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Thursday, 14 May 1970

Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) - 1 strongly support the amendments, having personally had trouble with these health insurance funds. When I became a member of this House in October last year I received, as no doubt did other honourable members, an invitation from the Hospitals Contribution Fund to become a member of that organisation. I received a letter asking me to write to the organisation if I wanted to know anything more about it. 1 duly did so and asked who the directors were and whether 1 could look at its articles of association. I was told that 1 was not going to be a member but a contributor and I was not entitled to know what 1 sought; that- this information was not available to anybody excepting organisations which, in turn, were affiliated with the Hospitals Contribution Fund. The next step 1 look was to try to get the information through the research services of the Parliamentary Library. T quote from its report:

As discussed previously, there is some difficulty in establishing the names of directors of health funds. This exercise was attempted in the past in the Library through an attempt to collect the annual reports of the various funds. Some funds, however, have not yet replied to a request tor the supply of their latest annual report, while the reports of other funds which have been supplied do not contain the names of the directors of the organisation.

The Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library did supply the names of certain directors of whom they were able to get hold by some method or another. I know that a considerable overlapping occurs between directors of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia and the membership of the Branch Council of the Australian Medical Association. Of the 24 members of the Medical Benefits Fund in New South Wales, 13 also are members of the Australian Medical Association, lt is not surprising that the AMA in many ways has become a pressure group not for doctors but for the self-perpetuation of directors of these funds.

Let me be quite clear there. Some years ago. the Hospitals Contributions Fund and the Medical Benefits Fund organisations combined in New South Wales. They felt that it would be more efficient and more effective from the administrative point of view for the 2 major funds to combine. I assume that it would be better from an economic point of view. Those funds split up some 2 years later. The reason why they split up was not that the amalgamation did nol work out. The reason was that both Mr Cade and Mr Turner wanted to be the boss of the combined organisation. Since both of them could not be the boss al the same time, they decided to split the combined funds so that each could be the boss of one of them. lt is preposterous that we are forcing in effect every Australian to contribute to a medical benefit fund and a hospital contribution fund. Unless a- person does this, he is not entitled to any of the benefits, so called, from this Government. Members of the public are not told that they may join a fund. They are told: 'Unless you join this fund, you will not get any money that has been set aside from taxation for the purpose of hospital and medical services'. So, people must join these funds.

These funds should not be called, as I have heard them, mutual funds for our mutual benefit. I suggest that the only nui rual benefit is that of the directors of those funds. One cannot even challenge the funds on their membership. We cannot have a go at them on this question because we are not told what is in this register that we are discussing. There is no public inspection of the register. No attempt is made to let any member of the public know who the directors are.

We heard in the House earlier that one of the directors of the Hospital Contributions Fund appointed by Mr Turner was P. G. Huxley. This was in return for the appointment of Mr Turner to the National Art Gallery of New South Wales. Huxley is now in gaol. He is appealing against his sentence. 1 think it is ridiculous that the directors of this and other funds are not appointed even by a constituent organisation. lt appears that they are appointed by the boss of the organisation concerned.

I realise that the Government does not want any interference with, this procedure. Let us be quite clear on this point: I would say that, during the election campaign last year, the medical benefits funds and hospital benefits funds put more money into the propaganda machine of the Liberal Party than any other organisation, including even the oil companies. I certainly would claim that slush funds were set up by ali these organisations. No attempt is made to let us know how the money in those funds is spent. No attempt is made to tell contributors how much of the money contributed to a fund goes towards political propaganda. After . all, whether we have voluntary health insurance or universal health insurance is now a political issue in this country.

It has been said that people will lose their jobs if the proposals of the Labor Party are put into effect. The only people who would be affected adversely by Labor's alternative health scheme are the directors of those funds. Specifically, those who would bc affected are the people who run those funds, the managing directors and directors of them. We are not given any assistance to investigate the position of these men or to investigate whether they are carrying out their specific functions, even by perusal of their articles of association because we are not allowed to know what those articles of association are. I think that this is a ridiculous proposition. I would indeed be interested to hear the Minister indicate on what possible democratic basis he could advocate that sort of proposition.

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