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Thursday, 2 June 1994
Page: 1213

Senator McKIERNAN (3.36 p.m.) —Mr Deputy President—

Senator Ferguson —Were you provoked?

Senator McKIERNAN —No, I have not been provoked. I come at this from a different perspective from Senator Herron. I am motivated to rise to my feet by the recollection of the opening of a very large private hospital in recent months in my home state of Western Australia. The hospital's name was the St John of God hospital and it is located in the suburb of Murdoch not far from Murdoch University.

  What Senator Herron is asserting may be applicable to his state of Queensland, but it certainly does not indicate to me that the private health system in Western Australia is going broke. When we are looking at the private health system we have to look beyond just the insurance companies which provide insurance cover. We have to look at the industry as a whole. I have given the Senate one specific instance which shows that sections of the private health industry have great faith in the future of the industry in this country. I do not know what the total cost of the hospital would be, but it is a very large hospital. I have not been inside it because I do not like going inside hospitals. The erection of that hospital is a very strong vote of confidence in the future.

  There is a problem in the health insurance area. Had I been given an opportunity yesterday when we were taking note of answers on the same subject, I would have drawn the Senate's attention to what occurred to two of my constituents less than a couple of years ago. Both of these people had open heart surgery; both of them were from non-metropolitan areas of Western Australia. One of those constituents was privately insured and the other was not. One of them received large bills well in excess of $1,000 on completion of the operation when he was well on the road to recovery, and the other did not. One would think that the person who did not have a bill would be the person who was paying out money for insurance to cover himself.

Senator Herron —Your government will not allow it.

Senator McKIERNAN —The one who paid more money was the individual who had taken out health insurance. The individual who had no private health cover did not have any bills to pay. Those two constituents had basically the same operation. There is a problem in the private health system when that occurs.

Senator Herron —You can't insure yourself.

Senator McKIERNAN —We cannot insure ourselves against the greediness of some of the doctors and some of the specialists—

Senator Herron —It is the greedy doctors now!

Senator McKIERNAN —Senator Herron knows more about the profession than I do; I am quite willing to admit that. Senator Herron would know that there are surgeons—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The time for this debate has expired.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.