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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 2768

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - I want to raise as a matter of public interest some questions about the very devious means being employed to attack this Government's health insurance program - a program for which we were given a clear mandate at the last election. The program is of course being openly attacked by those people in the medical profession who believe that health care is a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder rather than a social utility which should be available as a right to everybody in the community. It is also under attack from the czars of the big business health funds who are so desperately clinging to millions of dollars of contributors' money they have managed to lock away as reserves'.

That a health insurance program which aims to provide coverage against medical and hospital costs on the equitable basis of ability to pay should come under attack from local groups with vested interests in maintaining a system which offers the most benefits to those on the higher incomes is perhaps understandable. The motives and the methods of these groups are questionable enough. But what I want to discuss are the motives and methods of yet another group. I want to do this because I believe the people have a right to know who is trying to manipulate their opinions. The group I am referring to are the multi-national drug companies. Certain members of the Opposition are fond of telling us how badly we need the friendship of multinationals and how badly they are needed to sponsor projects that Australians cannot or will not finance. The Opposition has, of course, expert knowledge about that. Now it seems that, apart from some of the big business health funds and the more militantly conservative members of the medical profession, nobody in Australia wants to finance the project of attacking the universal health insurance program.

So, apparently by way of demonstration that multi-nationals will finance any venture, the international drug companies have decided to attack our health program. But of course they do not want to be seen doing so. This brings me to an organisation calling itself the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and 2 publications - one called the Health Economics Service Bulletin' and the other the 'Australian Health Education

Advisory Digest'. The Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association is, of course, a lobbying organisation for the major drug companies operating in Australia, and, as a committee of this Parliament revealed, a very great majority of those are overseas owned. The Health Economics Service Bulletin', without revealing who its real publishers are, has embarked upon a blatantly biased campaign against the health insurance program. The Health Economics Service Bulletin' lists the address of its editor as 45 Macquarie Street, Sydney, that, by coincidence, is also the address of the so-called 'Australian Health Education Advisory Digest', which upon examination turns out to be published by the Health Economics Service - a division of the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association. Now, just to compound the coincidence, 45 Macquarie Street, Sydney, is the address of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and also, of course, the business address of the Association's Director, Dr Wylie Gibbs, a former Liberal member of this House. Again by coincidence the misleading material appearing in the mysteriously published 'Health Economics Service Bulletin' pretty well replicates opinions and assertions which have been published in newspapers over the name of Dr Gibbs and which curiously enough also coincide with the Australian Medical Association's propaganda planks. Strange, is it not?

I have not been able to ascertain whether all the companies which fund the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association subscribe to the views and methods being used in this devious campaign of misrepresentation. But, until any or all of them disown what is being done with the funds they subscribe, they must bear the responsibility for it. On the same subject there is yet another question to which the public's attention should be drawn. The AMA has also been engaging in a deliberate smear campaign against the health plan. Honourable members will know the sort of postures and so on that have been shown around the place. It has already spent, as any observer who knows advertising rates could determine, a very large sum on advertising, a sum running into hundreds of thousands of dollars. But it is pretty clear that all that has been spent is not AMA money. AMA officials have issued anguished appeals to their members because they have not contributed anywhere near the amount sought by the AMA for its fighting fund. I refer honourable members to the news item which appeared in this morning's 'Age'. The AMA officials will not reveal what they have collected or what they have spent. In these circumstances the public is surely entitled to speculate on whether the curiously devious methods being employed to issue propaganda from 45 Macquarie Street, Sydney, have been extended to financing the AMA smear and fear campaign. Journalists, in particular, may be interested to know whether the large AMA 'come up and see us sometime' advertisement appearing in 'The Journalist' has in part been financed by secret drug company money. They may also be wondering about other aspects of that advertisement, such as whether the AMA really does love them for themselves or whether perhaps its Mae West invitation is part of a planned seduction. But that is just by the way.

The point I want to register with the Australian public is that there is a chain of very curious coincidences linking the international drug companies with the AMA propaganda campaign. And since the AMA has so suddenly offered to open its heart to journalists I wonder whether it would care to give details to the Australian public of the amount and the source of the money it is spending on its propaganda campaign. In addition it should also be noted that the General Practitioners Society is known to be pressuring drug companies to support their campaign or have their drugs boycotted by doctors.

This is typical of the General Practitioners Society. In its August journal it outlined an ingenious scheme to compile a register of approved consultants to whom Society members should give preference when referring their patients. To be included on this list, consultants would have to 'donate' an annual fee of $20. Of this amount $10 would be classified as a subscription fee to the Society's journal - a worthless collection of League of Rights type propaganda and personal vilification of Mr Hayden, members of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and anyone else who dares to disagree with the Society's warped view of the world. The balance is to be placed in a fund known as the Consultants Fighting Fund' to be used appropriately and at the discretion of the G.P.'s Society.

Mr James - It is a racket.

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - It is a racket. This will obviously be spent to further the right wing predilections of the Society. In conclusion, I would like to stress the underhand tactics being used by opponents of the Australian Government's health insurance program. The Government does not mind legitimate criticism and analysis. What we do mind is the deliberate misrepresentations, character assasinations, the machinations of big business and the overseas influence being brought to bear on the health debate, which is after all a debate on the best possible health insurance system for Australia, not on what is best for big business, or people who only profit from peoples' ill health.

I would like to draw the attention of the House to the way in which overseas drug companies in fact have control of the drug companies in Australia. One-third of the pharmaceutical manufacturing companies in Australia are Australian owned. But 93 per cent of the value market for pharmaceuticals went to overseas controlled firms. Twenty manufacturers provided 74 per cent of the market in 1969-70 and of these only one was an Australian company which supplied 3 per cent. Medical services and the supply of valuable drugs are too important a subject for us not to consider them in this place. I would ask honourable members to consider very carefully all the matters that I have raised.

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