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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3221

Mr McVEIGH (Darling Downs) - The plans of the centralist socialist Government to nationalise medicine have been very well publicised at the taxpayers expense, but from the public reaction to this exercise in socialism it is crystal clear that, like braces without pants, this. misuse of public funds will serve no useful purpose. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has rapidly gained a reputation for reciting platitudes - principles without programs. Never have so many words been uttered to say so little. The people of Australia will prove to the Minister that bread and butter will beat power and money. The Minister's ideas are getting a low candlepower reception from the Australian public. That this should be so does not even raise the eyebrows of thinking people. The Minister has made many frenzied attempts to defend the indefensible and he has cried the plaintive cry of misrepresentation. It is true that there has been blatant misrepresentation, not from this side of the House but from the Government and from its cohorts. Stripped to its essentials and casting aside the verbiage, Labor's health scheme is not a worthwhile effort to improve the quality of Australian health care. Rather, it is an exercise in political philosophy framed in economic terms which change the costs every time a new announcement is made.

The Minister has stated that the new arrangements will be cheaper for three out of four families. We claim that this is a deliberate misrepresentation of the mandate that the Government says it has from the Australian people. I shall tell honourable members why. I read from the Australian Labor Party's policy:

A Federal Labor Government will introduce a universal health scheme. It will be administered by a single health fund. Contributions will be paid according to taxable income. An estimated 350,000 Australian families will pay nothing. Four out of five-

Not three out of four - - will pay less than their contributions to the existing scheme. Hospital care will be paid for completely by the fund in whatever ward the patient's doctor advises.

We claim either that this is deliberate misrepresentation by the Government or that it has conveniently forgotten what it went to the people for. The statement that four out of five people will pay less is completely denied now, even by the Government. It has changed this to three out of four. The Government said that it will pay for hospital care in whatever ward the patient's doctor advises. The plan does not allow for this. I take issue on the claim that the people will not be paying any more than they do at the present time, because nowhere in the policy speech is any allowance made for contributions from workers compensation and third party insurance funds. Therefore we claim that this was not a true statement in the policy speech. There was no statement in the policy speech of a contribution from the national revenue. The Minister has stated that in 1974-75 it will be 1.28 per cent. I ask the Minister to explain by simple arithmetic his statement that three out of four families, and seven out of ten individuals, will pay less. In fact they will be paying 1.35 per cent plus a contribution to workers compensation and third party insurance, plus their ordinary share of national revenue which they pay through income tax.

There are a lot of dun grey areas which the Minister has not explained to the public or the Parliament. People are worried, particularly in Queensland, where the fulfilment of State responsibilities by a government capably led by Mr Bjelke-Petersen and Sir Gordon Chalk has thwarted the efforts of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and guaranteed the preservation of State rights. Their stand has been a critical one for the defence of the people's rights. In answer to a question by me yesterday, the Minister scathingly referred to Queensland as having a second class hospital scheme. I take umbrage at this statement. I know that many excellent people - doctors, administrators, staff both trained and domestic, and patients - will throw this statement back into the teeth of the Minister at the next election. It is to the everlasting credit of the Queensland Minister for Health, the Honourable S. D. Tooth, that notwithstanding pressure from informed groups to amend the method of its financing to bring the hospital scheme into line with that applying in other States in the Commonwealth, this step was never taken. I repeat that hospitalisation in Queensland in public hospitals has been free for over 30 years. Let the Minister deny that. One cannot have any method that is cheaper than absolutely free.

Additionally, in Queensland dental facilities are available, subject to a means test, in 141 dental clinics scattered throughout the State. I take issue with the Minister's rather irrational reply to a question from me yesterday when he described Queensland's hospital system as second rate. The Minister obviously does not know the facts. He has not even paid that system the compliment of examining it, so I will give him some of the facts taken from the Scotton and Deeble report which he commissioned, although he has not admitted its findings in regard to Queensland hospitals. Scotton and Deeble found that the bed ratio in Queensland - 7.3 beds available for each 1,000 of population - is the highest in Australia. Notwithstanding that high ratio, Queensland incurs the lowest cost for occupied 'beds. Victoria, with the lowest bed-population ratio, has a daily cost about 50 per cent above the Queensland figure. It is also a fact that on most elective surgery, the waiting list in Queensland hospitals is considerably shorter than it is in other States.

The Minister in his various statements has made significant play on the fact that one million Australians are not covered by health insurance. I ask him whether this figure includes the 50 per cent of Queenslanders who, on account of the excellence of their system - ' a choice between free public and private hospitals, and freedom of choice of doctor - do not need to be covered by health insurance as provided by the private insurance organisations. Why do they need to be covered when they already have, for nothing, medical services in hospitals similar to those provided by general practitioners and specialists in private practice? It is an obvious tribute to the dual system of free public hospital medicine and private enterprise medicine that there have been no major upsets within the system. The dual system can work in harmony. Many of the specialists and general practitioners in private practice also join the staff of hospitals on a sessional basis. In rural areas, doctors in some centres take on the post of medical superintendent of the local hospital with a right of private practice. Incidentally, Queensland insurance fund figures indicate that there a large number of people insure medically only. This indicates that they want the doctor of their choice, but they still opt for free public hospital service when they require hospitalisation.

I repeat that there will be no freedom of choice of doctors for hospital patients in standard wards. It is true that midwifery cases may be fortunate - at long shot odds - and get their own doctor, but it is highly unlikely. This matter is dealt with in detail in section 4.22 at pages 47 and 48 of the White Paper. As I have indicated, Queensland people have signified their desire to have a choice of doctor. No amount of hoodwinking by the Minister can camouflage this salient fact. The private patients in public hospitals in Queensland pay the lowest rates in Australia for private and intermediate ward treatment - $19 a day in a private ward and $16 a day in an intermediate ward, all inclusive. This enables many people to take advantage of privately operated hospitals and still gain full benefits from health insurance.

The proposed national health insurance scheme will tax all salary and wage earning Queenslanders an extra 1.35 per cent of their taxable income to provide an inferior choice of service for their hospital and medical needs. I charge the Minister with political sleight of hand as far as Queensland is concerned. We will not fall for the carrot he is dangling. He wants Queensland to sign an agreement to provide the same system as is now operating but with the addition of the 1.35 per cent extra tax and other indirect taxes. The Minister's bait of an extra $35m for Queensland is purely-

The DEPTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Mackellar) - Order! The honourable member's time hasexpired.

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