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Wednesday, 1 June 1994
Page: 1086

Senator COONEY (3.31 p.m.) —I understand the minister to be saying that the sorts of issues that Senator Ferguson raised are very pertinent. Of course young people should think very seriously about whether they should take up private insurance. But my understanding of what the minister has been saying throughout is that it is a matter of choice. The sorts of things that people have been saying so far are very pertinent to the choice that will be made.

  No doubt the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) has been taken to task for not having private insurance but, as I understand it, that is his choice. The point can be made by people who think private health insurance is so important that their campaign would be helped if the Prime Minister were in it. But in the end, he has a right to an individual choice just as much as anybody else.

Senator Herron —Would he be prepared to wait in a queue if he needed it?

Senator COONEY —I think Senator Herron is saying that his need for private insurance is not as great as others because his position would be such that he would get priority anyhow. Whether he would or would not, I do not know. But the fact of the matter is that whether he takes up private insurance is a matter for him to take into account; that is his particular situation.

Senator Kemp —Leaders lead by example.

Senator COONEY —Yes, but all I am saying is that he has a situation within which he must act and make his choice. Other people have a different situation within which they must make a choice. If people are to be left to make a choice about matters, it seems to me to be drawing the long bow to say that the Prime Minister should take up a particular form of insurance simply because other people may or may not be affected by what he does.

Senator Kemp —The example would influence others.

Senator COONEY —People may be influenced by that, but that is just one of the various elements that they have to take into account in making up their minds as to how to go about their health cover. It seems to me that we cannot take the Prime Minister to task for taking a particular course of action because that may or may not influence somebody else to make a choice, which might be good or bad. In the end, it comes down to people thinking through their own situation and acting in accordance with that analysis.