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Thursday, 27 February 1975
Page: 815


Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -Can the Minister for Social Security say whether there are any circumstances in which Australians could be denied the great benefits of Medibank? Is he aware of any proposals for a re-imposition of punitive health insurance contributions following the introduction of Medibank from 1 July?


Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) -It is hard to be certain exactly what the Opposition will do or proposes to do on Medibank. It is quite clear that the Opposition is not certain itself. One can take any range of possibilities according to the selection of spokesmenall official spokesmen for the Oppositionwhom one cares to choose. For instance, the honourable member for Hotham, the Opposition spokesman on social security matters, has suggested that Medibank would be totally dismantled. On the other hand, I noticed in a report in this morning's 'Australian Financial Review' that the Leader of the Opposition has commenced on the issue of Medibank the greatest retreat since Napoleon started walking back from Moscow. He is now accepting that Medibank will come into operation, that it will be popular-


Mr Snedden - Mr Speaker,I rise to a point of order. What the Minister is saying is false. It should be known that it is false.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order involved.


Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker,on the point of order, I quote from the Australian Broadcasting Commission-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order involved.


Mr HAYDEN - I suppose that the point taken by the Leader of the Opposition is a bit of woofwoofle. On Monday on the Australian Broadcasting Commission-


Mr Chipp - I take a point of order. The Standing Orders clearly say that a Minister may answer a question in relation to his own Department. What in the name of fortune have the Opposition policies got to do with the administration of the Minister's Department? Day after day, Ministers come into this place and stand up at question time purely to make political capital. No questions are ever answered. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to give honourable members protection.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Chair is not responsible for the way in which a Minister answers a question.


Mr HAYDEN - It is a curious situation when its bad form to bring politics into this establishment.


Mr Snedden - Mr Speaker,did you rule on that point of order?


Mr SPEAKER -It has always been the practice of Speakers that a Minister may give an answer provided it is relevant to the question that has been asked. The Minister will answer the question.


Mr H HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) -On Monday the Leader of the Opposition said he would pull down the proposed Medibank scheme. He said his Party would have nothing to do with the national compensation and superannuation scheme. This morning's 'Australian Financial Review' reports that this question was put to him: 'Would you abolish the Medibank scheme?' The answer is reported as: 'It. would depend on the extent to which the Medibank scheme had been imposed on the public. ' It is clear from the Leader of the Opposition's comments that he has changed his mind again.


Mr Snedden - Rubbish. These are lies, Mr Speaker; do not permit it.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I have informed the Leader of the Opposition before that if he claims to have been misrepresented I will give him ample opportunity if he approaches the Chair to explain his position after question time.


Mr Sinclair - On a point of order: The granting of an opportunity to a member to make a personal explanation does not avoid a circumstance where a Minister can totally misrepresent the attitudes and statements by members of the Opposition.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Chair is not in a position to know whether every answer that is given is accurate, but if any honourable member claims he has been misrepresented- this has been the practice of all Speakers, as the honourable member would be aware- the Speaker will, provided the Chair has been approached, give a member an opportunity after question time to state in what way he has been misrepresented. The Minister will answer the question.


Mr HAYDEN -As the Leader of the Opposition once said, wherever he goes people know something is wrong. We would be the least to try to undertake the massive task of holding him to any position from day to day, but if Monday's position were to prevail, if the attitude of the honourable member for Hotham were to applythat the Liberal-Country Party Government would dismantle Medibank -


Mr Fairbairn - I raise a point of order. I draw attention once again to standing order 1 52 which says:

A question without notice may be put to the Speaker-

Or to a Minister- relating to any matter of administration for which he is responsible.

The Minister is not responsible for the policies of the Opposition.


Mr McMahon - Thank goodness!


Mr SPEAKER -This has always been the practice in the past where Ministers in answering question -


Mr Chipp - No, it has not.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! Ministers have always been able to quote in answer to questions what other people have said. I have been here long enough to realise that. The Minister will answer the question.


Mr Nixon - I rise to take a point of order. My point of order is that it has been the practice of Speakers in the past and it has been accepted that when an honourable member claims to be misrepresented in an answer to a question the Speaker has drawn to the attention of the Minister concerned when answering that question that he should not transgress by referring to the matter of misrepresentation to which attention has been drawn. I wish you would follow the same course.


Mr SPEAKER -Standing order 64 is specifically put in the Standing Orders for that purpose. I have informed the Leader of the Opposition that, if he approaches the Chair and asks to make a personal explanation, I shall certainly give that opportunity to him. He will have a full opportunity to quote where he has been misrepresented. The Minister will answer the question.


