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Tuesday, 12 November 1974
Page: 2209

Senator BROWN (VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. What provision is made under repatriation legislation for veterans to receive treatment from chiropractors? Does he agree that any form of treatment which benefits a patient should be freely available to the patient? Will chiropractic treatment be available to patients under the proposed national compensation scheme?

Senator WHEELDON (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Repatriation and Compensation) -At present the Repatriation Commission does not provide for treatment by either chiropractors or osteopaths. The medical treatment which is provided is given by duly qualified medical practitioners.

Senator Baume - Are not chiropractors registered in Western Australia?

Senator WHEELDON -Chiropractors are registered in Western Australia but their services are not covered by the provisions of the Repatriation Act. The view which the Repatriation Commission takes- I know that this has been the subject of some dispute- and the view which the Australian Medical Association and medical authorities generally take is that there is not sufficient valid convincing evidence to justify the claims which are made by the advocates of chiropractic treatment or osteopathic treatment, and for that reason repatriation benefits do not include payment for treatment by these practitioners. If the recipient of repatriation benefits wishes to receive chiropractic or osteopathic treatment it is entirely up to him but the Department itself will not pay the bill for that treatment. At present an inquiry on which the Repatriation Commission is represented is being conducted into this matter. Inquiry is being made in depth into the effectiveness and usefullness of the treatment which is provided by chiropractors. The Repatriation Commission is making a submission to the committee of inquiry.

So far as other forms of compensation are concerned, as Senator Baume pointed out by way of interjection, the State of Western Australia does provide by law for the registration of chiropractors, and chiropractic services are provided for under the Workers Compensation Act in Western Australia. Some fear has been expressed by chiropractors in Western Australia that they will lose their present status in the event of a national compensation Bill being passed. This, however, is not really a matter for the National Compensation Bill itself because the Bill does not provide for medical and hospital treatment; it provides purely for earnings- related and other forms of compensation for those people who have been injured or incapacitated. It is envisaged that the medical and hospital treatment which would include chiropractic treatment, if it is to be included, would be dealt with under the National Health Act. So my Department has no proposals whatever with regard to the present position in Western Australia. However, the chiropractors association in Western Australia is making some submissions to me which I will be studying.

One additional problem with regard to making provision for payment for chiropractic treatment is that within the ranks of the chiropractors there are 2 separate organisations, each apparently claiming that the qualifications claimed by the other are not valid qualifications. This makes it even more difficult than it would otherwise be to work out precisely what one is supposed to do about the matter. I repeat my answer to the first part of the question. So far as repatriation is concerned, we believe that as the position stands at present we must abide by the weight of scientific evidence and the weight of the opinions held by the Australian Medical Association, the medical schools of the various universities and the other organisations of duly qualified medical practitioners that there is no justification for repatriation benefits to include treatment by either chiropractors or osteopaths.

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