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Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Page: 572


Mr McLEAY (Boothby) - We are debating the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1973 and in particular that part of the Bill dealing with the abolition of sales tax on oral contraceptives. Because of what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has already indicated to the House I know that I can say that the Opposition supports the measure. Like the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), who spoke just before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I personally support it strongly and I wish that the Opposition had done it when we were in Government. However we cannot always be all things to all people, even to private members. I think that if we had been in Government we might have gone about this a little differently. Although I agree with the Bill and what will happen as a result of it, I think our job in Opposition is to draw attention to some anomalies which will be created. Contrary to the view of my Leader, I believe that perhaps there should be a little bit of politics in this debate, because in my view the Australian Labor Party in the election campaign promised to remove the sales tax on contraceptives to appeal for the vote of women in the electorate. It surrendered to pressure groups such as the Women's Electoral Lobby and Zero Population Growth and sought by doing that to obtain support from women voters who thought that that was all that was involved.

The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) mentioned the movement,

Zero Population Growth, and I think he said something to the effect that it is important for Australia to have a look at this group's new philosophy. He used the expression that we are part of the world and that because we are part of the world presumably we should now look at the philosophy of not increasing our population in accordance with what is advocated by ZPG. I remind him that whatever we do will not make any difference in the world. We have something like 0.02 per cent of the world's population. I reject the philosophy of Zero Population Growth. In my view the Labor Party has no real interest in women's causes. It has real interest only in women's votes.

I would like to list very quickly 4 examples of the anomalies which have been created by this legislation and other legislation and of what I claim to be the double standards of the Labor Party. Perhaps they have not been intentional but they have been created. In the first place, the contraceptive pill is designed to prevent the creation of life. The Government has removed sales tax from it. I applaud that step. But life jackets and life belts under some circumstances are still subject to 15 per cent sales tax, and obviously life jackets and life belts are used to save lives. So here is an example of the double standards under which the Labor Party is operating. On the one hand it is removing sales tax from something that will prevent the creation of life, but on the other hand it is charging 15 per cent tax on articles which save life.


Mr Birrell - We have not got around to that. We have been here only a week or two.


Mr McLEAY - If the parents of the honourable gentleman were as interested in contraceptives as he is we would not have a problem with him in the House, tonight.


Mr Birrell - You are not sure of that either. You might not have been here either.


Mr McLEAY - I happen to be the eldest child. The second double standard, if I may use that expression, under which the Labor Party is operating may be seen from a comparison of the so-called health policy of the Labor Party with its immigration policy. No matter what any honourable member opposite says, the health policy of the Labor Party is to seek ultimately to control the natural increase of the Australian population. I refer to some papers which were used at the Labor Party Conference in Launceston in 1971 as the background upon which the Labor Party your Party, Mr Deputy Speaker based its health policy. I refer to the recommendations that contraceptives be supplied on the free pharmaceutical benefits list, that the advertising of contraceptives should be legal and that there should be a vigorous Government sponsored education campaign aimed at explaining the population crisis I would say that there is no population crisis in this country; quite the opposite and the means of solving it. Other recommendations in the paper were that the national attitude must be changed so that women are encouraged to educate and retrain themselves for occupations outside the home and that it is important to stress the selfishness of having another baby. This is the philosophy upon which the Labor Party is basing its health policy the control of the natural increase of Australian children. At the same time the Labor Party has a new policy on immigration. I would like to quote from one of the many statements made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), and so far as I can see the only clear statement he has ever made. On 27th December he was reported in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' as having said:

The emphasisin future immigration programs will be on sponsorship, and family reunion will be given a high priority.

So, on the one hand, the Australian Labor Party wishes to control the natural increase of Australian born children while on the other hand allowing the uncontrolled immigration of people into Australia, irrespective of their country of origin and including nonEuropeans, merely on a family basis. So, we will stop the increase of Australian born children and encourage the increase of foreign born children. That is another of the double standards under whichI believe the Government is operating.

