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Wednesday, 1 June 1994
Page: 1086

Senator MURPHY (3.34 p.m.) —I wish to address some of the questions in response to the answer on private health insurance versus Medicare. I find it very interesting that obviously some opposition senators did not read the government's discussion paper. Indeed, Senator Herron did not agree with any of it, certainly not in this chamber, but sometimes he admits privately that in some respects the government discussion paper contained some good ideas.

  The discussion paper gave some percentages as to the number of people who were dropping out of private health insurance. I would remind Senator Ferguson that the discussion paper identified that across the board the highest percentage of people dropping out of private health insurance comprised young people who took the view they did not need insurance because they felt fit and healthy. I do not disagree with Senator Ferguson's claim that one never knows in these cases when one will suffer ill health, and it may involve a long and incapacitating absence from work. In such a case one may well need private health insurance. The government does not argue against private health insurance—

Senator Ferguson —It does not do much to encourage people to get into it.

Senator MURPHY —We would like to encourage people to get into it, but the major problem is that the current system allows for doctors to rip off the system. That is one of the major problems. Indeed, in some states a casemix program is working and in Victoria the waiting lists have actually been reduced.

  One wonders what the opposition is really pursuing on this topic. Is it pursuing private health insurance versus Medicare, or the issue of waiting lists? That is what those opposite should identify. Frankly, doctors in this day and age advertise to the effect that if people have private health insurance there is no waiting list. I find such advertisements amazing because those same doctors who make such claims are not prepared to perform operations under the public health system.

Senator Patterson —You must be joking.

Senator MURPHY —Yes, that is the case. There appears to be a long waiting list, but if a person joins a health fund tomorrow, he or she can get an operation carried out. In such circumstances there is no waiting list.

Senator Patterson —That is nonsense.

Senator MURPHY —That is exactly right. Why is that the case? Certainly it raises questions about the integrity of doctors.

Senator McKiernan —Some doctors.

Senator MURPHY —Yes, some doctors, not all. The problem is that those opposite, and some doctors through the AMA, have tried to reject all sorts of propositions that the government has sought to bring about in terms of change in health care.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Murphy, your time has expired. The time for consideration of this item of business has expired.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.