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Thursday, 12 November 1959

Mr CLAREY (Bendigo) .- I listened to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and, as I raised the question of butazolidine, I want to put the honorable member right in respect of some of his arguments. He said that butazolidine was not on the list at present. My statement last night was that butazolidine was one of the drugs listed in the pensioner medical scheme, that it had been removed from the list and that two other drugs had been put in its place. Those drugs do not give to the rheumatic and arthritic sufferer the advantages given by butazolidine. I want to make clear to the committee that butazolidine was available to pensioners until a short time ago.

The honorable member for Lilley seems to misunderstand entirely the attitude of the Australian Labour Party to free medicine. We believe that every person in the community has the right to receive all that is necessary to enable him to be healthy. We say that health is just as essential as education. In the early days, very strong opposition was raised in many quarters to education being free, but eventually free education became part of our way of life. Any one who suggested to-day that primary and secondary education should be subject to charges would meet with opposition from the whole of the community. We say that health is just ai important as education, and all that is required for health, particularly drugs and medicine, should be made available to the people free of charge.

I regret the tendency that has been shown in this discussion to regard the charge of 5s. as one charge only. The payment that must be made by the person receiving medical treatment is 5s. for each prescription. It does not matter now what is prescribed for people who are very sick; they must pay 5s. for each prescription. The charge for many prescriptions is light, and 5s. would cover practically the whole of it. In other instances, where it is less than 5s., the whole cost of the prescription must be paid by the patient. This is more than a question of the Government's simply recouping itself. Behind this matter is the question of the health of the community as a whole, and any health legislation should be so framed as to give the maximum possible advantage to the people. Every means should be adopted to maintain the health of the community.

I deprecate the statements that were made by the honorable member for Lilley. They give a false impression of the attitude of the Labour Party which attitude, I believe, is in the best interests of the health of the community.

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