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Friday, 5 October 1984
Page: 1763

Mr CARLTON —Did the Minister for Health base his case for Federal control over doctors' contracts with public hospitals under section 17 of the Health Insurance Act on the allegedly rapid rise of costs of diagnostic services? Did he attempt to back up his claims for such an increase with figures submitted by the Department of Health to the Penington Committee of Inquiry into Rights of Private Practice in Public Hospitals? Has he now been informed by the Penington Committee that his figures were false and that there had been no rapid increase in the use of diagnostic services? Does the Minister acknowledge that the dispute that led to the first doctors' strike in Australia's history was caused by his failure to establish the facts in the first place? Will he immediately table the report of the Penington Committee to enable the matter to be debated before the House rises next week?

Dr BLEWETT —Even the honourable member for Mackellar knows that the dispute over section 17 of the Health Insurance Act was based on a much more wide-ranging set of issues than were involved merely in the question of to what extent doctors using public hospital facilities should be accountable for the services they deliver to private patients. That is not an issue which is related to a single set of figures.

Taking up the particular issue raised by the honourable member, the figures provided were not incorrect. However, it is true that the whole series of issues about the interpretation and implications of those figures have been argued by all sides appearing before the Penington Committee. I assure the honourable member that this Government, unlike his Party when in government, is committed to open government practices.

Mr Tuckey —Table the report.

Dr BLEWETT —In answer to the honourable member for O'Connor, we will be tabling the Penington Committee report in the next week of Parliament so that this whole issue can be fully debated.