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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 810

Dr THEOPHANOUS(9.42) —First of all, I totally reject the earlier comments by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) which reflected on the honourable member for Chisholm (Ms Mayer) in relation to the medifraud report. The honourable member for Chisholm is a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. Since she was elected to that position she has taken a very great interest in the medifraud situation. That sort of comment need not have been made. We are talking about the possible difficulties of overservicing in relation to this clause and in relation to the Medicare scheme. I say this about the overservicing situation: First of all, it was many years before the honourable members sitting opposite even realised that an overservicing problem was arising in the medical profession. In fact, had it not been for independent sources coming up with the problem of overservicing we would not even have had a Public Accounts Committee inquiry into the matter. The honourable member for Bradfield knows very well that when these problems of overservicing were being raised under the previous Government we worked in a bipartisan fashion in an attempt to achieve rules and guidelines which would put an end to the problem. Recommendations have been made to the Government by the Public Accounts Committee. This Government and this Minister for Health have acted more quickly on these recommendations than did all the previous Ministers for Health in relation to previous recommendations.

Mr Newman —List them. Tell us what they are, one by one.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —The Minister has made several statements about the measures to be taken and legislation will come forward at some future time to make sure that this problem is dealt with. Let us deal with the proposition which has been put by two members of the Opposition tonight, namely, that it is human nature to be greedy and therefore that all doctors ought to be condemned. Mr Deputy Chairman, even at the time--

Mr Connolly —Mr Deputy Chairman, I raise a point of order. The honourable member suggested that a certain comment was made by me. I totally reject that suggestion.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Rocher) —There is no point of order.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —The honourable member made a comment about it being human nature for everyone to misuse the system. Did he or did he not make that comment about human nature? He certainly did make that comment.

Mr Connolly —Mr Deputy Chairman, I raise a point of order. The honourable member has suggested that I said that all doctors were greedy. I reject that observation by him. I did not say that; nor did I even imply it.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —Order! There is no point of order.

Mr Robert Brown —I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. I am concerned that the honourable member for Bradfield should be showing such contempt for the Standing Orders and for your ruling.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN —There is no point of order.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —It appears that the honourable member for Bradfield is a little sensitive. He should be more careful about making those sorts of comments. I do not think anyone on the Public Accounts Committee could be accused of being more enthusiastic about stamping out medifraud and overservicing than I was. Nevertheless, I never went to the point of condemning all doctors in relation to this matter or of talking about it being human nature. If procedures are put into place, those procedures will prevent overservicing.

The Minister and this Government are determined that this shall happen. Opposition members have raised the matter of overservicing in the context of this clause when it was a problem that existed very much under its administration of its various health systems. I would argue that under the provisions of this clause the possibility of overservicing will be reduced rather than increased, particularly in comparison with the sorts of mad systems which operated under the previous Government. I strongly support the clause. I say to the Opposition: Stop raising these red herrings and irrelevancies about overservicing. We all know the conservatives view of human nature, which is that everyone is mad greedy and trying to take over everyone else. This conservative view of human nature, which has gained some currency among certain pop philosophers in recent times, is totally erroneous and we in the Australian Labor Party reject it.