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Wednesday, 26 September 1973
Page: 1510

Mr MORRIS (SHORTLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the attention of the Minister for Social Security been drawn to the lurid and somewhat garnish displays of political propaganda opposing the proposed national health scheme now being displayed in the waiting rooms of some doctors' surgeries in the Newcastle area? Does he agree that such exhibits can have an intimidatory and distressing impact on sick people attending such surgeries for treatment? Will he repeat his public invitation to members of the medical profession to confer with him on any aspect of the proposed national health scheme in order to dispel once and for all any suggestion of a lack of desire on his part to give full consideration to the genuine interests of doctors when the changeover occurs?

Mr HAYDEN - Yes, my attention has been drawn to the display of these posters in Newcastle. As a matter of fact, the honourable member mentioned it to me last night. This is consistent with the general pattern of behaviour by a number of medical practitioners throughout the community. I do not care to spend much time commenting on the displays except to say that quite a number of them reach a fairly low level and display a surprising degree of immaturity in the way in which the message is pitched.

Mr Reynolds - They have been criticised by fellow members of the profession.

Mr HAYDEN - Indeed, they have been criticised by fellow members of the medical profession and also by the spokesman for the Opposition on these matters.

Mr Reynolds - To his credit.

Mr HAYDEN - Yes, to his credit. If I can proceed without much more help, what is interesting about this campaign is that there is an element of intimidation and duress in it in that the medical practitioners in some cases are applying pressure to patients. Yesterday, people in my office in this building drew my attention to 2 bundles of letters which had been received protesting about the health insurance scheme - one from, I think, Bundaberg and the other from Gympie. In the case of the letters from Gympie, each was written on the same note pad and again, although they were written on a different pad, all those from Bundaberg were written on the same note pad. In the case of the letters received from Gympie it was fairly obvious that one person had written more than one of the letters.

This is the sort of campaign that is being waged at present. I think it is quite an unethical display of behaviour by some medical practitioners in that they are exploiting this very special relationship which they have with patients - a relationship in which duress clearly comes to the fore through the implication by the doctors that: 'I am providing healing treatment for you. You are dependent on me and therefore you have a great obligation to me'. The final point I should like to make is that, yes, I am still keen to continue discussions and negotiations with the medical profession. In fact, as a result of initiatives I have taken, I will be meeeting next Saturday in Sydney the Federal Council of the Australian Medical Association and, hopefully, we will be able to develop constructive discussions from that point. I repeat what I said before: I am prepared to consult and negotiate on the range of proposals which are included in the universal health insurance program.

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