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Thursday, 5 December 1974

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I ask the honourable members to cease interjecting and I ask the honourable member who is speaking to address himself to the Bills before the House.

Mr CHIPP - Mr Deputy Speaker,I am being provoked beyond reason. I seek your protection. Let me say what this Labor Government is going to do to the nation's health. This national health scheme which the Government is introducing is very similar to that which is operating in the United Kingdom. There are some areas of difference but it is essentially the same. Recently, the presidents and deans of Britain 's royal colleges and faculties of medicine made a statement. These people are not political creatures. They belong to one of the most prestigious bodies concerned with health in the United Kingdom. They desperately seek not to become political. They had this to say in relation to the health scheme in Great Britain:

The ills within the National Health Service are serious and, by threatening standards, threaten the health and wellbeing of the community. There is a real danger of standards declining to a point from which recovery will be impossible within the foreseeable future.

That is what this Labor Government is trying to do in this country. Its health care scheme will do to Australians what the British Labor Party's health scheme has done to the British people. I wish to quote what was said by another Englishman. This man works in the nationalised health service in the United Kingdom. He is a doctoran administrator- at one of the leading British hospitals. He said:

The British scheme was starved for funds because of the economic climate.

The shortage of money, together with the British Government 's reorganisation of the scheme on a regional basis, had caused chaotic conditions. 'The reorganisation of the scheme, the first since its inception in 1948, has proved disastrous because of the shortage of money ', Dr Sowry said. 'It has stultified the hopes of people who were looking forward to rebuilding- all projects have been indefinitely deferred '.

That is the situation with nationalised health. This is what that kind of health scheme has done to British medicine. This scheme will mean that any person who becomes ill, contracts a disease or sustains an accident will receive a poorer service from the medical profession, will have lower standards thrust upon him and will pay more for the service. Yet the Government still wants to bring in such a scheme. As with the British scheme, we will find people queueing to see a doctor, not knowing which doctor they will see at the local clinic. There will be a waiting time for operations at public hospitals. This sort of scheme turns human beings into anonymous cases with numbers rather than treating them as people. This scheme destroys private hospitals and dries up the charitable services that go with them. For instance, I refer to the magnificent services performed by Catholic nuns and other men and women interested in the care of their fellow human beings. It destroys the private nursing home concept in Australia and gives doctors institutionalisation.

I refer to the case of woman having a baby. It has been traditional in Australia that a young mother having a baby has her family doctor consult her during her confinement. He knows her history and background. The chances are that he has delivered other children from that woman. This is a basic facet of our medical health care system. I know that the Minister for Social Security is desperately trying to devise a means so that that present system in this regard can be maintained so that even under his health care scheme a woman will still be able to go to her own doctor. My inquiries through the public and private hospital systems and through the medical profession indicate to me that no matter what the Minister's good intentions might be, it is just impossible and impracticable under the Hayden health scheme to do this. The day of a woman having her doctor attend her in hospital when she has her baby will eventually be over. We have the concept of one government health fund proposed by this legislation. We will see the finish of friendly societies as they operate now and the finish of private health funds which are great community co-operative societies. We will see the finish of those funds operated by trade unions and employees in factories. It is the finish of all those organisations. The Government says: 'You are doing no good. We want to take you over and build one massive government health insurance fund'.

I made a statement the other day on behalf of the Opposition. Unhappily, the Press who attend this Parliament seem obsessed with quoting statements by Ministers and other unimportant news rather than giving any sort of important statement like that the responsible coverage it deserves. I said on behalf of the Opposition that when we were re-elected to government, at the appropriate time we would disband the Government health commission while at the same time, whenever that time may be, doing all we could to facilitate its employees with other employment. What will this Government health fund do? It will have to process 90,000 claims a day. It is hard for the mind to absorb that kind of figure. In Australia 90,000 people make a medical or hospital claim every day- 450,000 a week- and all of those are to go into the one mammoth, giant, bureaucratic body of the Government health fund. Can one imagine the chaos, the despair, the delay that are going to take place.

I mention again- I have mentioned it at other times- that I am becoming increasingly concerned about the records that will be kept by the Government health fund. I respect what the Minister says, that it is his intention to give every protection to the records of the health fund organisation so that they will not be made public. But about 5 months ago I was in the United States and I studied this very problem. I saw what it is possible to extract from a computer. By pressing one button you can get virtually the whole of the medical, dental, and psychiatric history of any human being who is registered with that health fund. That is all it needs- the pressing of a button- and it throws out the information on a piece of paper. The easy ability to get that kind of information from that sort of bank is I believe terrifying to those people who want to protect civil liberties, as Liberals do. I would accept the argument that that information is already in the private health funds now. Yes, of course it is, I would concede that. But it is one thing to have this kind of information about 13 million Australians scattered through 90 different organisations. That is one proposition. It is another proposition to have it all in one giant computer brain: How many times you have been to a psychiatrist, how many times somebody in the family has had an abortion, how many times a venereal disease or some other social stigma has been attached to somebody in a family, all available from one computer bank by the pressing of a button. Without wanting to demean any public servant or any private health fund official, the price of obtaining that sort of information- information which may ruin a person's career, information which could be splattered across the front page of a newspaper- is the price of the integrity of one public servant, and we know that there are some people in the world who can be bought for a price. This legislation, if we pass it, would enable that to happen, notwithstanding the guarantees of secrecy. We have not heard from the Minister on this question.

On the other hand, the Opposition has an alternative policy on health to that of Labor. It is set out in the handbook 'The Way Ahead', which contains 138 pages of Liberal Party and Country Party policies. We believe our policy is viable, it is real. I thank the Minister in anticipation for his authority to incorporate just that part of the handbook on pages 40 and 41 relating to the funding of medical services.

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