Let me give a third example of this Government's double standards. While we may accept that there should be no tax, or a reduced tax, on the contraceptive pill, as I do, it is quite a different matter to put the contraceptive pill on the subsidised pharmaceutical benefits list. This means that all taxpayers who do not use the pill I am one who does not are subsidising those who do. Those who oppose its use on religious or conscience grounds are subsidising those who do use it. Those women who aresuited on medical grounds to the use of the pill, and companies which pay tax, and other taxpayers, are all required under Commonwealth law to pay a portion of their taxes for this purpose. Why should I and why should they have to pay extra tax to subsidise the pill takers? They are not compelled to take the pill but I am compelled to pay the tax.

The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Minister for Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the Premier of my own State of South Australia all say that it is perfectly proper, if one does not believe in a law, to break that law. But what would they and the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison), who is sitting at the table, say if I decided that I was not going to pay all my taxes because it was against my belief that part of my tax should pay for the contraceptive pill? That is my next point. The cost to the taxpayer of providing this subsidy is enormous. The pill costs a patient $1 for a full cycle pack, or will cost 50c from next April.


Mr Morrison - You sound pretty experienced.


Mr McLEAY - I have done a lot of research on this subject. The sales tax which is to be removed is a shade under 20c. Each prescription costs the Government and the Government is the taxpayer 38c; so 38c is the taxpayer's subsidy to the pill taker. It has been estimated by, I think, honourable members opposite, that this will cost over $5m this year and, after 1st April, over $8m for a full year. I wonder what will happen when they produce a male contraceptive pill. I suppose that will be on the free list and will be exempt from sales tax.

I should like to quote from the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits. This Committee sat during the last Parliament and made recommendations to the Government which, I think, were distributed yesterday. There were 3 members of the Australian Labor Party on that Committee Mr Berinson, Dr Gun and Mr Hayden who is now the Minister for Social Security. For anybody who cares to read the report, I am quoting from page 45. On this subject the Committee made the following recommendation:

The Committee recommended that:

(a)   The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee consider the listing of oral contraceptives where required for certain specific medical reasons;

The Committee recommended that, under certain conditions, oral contraceptives should go on the national health scheme. The report continued:

(b)   The Commonwealth provides substantial subsidies for the expansion of Family Planning Clinics.

The point is that this Committee, which was a Select Committee, did not recommend that the pill should go on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme for all. In addition to these amounts of money, the new Government is allocating over $250,000 to family planning agencies. I agree with that and applaud it.


Mr Giles - It is chicken feed.


Mr McLEAY - As my friend, the honourable member for Angas said, it is chicken feed. It is ironical to learn that the Treasurer (Mr Crean) shortly proposes to double child endownment. I am opposed to the pill being on the free list and I would prefer to see these funds of $5m, or S8m from next year, allocated to family planning agencies rather than the present system of subsidising the use of the pill and other devices - and they are being subsidised - because family planning agencies provide counselling and advice across the whole range of family welfare problems.

In the same way, I would like to see some of this money and other money being used to establish child minding centres and for the expansion of such organisations as the Mothers and Babies Health Association Incorporated of South Australia. There are, no doubt, equivalent organisations and other local community organisations in other States. In talking to social workers - and I have talked to many of them over the years - the message comes through, to me at any rate, consistently and clearly that the hangups and problems are not due only to ignorance in regard to sexual practices but rather to the inability of husband and wife to communicate. In my view, this is the basis of so many problems within the community. We would get value from expenditure on family planning, counselling advice and child minding centres. Perhaps if we spend money in this area, these problems will decline with future generations. In my view, simply making the contraceptive pill available for next to nothing is not in any way treating the cause of a lot of the unhappiness that exists within our society, and I regard it as a hollow gesture by the Australian Labor Party to the electors.

