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Friday, 19 April 1985
Page: 1513

Mr BILNEY —My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. I remind the Minister that I have written to him to draw attention to problems experienced by people in my electorate, many of whom are from the United Kingdom, because of the lack of a reciprocal health care agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom. What progress has been made to give effect to the undertaking given by the Prime Minister in his 1984 election policy speech that the operation of Medicare would be extended to include reciprocal health care arrangements with countries with which Australia has close social, cultural and economic ties, including the United Kingdom?

Dr BLEWETT —I thank the honourable member for Kingston for his question. Like the honourable member for Kingston, I have a very large number of people in my own electorate who have come from the United Kingdom and this issue has been raised with me. I would like to explain to the House where we are with these reciprocal agreements, which were promised during the election campaign. We have now had detailed negotiations in London and Rome with the governments concerned and it is our confident hope that we will be able this year to sign treaty arrangements with the United Kingdom and Italy respecting reciprocal agreements. We have had preliminary negotiations with the governments of Greece, Yugoslavia and Ireland but those negotiations are nowhere near as advanced as the agreements with Italy and Britain. We would hope to proceed with those negotiations. The point of these agreements is to cover reciprocal emergency treatment so that visitors from those countries in Australia for short terms will be covered by the Medicare arrangements and Australians visiting those countries for short periods would be covered by their health schemes. As I say, we hope to conclude agreements with Britain and Italy this year and we are processing agreements, though not at such a developed pace, with Greece, Yugoslavia and Ireland.