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Thursday, 5 December 1974

Mr CHIPP - I thank the Minister and I thank the House. Notwithstanding the vilification of the present health scheme, the Opposition says that this is still a good health scheme that we have operating at the moment. We would concede the need for further development in the light of experience and changing conditions. What disturbs us is the way in which the Minister in particular has vilified at every opportunity every person connected with the present health scheme. He has abused doctors, he has vilified the health funds, calling them rapacious. He has brought the nursing homes of this country to the brink of destruction on many occasions. He has signed the death warrant of private hospitals. His Government is responsible for the worst inflation we have had in this country for many years, if not ever, and because doctors apply, like everybody else, for an increase in their salaries he vilifies them as being grabbing doctors. As far as I know, the only people in the community who have not had a rise in the last 3 years are the poor, miserable unfortunate creatures who happen to be members of Parliament. Everybody else, of course, has had massive increases in salary. Why should the doctors not have increases also?

The Liberal Party's policy is one of universal health care. We care for the 8 per cent of people who are not covered for health insurance and we have a policy to cover them. We care for the people on low incomes who cannot afford the now expensive private health insurance and we have a sliding scale by which they can contribute for their private health insurance according to the level of their incomes. We have checked our scheme with former experts in the Taxation Office, with constitutional lawyers, with State governments, with the professions and with the private hospitals, and although most of these people have slight criticisms and suggestions about our health scheme they are in fundamental agreement with it. The opposite can be said of the Labor Party's health scheme. There is not one reputable organisation concerned with health care in Australia which supports the Labor health scheme. Fifty-six per cent of the people surveyed in a gallup poll would not have a bar of it, and yet today we still have this Government obsession about forcing the legislation through this House. Our health scheme is being updated all the time, and today I want to make a new announcement of policy which will be in the Press boxes in a moment or two. It reads:

The Liberal and Country Parties recognise that the States face grave financial difficulties in developing their hospital and health services, because of the unwillingness of the Labor Government to increase Commonwealth support in line with inflation.

A Liberal and Country Party Government will provide an immediate and large injection of funds into State Health systems.

The Commomwealth Government today contributes only $5.00 per day towards the bed costs of Pensioner Medical Service patients, provided with free treatment in a public ward.

Mr Stewart - Where is your money coming from? Will you print notes?

Mr CHIPP -The Minister interjects. If he hears me out he will realise that this money would have been given to the States by his Government with tags, the kind of tags which the Labor Party always uses. It says to the States: 'We will give you this money but in return you have got to hand over to us your soul. You have to hand over to us the control of State hospitals'. Our scheme is vastly different from the Minister's. We will allow the States to maintain autonomy with their health services and with their hospitals. The new policy statement continues:

Originally the Commonwealth contribution represented a substantial proportion of the bed-costs of pensioner patients. This is no longer the case- hospital bed costs ranging to above $50.00 per day -

And the Commonwealth only provides $5 a day.

The States now bear the brunt of the burden of providing free hospital treatment for pensioners. This has placed an intolerable strain on scarce State resources, particularly in times of higher inflation.

The Liberal and Country Parties recognise the pressing need for more State resources to be made available for the development of hospital and health services.

The Commonwealth Government has the Constitutional power to provide medical and hospital services for pensioners, and with it the responsibility to make a significant contribution towards the hospital care of pensioners. This responsibility should be exercised without seeking to take over financial control and management of State hospitals.

As the Labor Party would want to do.

A Liberal and Country Party Government will increase the proportion of the Commonwealth contribution towards the daily bed costs of pensioners from 10 per cent to 50 per cent. On present costs this would result in an increase of the Commonwealth contribution from $5 per day to at least $22.50 per day.

An LCP Government will also enter into urgent negotiations with the States and the Voluntary Health Insurance Funds on a number of other matters, including- improving the presently inadequate SHBP for low income peoplemedical benefits cover for outpatients.

We would also improve ambulance services, cover for psychiatric patients and other matters. These are the sorts of matters the States have been asking for for 2 years at conferences and the Government has refused them. On return to power we will take those actions that I have just described.

In conclusion, we think that this Bill is badly timed. It is a bad Bill and we will oppose it here. We will divide on it here. We will oppose it in the

Senate and hopefully reject it again in that place which I would think would be the just deserts of a very bad Bill.

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