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Thursday, 17 May 1973
Page: 2267

Dr JENKINS (Scullin) - I enter the debate this morning to speak on some matters of health, particularly as they affect my home State of Victoria. I am stimulated to do so by a letter I received from the Liberal Party of Victoria on Monday, which reads:

Dear Dr Jenkins,

The importance of the State Election, to be held on the 19th May, to the people of Victoria, and indeed the whole of Australia cannot be over estimated.

Australia is a federation and the states have the responsibility for most of the activities which are closest to the lives of people - Education, Health, Housing, Conservation and a wide range of others. Federal aid is welcome in all fields, and through our taxation system is essential. But it should not be used as a blunt instrument to dictate policy, or more especially, a centralised socialist doctrine.

In no field is this dictatorship more obvious than in Health Services. A victory for the Hamer Government in May will serve notice on the Federal Labor Government that the people of Victoria do not want dictatorship from Canberra.

Our fully researched, professional campaign is now in motion and we know that Liberal voters all over Victoria are prepared to give us their financial backing. We need $200,000 to promote the ideal that What really matters is people and that what has to be done is to safeguard the freedom of the individual'.

Will you help us Doctor Jenkins? Please fill in the enclosed card and send us your donation.

It was signed by the State President and State Treasurer. For a fully researched, professional campaign it is a particularly inept letter. Because of the matters contained in it, it is obviously a misrepresentation of the relationship that occurs between the Australian Parliament and the State Parliaments. It is misrepresentative in the sense that while it admits that the States have a responsibility in those activities which are closest to the lives of the people - it names education, health, housing and conservation - it does not mention that these are fields in which the Victorian Parliament would have one of the worst records in Australia.

To me the letter was offensive personally. In fact, only my natural courtesy prevented me from sending the appropriate answer in the envelope that was enclosed. I served for nearly 9 years in the Victorian Parliament, and it was the failure of the Victorian Government do deal with activities concerning the people of Victoria that led me to believe that only in the national Parliament could one achieve some benefit. If the tone of this letter is correct, does it mean that the Premier of Victoria will reject any of the help which Victoria would receive through the operations of the national health insurance scheme or through the Australian Hospitals Commission that has been set up? Will he refuse to receive finance to prop up the sagging hospital services and health services in Victoria? For years it was pointed out to the Liberal Government in Victoria how poor Victoria's general hospital system was, with overcrowded casualty departments with long waiting times and manned by the most junior of medical officers, and a lack of beds in areas of acute need. This applies to the very densely populated areas such as the western suburbs of Melbourne. The Victorian Government's record is disgraceful in this respect. Seven or eight years ago when I talked in the Victorian Parliament of rehabilitatory services the then Government laughed about such services and did nothing about them. Now suddenly at election time it has started what I think is called a Sir Henry Bolte rehabilitation wing at St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne. I hope that the Victorian people will support that rehabilitation wing, because after all it might rehabilitate some of the health services that Sir Henry Bolte, as Premier of Victoria, allowed to run down so sadly.

An announcement was made about mental health. These promises are made at State election after State election in Victoria. The Victorian Government always says that more will be provided in the mental health field. Promises, promises! In the last 3 election campaigns the Colac residential training centre for the mentally retarded has been mentioned. Only a few weeks ago the Premier of Victoria laid the foundation stone for that institution in Colac after so many years of promises. I understand that it was a symbolic foundation stone which was placed in a symbolic wall, and that it has been stored away in a suitable shed to be reinserted when the building commences properly. In Victoria there is a waiting list of 2,000 for residential places for mentally retarded children. Five hundred of these cases are considered most urgent. Despite the warnings and the arguments that have been put forward not only in the Victor ian Parliament but also by people interested in this field, this list has grown and grown. How can one expect anyone associated with health services to support a government that has made so many promises yet has done so little?

There is a great lag even in the provision of day centres for the mentally retarded. Parents, who are already financially and economically deprived, have to work to make their large donations not only towards the construction costs of these day centres but also towards the day to day costs. The waiting list for beds in geriatric hospitals has grown and grown and the waiting time is now 3i to 4 years. The waiting list contains more individuals than there are beds for such patients in that State. This is the record of health services that I was asked, in this letter, to support. As I said, I found it personally offensive on the ground that, after battling for many years in that State to see these matters rectified, so little action has been taken except for making vague and empty promises at the time of each election. Now they are being repeated again. The 5-year program for the mentally retarded that will give an extra 846 places will not even touch the present needs, let alone cope with the growth in population.

I believe that the people of Victoria will see through these promises after such a long time and will reject this type of fallacious argument that is being put up. If Mr Hamer does not intend to accept this type of assistance, it would be better if he were at least honest and said that he will not accept that type of assistance. Only through proper and professionally researched examination of health services can we expect to see well financed health services in Victoria. Unless there is to be a fully researched and professional approach, as the campaign committee and authors of this letter suggest, the program certainly will not produce health services of the standard that is required. I felt that I should bring this matter to the notice of the Australian Parliament because it is a reflection on the very forward thinking that is being done in the Australian Parliament at present in the field of health.

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