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Wednesday, 24 October 1973
Page: 2577

Mr CHIPP (HOTHAM, VICTORIA) - I ask the Minister for Social Security a question concerning a report in the Melbourne 'Sun' of 22 October relating to a reserve health plan if this Parliament rejects the Government's national health insurance legislation. That mysterious body Federal Government sources' was quoted to have said that an alternative scheme would not need legislative approval and would operate through grants to the States. Can the Minister give the House an assurance that in the event of the national Parliament rejecting his health scheme he will not resort to surreptitious moves through grants under section 96 of the Constitution and implement for the nation a scheme which the national Parliament has rejected.

Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) - The newspaper report to which the honourable member has referred was not based on any statement released from my office to the Press. So I accept no responsibility for what might or might not have been said in the report. I did not see the particular report to which the honourable member has referred. I point out that the health insurance program which we are putting forward is a scheme to raise money from the community which will be distributed back to the community to cover the cost of medical and hospital services. It is a scheme which, of course, contributes towards public ward treatment in public hospitals but it generously supports private endeavour - or private enterprise if we want to put it that way - in medical services and hospital services. For instance, it generously supports the charitable and religious hospitals in the community. One of the alternatives to the scheme we are putting forward which I have seen is that the Austra lian Government could enter into bilateral agreements with State governments and proceed exclusively with financial support for public hospitals, upgrading the public ward side of public hospitals and providing a free service without means test. If that were to happen the improvement in quality would be exceedingly great. I have no doubt that would be to the grave disadvantage of private hospital services and, to a large extent, private medical services in the community.

But that is not the program we are putting forward. At this stage we are putting forward a universal health insurance program which, as I have mentioned to honourable members, supports private enterprise in medical and hospital services as well as public enterprise. It is a very generous program. We will be proceeding with that legislation in this House in a matter of some weeks and in the Senate. I suggest to those people outside and to some here who are trying to mispresent for base political motives alone what our program involves that they are doing a grave disservice to the private side of medical and hospital services. What we are putting forward in fact generously supports that section of the health delivery system whereas, for instance - I cite this only as an example - the sort of alternative which was put forward in the 'National Times' would not be helpful at all. In fact, it would be to the disadvantage of the private sector.

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