Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 11 June 1970

Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) - I think that the important part of the amendment which the Government is not accepting is that which seeks to add the words: a register shall be open for public inspection'. I suppose that amendment No. 10 and amendment No. 11, with which one of my colleagues will be dealing, are the most political of the amendments. In other words, we are dealing with the politics of the funds. We are dealing with people who support the Liberal Party which is in office - the people who are completely, devoted to the Government's so-called voluntary health insurance scheme. The whole crux of the matter can be seen in the action of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in not accepting the proposition that the register shall be open for public inspection.

Dr Forbes - The terms and conditions of registration will be open for public inspection. They will be published in the Gazette'.

Dr KLUGMAN - But will the names of the directors be made public? Will the method of election inside the organisation be made public? Will the articles of association be made public? As the Minister knows, recently 1 asked him a question on notice about the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia. I had found it impossible to obtain a copy of its articles of association. The Minister suggested in his reply that 1 get in touch with the New South Wales body responsible for company registration.

Let us be quite clear about what is happening. We have so-called democratic funds such as the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria' of which 4 of the 53 directors are elected by the contributors. These funds are called democratic because, in this instance, 4 out of 53 directors are elected and the other 49 are not elected. On the other hand, we have the so-called undemocratic organisations such as the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia and the Hospital Contributions Fund of Australia in which none of the directors are elected by the contributors. The contributors to these New South Wales funds are even unable to find out the position of the funds. It is obvious to me that the Liberal Party is trying to protect these directors who are to a large extent Liberal Party supporters, and of course are using fund money- contributors money - to support the Liberal Party. Even the recent report of the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs, known as the Wedgwood Committee, which was released by the Minister's own supporters in the other place, has agreed that some $20,000 a year is contributed by-

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! I ask the honourable member to confine his remarks to the amendment before the Committee.

Dr KLUGMAN - 1 am referring to the fact that the register is not to be open for public inspection. The amendment moved by the Opposition is being disagreed with. I suggest that the register should be open for public inspection and that it should be possible for us to find out who the directors are, who are the people who are paying $20,000 a year into a fund which is being used for purely political purposes.

Sirring suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Dr KLUGMAN - Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to amendment No. 10 which the Government has accepted in part. The main change that the Government proposes is to delete that part of the clause which provides that a register shall be open for public inspection. I was making the point that this was another example of how the Government protects its supporters in the hospital and medical benefit funds. As I have already said, even the Wedgwood report on the funds, which was issued since this Bill was before us last, admits that all the large funds, except the Hospital Contributions Fund of New South Wales, pay $20,000 a year for propaganda against the Labor Party. The point made in that report was that although the Hospital Contributions Fund does not do anything of the sort the other funds contribute to the Voluntary Health Insurance Council. The Hospital Contributions Fund runs its own organisation called the Office of Health Care Finance and spends more than $20,000 each year of its contributors' money there.

I have in my possession a booklet that was sent to me in the last few weeks. It has a religious picture on the cover and beneath it is its title The Second Blessing'. It is a very impressive booklet. Beneath the title appears the words:

An appraisal of voluntary health insurance as the ideal method for financing the costs of essential health care.

Mr Daly - That will cost a few bob.

Dr KLUGMAN - lt will, as the honourable member for Grayndler points out. The booklet is straightout propaganda for the Liberal Party's health scheme. It makes continuous political points, and only political points. The important thing is that it uses contributors* money to do this. If the contributors had a say this would bc all right, but as I have pointed out the funds are completely undemocratic. The most democratic of them, the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria, has 4 elected directors out of 53 directors. The maximum number of directors representing contributors is 4, and usually those 4 are appointed at stacked general meetings and are usually employees of the funds. With the Hospital Contributions Fund of New South Wales and the Medical Benefits Fund of New South Wales there is no pretence at their having elected members. There is no pretence of holding annual meetings or of revealing how the funds are run and who decides what amount of moneys will be devoted to propaganda.

I do not blame the Government for trying to protect the position, and it is doing this by deleting the provision that the register shall be open for public inspection. Information as to who runs these funds will not be available to the public. In many instances the directors of the funds are prominent members of the Liberal Party. They are members of the Australian Medical Association Federal and branch councils. In the case of the Voluntary Health Insurance Council, which is the propaganda organisation of many of these funds, the President and spokesman is Sir Charles Rieger who, until last week, was Federal President of the Australian Medical Association. Honourable members can see that there is no attempt made by these funds to have the average cross-section of the community represented on their directorates.

Dr Gun - He is interested only in patient care.

Dr KLUGMAN - Yes. In the case of the Medical Benefits Fund of New South Wales 13 of its 24 directors are members of the Australian Medical Association and a large number of them are also members of the branch council of the AMA. I am pointing out these significant features just to draw the Committee's attention to the reason why the Minister has not accepted the proposition that the register should be open for public inspection. I think it is ridiculous and an affront to the public which is expected to subscribe to these funds; otherwise they get no benefit. Government money is used to support funds which, in turn, donate part of that money for political propaganda for the Liberal Party. In other words taxpayers' money is being used for straightout political propaganda. One of the main issues at the last Federal election was the question as to whether Australia would have a so-called voluntary health insurance scheme or the Labor Party's alternative health insurance scheme. This money is spent, as I have said repeatedly, because it is the Minister's continuous intention to protect his political supporters in the funds and not to let the public find out who is running the funds.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Suggest corrections