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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 840

Mr CARLTON(1.05 a.m.) —Clause 49 relates to the Medicare Benefits Advisory Committee. It amends section 66 of the principal Act to refer to the Medicare Benefits Advisory Committee instead of the Medical Benefits Advisory Committee. The Opposition has no particular quarrel with that, if one has to have Medicare, but paragraph 1 (b) of the clause amends the section so that the Minister no longer has to consult with the Australian Medical Association before appointing the medical practitioner members of the Committee.

This Medicare Benefits Advisory Committee is a very important committee because it gives advice to the Minister on what should be on the medical benefits schedule. Therefore, the Opposition would certainly like to know why it is that those who have been involved in at least advising the Minister on the membership of this committee for so long, and who presumably have provided particular skills in that direction, are being excluded from consideration. I am concerned about this because the Minister may well have the intention of stacking this committee with a whole series of people whose views might be inimical to private professional practice. One can consider a committee consisting of Dr Marr of the Doctors Reform Society, Dr Refshauge, the State Labor candidate for Marrickville ; Dr Deeble, the adviser to the Minister; and perhaps Professor Opit from Melbourne.

Dr Blewett —They have to be medical practitioners.

Mr CARLTON —There is a whole host of names. I was going to say Dr Maddern, but I do not think he is a medical doctor either. The serious point in this is that we are concerned that a body which has the job of advising the Minister on the nature of the medical schedule of fees and on the items that would be on that schedule should include a number of private practitioners, people committed to private practice. If it is dominated by people who are merely representatives of the State or Federal bureaucracies or who are representatives of the kinds of elements in the medical profession that have consistently and publicly supported this Minister in his nationalisation procedures, we would be very concerned indeed. So we ask the Minister why it is precisely that he is excluding the Australian Medical Association from compulsory consultation in the formation of this Committee.