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Thursday, 16 September 1971
Page: 1405

Dr CASS (MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA) - I would like to address a question, not quite without notice, to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has the Minister seen the article by Professor John Read in the latest 'Current Affairs Bulletin' in which he points out that: 'a doctor's fee for deciding not to operate might be between $5 and $20. But a decision to operate on the same patient' - for the same disease - 'might bring him a fee of between $20 and $250'. Has the Minister seen the numerous scientific reports supporting Professor Read's claim that fee-for-service medical practice leads to unnecessary medical treatment and hospitalisation? Finally, will the Minister comment on Professor Read's statement that 'when a major part of the funds comes from the public purse there is every reason to examine its propriety and necessity'?

Dr FORBES - I have not seen the article by the late Professor Read although I have seen Press reports in relation to it which substantially confirm that the late Professor Read's views were as expressed by the honourable member. They are his personal opinions and for that reason they must be respected. I believe that the fee for service system, which is overwhelmingly supported by the medical profession, has provided a very high standard of medical attention in this country. I believe it is true to say that in those countries which have abandoned the fee for service system the standard of medical treatment and particularly the personal relationship between doctor and patient has declined. As one who is very interested in this matter 1 have noticed that in some of the countries which have abandoned the fee for service system the trend has been to go back to the system.

The Leader of the Opposition has denied publicly that it is the intention of the Australian Labor Party, if it should come into power, to abandon the fee for service system. On the other hand everything that has been said by honourable members opposite and their attitudes, like the attitude of the honourable member for Maribyrnong, suggest the contrary. 1 believe it is time that the Opposition came into the open and told us precisely what it Intends to impose on the Australian public in relation to its health scheme because there is absolutely no doubt in my mind from the information provided to me that the Opposition could not put into operation its own health scheme at the cost claimed for it without abandoning the fee for service system. In other words, I believe it is the intention of the Opposition, if it forms a government, to honour the promise to introduce a health scheme by nationalising medicine in Australia. That is the only way the Opposition can do it and I believe that the question asked by the honourable member for Maribyrnong proves that proposition.

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