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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 855

Mr CARLTON(3.00 a.m.) —I do not want to delay the House, except to support the honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman) in what he has quite properly drawn to the attention of the House in relation to the agreement with Tasmania, which apparently not been obtained. The Minister for Health (Dr Blewett) is in a difficult position in bringing this Bill before the House without having obtained the agreement of the Tasmanian Government, as he had claimed. That is a very serious matter to be dealt with by the Minister. This Bill imposes conditions on the States receiving health grants. One such condition is that they will provide accommodation and treatment in public hospitals without charge to all Australian residents who do not elect to be treated as private patients. The Bill, therefore, includes a very important principle and as we have previously stated in debate on the Health Legislation Amendment Bill, we are opposed to that principle.

If any members of the Government are concerned that we happen to be debating serious matters such as this at three o'clock in the morning, I remind them that the business of the House is in the hands of the Government. It should not be necessary for us to stay here until three o'clock in the morning in order to provide serious debate on a measure which the Minister claims is the most serious social reform measure of the Hawke Government. It was introduced into the House in a reasonable manner last week. We had no problems in meeting the debate this week. But I cannot understand why the Government has kept the House sitting to three o'clock in the morning in order to enable us to get through the discussion on this Bill.

Mr Mountford —Because you wasted time.

Mr CARLTON —We have every possible right, I remind the honourable member for Banks, to discuss this matter, which we regard just as seriously as the Government does. I have not been in the House for hours for my health. I have been here, I hope, to discuss the Bill satisfactorily. I think that the honourable members on the Government benches are letting the Minister down, because I am sure that he regards the Bill seriously, as we do, and we have wanted to discuss it. Perhaps the Government merely wishes to keep us talking on this non-broadcasting day so that the actual arguments will be confined to a smaller audience. That may be an objective of the Leader of the House (Mr Lionel Bowen). But if that is so, the Government business managers should say so. All I say, on behalf of the Opposition, is that we have seen it as our duty to oppose Bills which we believe are not in the public interest. We have seen it as our duty to spend the necessary hours in examining these measures thoroughly. They will be examined further, thoroughly, by the Opposition in the Senate. We regard it as disgraceful that we have been required to do this until three o'clock in the morning when it was perfectly possible to reconvene tomorrow, Thursday, and consider the Bill at reasonable length during reasonable hours. We protest very strongly at this mangement of the business of the House, and we protest very strongly, in particular, against the introduction of what the Government regards as one of its most important reform measures in such a high handed and ridiculous fashion.