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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 839

Dr BLEWETT (Minister for Health)(12.55 a.m.) —I will reply to the last two points of the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton). If the honourable member had listened earlier in the evening he would know that I explained the reasons why we are fairly confident about the $5 figure. From at least one major fund we have had advice to the effect that the private insurance rate can be about that figure. There are very obvious reasons for that, which I went through at an earlier stage of the proceedings. On the question of specialist hospitals, I think that is not a particular problem about which I have to assure people because the implications of the guidelines are quite favourable to specialist surgical, maternity and orthopaedic hospitals. We are worried about the way the guidelines work in relation to some psychiatric hospitals.

Mr Shipton —They say that hospitals have to engage in at least two of certain types of specialist services. I am asking whether one of those types of services would be enough.

Dr BLEWETT —As I said, my understanding of hospital concerns is that those in the various categories the honourable member mentioned are not particularly concerned. General small bush nursing hospitals raise a particular problem and specialist psychiatric hospitals seem to be possibly disadvantaged by the guidelines in their present form.

In answer to the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) I must say that at this hour of the morning one gets a little strained with some of the things that are said. I wish he had displayed the same concern for Australian public hospitals 2 1/2 years ago when his Government was squeezing the States, and therefore squeezing the public hospitals. I wish he really had displayed the same concern then for the public hospital system as he now seems to display for the private hospital system. The second point I wish to make is that the honourable member for Dundas, like many other members of the Opposition, seems to have forgotten that the Opposition is no longer in government. It has never been the practice of this Government, or of the Opposition when in government, to circulate to all members of the Opposition draft guidelines while they are still being prepared by the Government and the organisations concerned. I point out that those guidelines, under this legislation, will have to be submitted to both Houses of Parliament for approval and they can, of course, be disallowed. So I think that we offer sufficient protection with the parliamentary system.

Question put:

That the clauses be agreed to.

(The Deputy Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)