Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 14 May 1970

Sir JOHN CRAMER (Bennelong) - I only have a few minutes to say what I want to say. In the first place I agree entirely with what the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) said. I appeal to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) to take a very early opportunity to have a further look at the Schedule which we are discussing at the present time. It is much too late, of course, to make amendments now or attempt to make amendments in relation to this Schedule. In my opinion there is ample room in this Schedule for many amendments to be made for the benefit of the people of Australia. The Schedule, as it is at present, is entirely wrong and will do, in my opinion, inestemable damage to the general practitioners of Australia. It was quite clear to me in the time that I had to look at thus Bill that the Government has relied on the advice of the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association, which Council is at present dominated by the specialists of Australia.

It is also clear to me that notwithstanding the amount of work that has been put into this Bill by general practitioners very little consideration has been given to representation that they have made. Notwithstanding that, I believe that the medical care of the people of Australia is dependent very largely upon the medical general practitioner of Australia. Because of this 1 believe that the Government has not given proper consideration to the representations of the general practitioners in Australia. There is no need for the kind of differential we see in the Schedule. The benefits which the people will derive from this Bill are very great and the Government is to be commended for this, but those benefits should be related to the procedure, not the kind of medical man who performs the procedure. So I mink there is a great need to amend the Schedule. If that cannot be done the Minister should accept the recommendation of the Australian Medical Association that the benefits for all those procedures normally undertaken by a general practitioner should be fixed at the lower level. All those procedures which are generally undertaken by a specialist should be fixed at the higher level. There should be no differentia] - one rate for the general practitioner and another for the specialist. This is not necessary in the 2 categories I have mentioned. Of course, some consideration might have to be given to the case of specially qualified general practitioners who carry out procedures usually undertaken by specialists. You may find this happening in a group practice. In the middle group of procedures, where about 50% are carried out by general practitioners and 50% or a little more by specialists, there may be some reason for having a differential.

This matter should be examined closely and the differential reduced to the absolute minimum because in my opinion it is not necessary to discriminate in this way. To do so will have a very serious effect on the status of general practitioners in Australia. I place these words of warning on record because I believe this differential to be an error in what is otherwise a magnificent piece of legislation which will be of great benefit to the people of Australia. I hope that this matter will be further examined by the Minister and that the anomaly to which I have referred will be rectified. It would be a sad day for Australia if we were to lose the kind of medical care that can be provided by the general practitioner. This is much more than a matter of medicine in its true sense. I am talking about the family doctor who can guide people in their medical needs. This matter goes far beyond the kind of procedure that can be listed in the Schedule. I support the remarks of the honourable member for Macarthur who pointed to the difficulties that have arisen in other countries where the concept of the general practitioner has been lost. Canada, for instance, has seen the error of its ways and is now seeking to encourage the general practitioner. In my view the one fault of this Bill is that it places too much emphasis on the specialist and gives too little encouragement to the general practitioner. I do not think the general practitioner's representations have been given proper consideration.

Mr Buchanan - It is a victory for the knife.

Sir JOHN CRAMER - That is so. I have nothing against the specialist. We need him for certain more highly skilled procedures, but this does not mean-

Mr Foster - What about the public?

Sir JOHN CRAMER - The public receives a benefit. Members of the public would benefit more from my suggestion than they will under the Schedule as it now stands. There is no need to have a differential between the benefit paid for a procedure performed by a general practitioner and that paid for the same procedure performed by a specialist. This matter can be rectified. The Government has given an undertaking that it will follow closely the operations of the legislation. The Minister has power to vary the Schedule by regulation. I sincerely hope that he will take an early opportunity to do so.

Suggest corrections