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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3220


Mr STALEY (Chisholm) - In the mouth of this Labor Government, open government seems to mean that you tell all the so-called secrets of the previous Government and hide all your own. I challenge the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) who has just made that absolutely unsubstantiated smear to give the Parliament any of the information upon which such a scurrilous claim is based so that it can be judged by this House. It has become absolutely and completely typical for the Minister for Social Security again and . again to smear people. He smears the previous Government, he smears us, he smears doctors and the health funds. He smears anyone to suit has purposes because he knows very well that his precious health scheme is in tatters. The evidence of the health scheme toeing in tatters is the latest White Paper which he has put before this House and which he refuses to allow this House to debate.

It is odd that the Minister can give us the costing of a Liberal proposal for the reform of the present health scheme. He costed a proposal which we had made at $160m. But he gave us no costings whatever in order to back up his claims about how the Government's health scheme would be cheaper for 3 out of 4 people. Even if it is true - I very much doubt that it is and the Minister does not have the guts to give us the figures upon which he bases such statements - it would still be more expensive for one in 4 families and for 3 out of 7 individuals. So, what about this open government? How about stopping the smears and giving us some genuine open government?

Anyone who heard the Minister for Social Security speaking a few minutes ago about the problems of aged persons homes and hostels would, I think, clearly understand precisely what terrifies us about the Labor health scheme. Here we have a situation of raging inflation, meaning that approvals for new homes and hostels for aged people have had to come to a stop. They have ground to a halt in the offices of the Government. Because the Government is unable to increase the subsidy for as yet it has not been able to find the money, it has effectively stopped plans for the building of new homes and hostels for elderly people in our community. That is what we face in that area; how much bigger is the health area as a whole. If the Government cannot find money for that area, how on earth are we going to be able to trust it to find the sort of resources which would be necessary under its new scheme. Surely this in itself is warning enough of what happens when government gets too much of a grip on basic community services.

In Britain, for instance, where the health scheme is funded by the national Government, I understand that the percentage of the national income spent on health is smaller than in any comparable Western nation. That in itself would be part of the reason why in Britain they have such difficulty with their health scheme. This suggests that the more the responsibility for basic services such as this one is shifted away from the people and placed in the hands of governments, the less efficient the services will become and the less the community can provide the resources necessary to run such services successfully.

The Minister said that he stands by his assertion that about 87 per cent of the community is covered by the present health scheme. This statement of the Minister is at least colligative, if not worse, because what the Minister has done in his White Paper on this scheme is to extract a figure from th: figures provided by the Bureau of Census and Statistics - a perfectly responsible and clear summation of the evidence - and from its tables. The Bureau of Census and Statistics states clearly:

Because of this circumstance, the proportion of persons covered by such schemes was lower in Queensland than elsewhere, being only 66.4 per cent, whereas in the rest of Australia coverage was 89.9 per cent, the combined figure for all Australia being 86.S per cent.

The point is that it is only fair when picking one figure out of a sentence to pick also the other figures which make sense of the whole sentence. The Minister simply cannot say that what is going on in Queensland with respect to the free health care that is available in that State is not relevant to the question of voluntary insurance. Of course it is relevant. Everybody knows that it is relevant.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Hear, hear!


Mr STALEY - My friend, the honourable member for Griffith, who is from Queensland would completely concur in this.

The reference to Queensland was also interesting for precisely the point that the Minister made. He said that, in Queensland, people have to wait at an outpatient clinic of a public hospital and that such outpatient clinic services are not comparable to what one would receive through a private doctor's clinic. Of course, this is the sort of point we make again and again. It is in this area that we have basic objections to the Government's health scheme. People want and are entitled to the best quality and the private quality care. It is interesting that even in Queensland, so many people bother to belong to private insurance funds. Another point made toy the Minister for Social Security is that one of the main reasons why migrants will not stay in Australia is that we do not have a universal health scheme.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - 'Garbage.


Mr STALEY - As my friend again suggests, it is absolute garbage. There is no evidence to support this proposition. Indeed, on all the evidence I have ever heard, the Minister has got it back to front. Thousands and thousands of migrants came to Australia because they believed that this was a free country, a country where the individual mattered, where the private life, thoughts, beliefs and relationships mattered and could matter in the most intimate and important of human relationships such as health care, education and similar matters. This Government still allows us the choice of the automobile we want to drive. When is it going to decide what sort of car we should drive? It is in the most important matters of life that the Government is refusing our freedoms. It is running against the whole tenor of Australian history - the sort of things which have made us a proud and free country. As I say, it is this sort of thing that has drawn people to Australia and it is precisely the sort of scheme that the Minister wishes to establish in this country that they were escaping from when they came here. They left places like Britain with its nationalised health scheme and still they tell us horrifying stories about that scheme. If I had time I would deal with them chapter and verse.

As is admitted by the architects of the scheme which Labor seeks to introduce in this country, it is fundamentally an amalgam of the British and Canadian schemes. It cannot be denied that it entails significant extensions of nationalisation or socialism in this country.

The point is that in Britain the backlog of cases is absolutely appalling. If it is an urgent case for hospital treatment, the patient might get into hospital within a year or two. If it is in the not so urgent list, a patient could wait up to 5 years, or I understand in particular cases, even 6 years. I recall the case of a girl who told me she went to her local doctor who thought that she had a malignant growth in her stomach. He said that he would write to the hospital to see whether he could get her an appointment for the specialist. She said to him, 'For God's sake, can't you rmg him up? I want to see him right away.' The doctor replied, 'Of course not. I am going to do it as I am told how to do it.' He wrote, and 6 or 7 days later he got a reply saying that she could call in 6 weeks to get an opinion from the specialist. Instead, that girl went the next day to see the same specialist privately and paid him for an opinion, which was a good one for her. However, she had to pay for that opinion from her own resources. So much for a government scheme. So much for nationalised medicine.







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