Mr HAYDEN - I was saying that, if the Opposition as a government were to dismantle Medibank, a severe tax would be imposed on Australians. With the advent of Medibank, medical insurance will no longer involve contributions. It will be free- free of contributions.


Mr Sinclair - Of course it will!


Mr HAYDEN - It will be free of contributions.


Mr Sinclair -Tell the truth.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The House will come to order. I ask the Minister to be as brief as possible in his answer. There are other people waiting. The Minister will answer the question. I ask him to be brief.


Mr Chipp - It is the Minister's worst performance. You have never been worse.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Minister will answer the question. Interjections will cease.


Mr HAYDEN - As I was saying, with the advent of Medibank, people will not have to make contributions -


Mr Sinclair - That is nonsense.


Mr HAYDEN - ... to have medical insurance cover.


Mr Sinclair - Rubbish.


Mr SPEAKER


Mr HAYDEN -Medical cover will be free for all Australians. .


Mr Sinclair -Tell the truth.


Mr HAYDEN - All Australians will be covered -


Mr SPEAKER -The House will come to order.


Mr Sinclair -Ho, he will tell the truth!


Mr SPEAKER


Mr HAYDEN - In the case of hospital insurance, for those people in States which enter into agreements with us, there will be no need to make contributions for public ward treatment and no need to -


Dr Forbes - There will be tax.


Mr HAYDEN -Cover for public ward treatment will be free. There will be no contributions in those States, there will be no charges for that treatment, and there will be no means test to exclude people in those agreement States.


Mr Chipp - Who will pay for it? Who is going to pay for it?


Mr HAYDEN - In agreement States -


Mr Sinclair - That is completely untrue.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Deputy Leader of the Country Party will remain silent.


Dr Forbes - Are you going to print some money?


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Minister will answer the question.


Mr HAYDEN - Insofar as non-public ward treatment is concerned- that is, intermediate ward or private ward or private hospital treatmentin agreement States, there will be a substantial reduction in contribution rates. Instead of providing $2 a bed-day subsidy for insured people, as is the case now, the bed-day subsidy rate will be $ 1 8 a day. Let us quickly have a look at the effects of this in terms of the sort of -


Dr Forbes - What about treatment for gout?


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Barker will remain silent. I call the Minister.


Mr HAYDEN - Let us have a look at what this will mean in terms of additional charges imposed on the public in the various States. Let us assume an agreement situation with N.S. W. -


Mr Sinclair - I rise to take a point of order. There is a practice that Ministers can make statements after question time. The matter that the Minister is now raising would normally be a matter for a policy statement. I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that the Minister has gone on far too long in answering this question and that the matter would be far better treated by making a statement after question time.


Mr SPEAKER - As I usually do, I ask the Minister to make his answer as brief as possible. As I have mentioned to the House on numerous occasions, if the Standing Orders are altered to give me the power to reduce the time allowed to Ministers to answer questions I will take that action, as no doubt my predecessors would have done. Until such time as I am given that power I have no jurisdiction. The Minister will answer the question.


Mr McMahon - Mr Speaker,over and over again I have approached you about your implementing standing order 145 which demands relevance. I have referred it to you and you have replied to me in a letter. You have had ample opportunity to implement that standing order and you can call honourable members of both sides of the House together to support you, as I believe they would. The matter rests in your hands, Sir. You should protect the dignity, the authority and the responsibility of this Parliament. And, sir, stop these people from destroying democracy.


Mr SPEAKER -I appreciate the point taken by the right honourable member for Lowe. I know I am good, but I am not good enough to know what is relevant to every question that is asked in this House.


Mr McMahon - You are pretty good lately, Sir.


Mr SPEAKER -The Minister will answer the question.


Mr HAYDEN -The problem is that interjections and interruptions are taking 4 times as long as the answer. Let us assume a situation in which there is agreement with the State of New South Wales- according to the morning newspapers in recent weeks, a very real possibility now. With the dismantling of Medibank, as promised on Monday but not today by the Leader of the Opposition and asserted before his trip overseas by the honourable member for Hotham, speaking for the Opposition, there would be the introduction of substantial additional charges on the people of that State for services they would get free or at considerably reduced rates under Medibank. For instance, medical and public ward cover for a person in that State would involve an additional outlay of $157 a year. Medical and private ward cover -

Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:

That the Minister be not further heard.


Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker,I ask that further questions be placed on notice.


Mr SPEAKER -There is a motion before the chair. The motion as moved by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party takes precedence.

Question put:

That the Minister be not further heard.







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