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Thursday, 27 November 2014
Page: 9603


Senator BACK (Western Australia) (18:03): I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I want to place on record my appreciation to the director of the Professional Services Review, Dr Bill Coote, a man I have known for very many years and for whom I have the highest respect.

Again, in the very few minutes available to me, it is worth reflecting on the improvements in this services review, as outlined in its annual report. But I do want to draw attention to the 80/20 rule, and that is that immediately when a medical practitioner or a GP has 80 or more clinical attendances in more than 20 days of the year they are—and I am quoting here—'automatically deemed to have engaged in inappropriate practice', except if they can demonstrate exceptional circumstances.

Many of us associated with rural and regional parts of Australia would know that quite often there is only the one doctor in an area and if there is an epidemic or if there is an outbreak of influenza or whatever, we would certainly find that they would see up to 80 patients or more in 20 days or more of the year. In his report to the parliament, Dr Coote does talk about some instances of quite clear abuse: somebody who was only in Australia for seven months who, in the 5½ months that they were seeing patients, managed to provide services to 4,000 patients 9,000 times—all in five months! Clearly, this was an aberration.

But I do want to draw attention, very briefly, to the work undertaken in Western Australia by a medical practitioner, Dr George O'Neill, and his colleagues. They work with the implant naltrexone against addiction. This is an anti-addictive treatment regime, not only for amphetamines but for opiates and, indeed, even for nicotine and alcohol.

I visited his clinic not long ago in the company of somebody from here in Canberra. I spoke to him and I spoke to patients. These are people with long-term addictions. The contrast between the use of naltrexone and something like methadone is the fact that methadone itself is just an opiate. In fact, I said to one of Dr O'Neill's long-term patients, 'Did you ever try methadone?' He said, 'Yes, I did. It was no good to me; all it was doing was giving me another addictive drug.' The thing about naltrexone is that it acts on completely different centres of the brain and does have an anti-addictive effect in the sense that it does control these shocking addictions—amphetamine, ice and the other chemicals that I have mentioned recently.

Because others, no doubt, want to speak on other questions, I will not continue the debate except to say that at some time I will take the opportunity to speak further, as indeed will Senator Bilyk.

I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.