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Thursday, 18 October 1956


Mr COUTTS (Griffith) .- Honorable members have been very generous in their praise of the Government for presenting the bill to the Parliament, but, in my opinion, the most pleasing feature of the bill is the preamble, which states that it is a bill for an act to provide for the grant of subsidies to home-nursing organizations. After the conclusion of the preamble, the bill becomes less attractive. Provision is made for subsidies to be paid to homenursing organizations, but many conditions are imposed.

We are grateful to the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), on the Government side, and to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), the Opposition Whip, on this side, for the explanations they have given of the provisions of the bill. They have explained the clauses very clearly. I find that although the preamble to the bill refers to the grant of subsidies to home-nursing organizations, subsidies will be paid only if a nursing organization increases its staff beyond the number em- ployed at the time the legislation comes into operation. If an organization has a staff of twenty nurses who are visiting homes and providing a much needed and' much valued service, it will not receive a subsidy unless it increases its staff. If it engages two more nurses, the subsidy will be paid only in respect of those two nurses. Therefore, it is not very apparent why honorable members opposite gave high praise to the Government and the Minister. I agree that subsidies should be paid to nursing organizations, but I say that they should be paid on the basis of the staff employed now.

The Minister and the honorable member for Wilmot have made it clear that there are, in Australia, only 150 nurses available to provide a most desirable service to a population of nearly 10,000,000 people. As the number of nurses has not increased to an appreciable degree during recent years, it is doubtful whether the Government will bc asked to pay much by way of subsidy under this measure. I do not wish to detract from the value of the principle underlying the bill, which I support, but I feel that as the bill has been given so worth while a preamble, something equally worth while should have been included in the body of the bill.

In the electorate that I have the honour to represent - which comprises South Brisbane, in effect - there are several organizations supplying this much appreciated service to the people; Three of them are conducted by religious organizations. The District Nursing Service is conducted by the Anglican Church, the Blue Nursing Service is conducted by the Methodist Church and the Brown Sisters Service is conducted by the Roman Catholic Church. If the effect of the legislation is to enable those organizations to engage more staff, much will be achieved, and citizens who enjoy the benefits of home-nursing services will applaud the legislation. But the Minister has made reference to the subsidy approximating the salaries paid to nursing sisters employed by the organizations or societies. It will be admitted that the District Nursing Service and the Blue Nursing Service employ nurses and pay them a salary, but what will happen in relation to the third organization, the Brown Sisters, the members of which receive no salary and ne money by way of donation from the persons whom they serve? They pledge themselves to the work, they take the vow of poverty, and they attend only persons who cannot afford to pay. I take it, from a close perusal of the provisions of the bill and the Minister's speech, that the Brown Sisters will receive no subsidy, because reference is made to the salary which is paid to nursing sisters. I hope that my interpretation, which is based on the purity of the English language, is wrong. The only person who may satisfactorily correct me is the Minister who, I hope, will be able to do so when he closes the debate after 1 have concluded my speech.

The Minister has referred to the great savings which will be made by the State governments, because his investigations show that less capital expenditure will be involved in the construction of hospitals and the provision of hospital beds. The capital cost of each bed in a public hospital has been estimated to be £7,000. In my opinion, this statement of figures has been somewhat overdone, because while I pay full tribute to the Minister, who is a highly skilled medical man, I think that many of the persons who will be receiving benefit from the services of home-nursing organizations and who have received it in the past would not be admitted to public hospitals. They are not in such a bad state of health as would permit their admittance, but the attention that a district nursing organization can provide alleviates the worry of the sick person and of other members of the family. I think that there has been considerable over-emphasis of the saving that will be made by the operation of these provisions.

The Government of Queensland is very generous to district nursing services and public hospitals. The Brisbane City Council also plays its role in subsidizing the District Nursing Service in Brisbane, to a small amount, 1 admit, but even a small amount is acceptable. The Queensland Government is most liberal - spelt with a small " 1 ", because it is a Labour government - in subsidizing district nursing services and public hospitals, and it is the proud boast of every Queensland government that because of Labour's policy in that State Queensland leads the States of the Commonwealth in the standard of public hospital facilities available to the people of Queensland and, I must admit, the northern part of New

South Wales. The Government will even subsidize the construction of hospitals by religious organizations if public wards are provided in the hospitals. That, of course, is an explanation of the satisfactory position that exists in Brisbane. I must not trespass on your generosity, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, by discussing the excellent system of hospital services that prevails in Queensland, because 1 should be committing a breach of the Standing Orders and, as you know, I should be the most reluctant member of this House to commit that grievous offence, but I could, if you would so permit and I were of that frame of mind, speak for longer than the Standing Orders allow about the wonderful policy of the Queensland Government in relation to hospital services. I do agree with the title oi the bill and I say, in charity, that the Government deserves some commendation for introducing the measure. The bill leaves itself .open to innumerable amendments, which I am sure the succeeding Labour government will make as soon as it takes over the treasury bench.







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