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Thursday, 14 May 1970

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley) - Mr Chairman,I wish to add something quickly to those remarks from the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). I suggest that the statement by the Minister for Health in reply to what I said earlier was a preposterous evasion. Two things are clear as to the intent of what we are proposing. One thing is that the Government must be more clearly answerable to the public through its elected parliamentary representatives and through the Parliament by doing these things that are the subject of discussion through regulations and so bringing them before the Parliament. It does not matter a damn whether this procedure is cumbersome, untidy or inconvenient or whether it is of nuisance value to the Government. What is in the public interest should prevail.

That is my first point. The Government ought to accept this obligation. We do not know what it is doing as far as Australia's health service*, are concerned. At the

Federal level, where there is a public involvement, altogether too little information has been made available for an informed public debate. If one looks at nursing, one finds that it is almost impossible to formulate a proper assessment of the needs of the community. If one asks the Minister for Health a question in relation to hospital services or, to give a more explicit example, the allocation of funds for hospital services operated by the States outside the Commonwealth subsidy, until quite recently the argument was that details could not be provided. Some sort of airy figure has been plucked out of the atmosphere now by the Minister as an indication of the general magnitude of the assistance from the Federal Government. We have never had any precise accounting as to how this figure was arrived at.

The point that I am trying to get to is this: Too much of public health administration in the Australian community, most especially at the Federal level, proceeds under a cloak of secrecy. All we are trying to do is to tear some of this secrecy away. As an extension of this attempt, we are suggesting that the register in which these details are recorded ought to be available for public inspection. The honourable member for Prospect has given his own experience in this matter. If people, whether they are students, post-graduate students, academics doing research work or just interested parties doing research work into the operations of these schemes, w-sh 1 to obtain information, they ought to be able to go to and to obtain this information easily from a public register. This ought to be public property. Sharp variations between the concessions given to one organisation and the concessions given to another organisation ought not to occur. These variations very well might not exist. We do not know at this time. We do not know whether some greater favours are being provided for organisation 'A' over organisation 'B'. That is why we are asking that this register be available for public inspection.

It is so much eyewash to talk about the right of appeal provided later on in the Bill with respect to an organisation that is refused registration. This is all very well for the organisation concerned. The Government is quite generous in its concern for these organisations about which we are talking. We are talking about public rights, not privileges, which have been consolidated by Government legislation for these private health organisations. The basic principle ought to be accepted by this Parliament that we are answerable as much as it is humanly possible to be for these things. In spite of whether it is inconvenient or whether it is of nuisance value to be required to provide this information, we do have an obligation to make as much information available to the public regarding what is handled in the administration of the affairs of the company.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clause 27.

Section 76 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following sections are inserted in its stead: -


"76a.- (1.) The Director-General shall, as soon as practicable after the thirtieth day of June in each year, commencing with the year One thousand nine hundred and seventy-one, furnish to the Minister a report on the operations of registered organisations during the year ending on that date. "(2.) The report shall include, in respect of each medical benefits fund or hospital benefits fund conducted by the registered organisation during the year to which the report relates, the following information in respect of the fund or, if the fund includes a special account, in respect of the pan of the fund other than the special account: -

(a)   contributions payable to the fund;

(b)   other amounts payable to the fund;

(c)   medical fund benefits or hospital fund benefits payable out of the fund;

(d)   other benefits payable out of the fund;

(e)   management expenses;

(f)   other amounts payable out of the fund;

(g)   the balance of the fund as at the end of that year; and

(h)   such other information as the Minister requires to be included.

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