This is not the issue we want to deal with. The issue I want to deal with is the fact that Senator Newman and her colleague Senator Herron, who is now not in the chamber, have tried to accuse Senator Richardson of doing nothing. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think the proof of the pudding is in its eating. It is on the public record that that is the case. Senator Richardson's leaving this chamber has nothing to do with how this government will finally resolve health issues.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.