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Wednesday, 1 June 1994
Page: 1085

Senator FERGUSON (3.27 p.m.) —I have been very concerned at a couple of the matters raised by Senator Crowley in her answer to Senator Herron. I am particularly concerned that she asked, `Why shouldn't people who are young and healthy opt out of the medical health—'

Senator Crowley —I didn't say that!

Senator FERGUSON —You said that there were young and healthy people and that if they were opting out of the system that has a tendency to increase the premiums for those who are still in it; suggesting that perhaps there is a great number of young and healthy people who are pulling out of the system.

Senator Crowley —Stick to what I say, not your preferred view.

Senator FERGUSON —There are two matters that concern me, if it is a fact that young and so-called healthy people are pulling out of the private health system, because the question that it raises is: how do people know at any age that they are going to continue to be healthy? That is the problem—

Senator Crowley —I don't make decisions for individuals.

Senator FERGUSON —I am not suggesting you are making decisions for individuals, but the decisions are made by others, and particularly in the case of a Prime Minister who said that he is not going to be part of that system. The point I am making is that young people do not know that they are always going to be in good health—

Senator Crowley —We have a public system where most people go.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Crowley.

Senator FERGUSON —I am citing the case of young people who Senator Crowley is suggesting, or reports are suggesting, have opted out of the system—

  Senator Murphy interjecting

Senator FERGUSON —Senator Murphy always goes through the chair, Mr Deputy President. So through you, might I say to Senator Crowley that I happen to know of a family that has five members—

Senator Crowley —I'm sure you know six families!

Senator FERGUSON —The minister should hear me out. There are five members in the family, only one of whom does not belong to private health. At the age of 25, this young lady, who thought that she was healthy, was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis. She had opted out of the system and said, `Why should I take out private health insurance if the Prime Minister doesn't? Why should I pay out this money while I am young and healthy when I don't believe that I will ever need the assistance of private health?' The point that I am making is that at any age any person can be afflicted with a disease such as that. Rather than discouraging people, the minister should be encouraging people.

Senator Crowley —I'm neither one way or the other.

Senator FERGUSON —I'll say Senator Crowley is neither one way or the other, and she has shown that over a long period in trying to answer these questions. I say in conclusion that the young people of Australia today ought to be very careful when they make these decisions. They do not know what the future holds. Most of the people who consider themselves to be young and healthy never know when something may afflict them and affect them for the rest of their lives.