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Wednesday, 10 June 1970

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - It is disappointing that the Government has taken the attitude that it has to these amendments. The National Health Bill, as \t was presented to the Parliament, was inadequate enough, but the fact that this House because of the guillotine provision was prevented from dealing with the Bill clause by clause is an insult to the Parliament. I believe that the Government should be ashamed of the fact that the Senate is able to amend the Bill and send requests back to this House. Some of the requests which have been made by the Senate and which the Government quite obviously is not going to accept would provide worthwhile benefits and in at least one or two cases real economies in the cost of medical treatment. If request No. 1 by the Senate for an amendment of the Bill and request No. 7, which relates to amending the Schedules, were accepted by the Government the present lottery system in relation to the treatment of one's eyes would be discontinued. At present if glasses are prescribed one receives nothing in the form of Commonwealth benefit. This is a totally unsatisfactory situation and one which should have been corrected by the Government by way of accepting the request for an amendment in relation to the services of ophthalmologists and optometrists. I do not think that this would have been unreasonable. I believe that it would have taken away the element of risk which exists at present in relation to the cost of treatment.I believe that it would have also removed what is quite obviously a tendency towards improper practices in order to obtain the Commonwealth benefit.

I wish to deal also with request for amendment No. 2. It is quite obvious that the Government, by refusing to accept this request for amendment, is quite content to force dental surgeons into a situation where they must adopt a practice in relation to oral surgery which is more expensive than need be in order to give their patients an opportunity to obtain the Commonwealth benefit. The Government's policy is that procedures adopted by dental surgeons which are more simple and less costly because they can be carried out in a surgeon's own surgery are not worthy of attracting the Commonwealth benefit. I think that the 2 points which I have made are worthy of further consideration by the Government. 1 think it is a bad practice for a government to adopt to say to a profession: 'If you use a more expensive means of treatment we will provide some subsidy, but if you use a cheaper means of treatment, although it may be more efficient, we will not provide any insurance cover at our level for your patient, I think that that is a bad practice to adopt and one which the Government should be condemned for encouraging.

Question put:

That the requested amendments Nos 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 be not made.

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