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Thursday, 4 May 1939

Sir FREDERICK STEWART (Parramatta) (Minister for Health and Social Services) . - It is true that I have not been in charge of this department long enough to become acquainted with the details of its administration, particularly details of this kind, but I am able to say that I have a certain amount of respect for the representations which the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has just made, and I undertake to examine this tax with a view to seeing whether the inequities he alleges are real. Obviously, the honorable member is not fully acquainted with the amended schedule which was incorporated in Ordinance No. 1 of 1939, because the schedules of incomes from which, apparently, he quoted ranges from £2 to £10, whereas in the amended ordinance it ranges from £2 to £5. However, on general principles there should be no disagreement among honorable members as to the necessity for some contribution being made for hospital services. Indeed, such an arrangement is in the nature of a scheme of health insurance, and, if I do not misinterpret their policy, honorable members opposite have no serious objection to a scheme of contributory health insurance. The scheme applying to residents of Canberra falls within that category. I cannot agree for a moment, however, that under the schedule mentioned by the honorable member contributors on the higher ranges of salary are treated preferentially. By his own showing that is not the case. I repeat that I am prepared to examine the schedule again. At all times I am ready to give the fullest consideration to representations made by honorable members in any part of the House, whether they have reference to the Canberra Community Hospital or to any other institution controlled by my department.

Question resolved in the negative.

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