The fourth example of what I regard as this Government's double standards concerns the comparison between a woman who takes the contraceptive pill to prevent conception and the woman who undertakes treatment to promote fertility or to prevent a threatened miscarriage or who seeks that sort of treatment. Honourable members will find that the position is that the woman who wishes to prevent conception is at a financial advantage against those who desire to protect the life of the foetus or to promote fertility. Preparations to promote conception include such drugs as Clomid and the hormone preparation Primantron. Clomid does not attract sales tax, but it is not available on the pharmaceutical benefits list and is available through pharmacists only in the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania. In those States and that Territory the patient must pay $10 for this drug. Duphaston. which is also a hormone preparation and is sometimes used to promote fertility or to prevent abortion - I trust that the medical men in the chamber will not disagree with that because I have a friend who has undergone this treatmentcosts $19 for 100 tablets. So, the position is that the protection of the foetus is subject to financial penalty, quite apart from the cost of rearing a child, while prevention of conception and, therefore, prevention of the natural increase of Australian born children is subsidised by the taxpayer. 1 put it to the House that that is a double standard.

In addition, the pill has been in general use in Australia for over 10 years. Those who advocate its wider use - there are honourable members opposite who have done that tonight - say that it prevents the social distress of unwanted pregnancies. However, unwanted pregnancies and illegitimate births continue to rise at an accelerating rate. A survey conducted by a Brisbane medical group and reported in the 'Australian' last October shows that, of the 60 per cent of married women who have unplanned babies and who approve the pill, only 6 per cent found it too costly. Its subsidy by the taxpayer cannot even be justified on the grounds of control of the population growth. At a growth rate of 1.2 per cent, Australia is at the upper limit of population control in the developed countries of the world. I am not at all sure that future generations - this has been with us for only 10 years - will decide that the introduction of the contraceptive pill was beneficial to our society. Only last week there was a brief report in the

Australian Press concerning the staggering increase of venereal disease patients in Britain. I refer members to the report in the 'Canberra Times' of 5th March which states:

Treatment clinics in Central Southern England had 13,090 new patients last year, more than 2,000 higher than in 1971 and including more teenagers. In the 4 years to 1971, the national incidence of VD rose by 70.04 per cent.

On the same day details of the position in Western Australia were published by the Department of Health in that State. Time will not permit me to read the whole article but I will read the important parts. The Acting Deputy Commissioner of Health in Western Australia stated:

Venereal disease is out of control. We have a big and serious problem. It is going to cost a lot of money and a long time to control.

He also said:

Changes in the chemistry of a woman taking the pill make her more receptive to the disease. A woman's chance of catching VD if she is not taking the pill is reduced by about 40 per cent.

The point I am making is that perhaps future generations may not thank governments like ours for encouraging the use of the pill. My purpose in taking part in the debate has been simply to draw attention to the anomalies which are created in this legislation and which always are created when governments make decisions quickly without thinking out the consequences but simply to gain votes. We could have done it to gain votes but we did not. I wish we had, but I should have liked to have spent more time sorting out the anomalies. I agree with the abolition of this tax on contraceptives but I recommend that the Government look at the sales tax schedule thoroughly and eliminate some of the other anomalies I have mentioned. I also ask the Government to look at the other anomalies which exist in the treatment of women, which I have also mentioned.

The present policy is one of selective subsidising and is beneficial to only one section of the female population. If the Government is sincere in its expressed intention to improve the lot of women, it should ensure that it helps all and not just some. It should begin by considering the ways in which women are disadvantaged when competing with men. It should recognise the financial disability caused by basic female biological functions. In my view it should subsidise, for example, essential pharmaceutical items which all women are obliged to use rather than just subsidise the contraceptive pill. The pill is not yet compulsory medication in Australia. Under the 'Big Brother' socialist philosophy of the Australian Labor Party - spelt out by some honourable members tonight - some day I suppose it will be compulsory.







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