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Wednesday, 14 December 1983
Page: 3746

Senator COLEMAN —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of a survey being conducted by a public relations consultant in relation to the introduction of Medicare? As the letter uses such phrases as 'in the national interest', it is conceivable that a number of people who received the questionnaire would believe that it has some official standing. Will the Minister advise whether this is so or whether, as I suspect, it is being done on behalf of private health insurance companies?

Senator GRIMES —Yes, my attention has been drawn to an alleged survey being done by Ross M. Walker, who is allegedly a management and public relations consultant in Sydney, who claims to be surveying prominent national figures as to whether they will take up health cover after the introduction of Medicare or whether they will continue or discontinue private health insurance that they already have once Medicare has been introduced. First, let me assure the honourable senator that this is not an official survey. There is no indication on the letter as to who has commissioned the survey, but if one reads the letter and looks at the questionnaire one can have a fair idea of what it is all about. In conducting a survey such as this to find out the facts and, therefore, to publicise the facts, there are certain criteria that polling organisations use usually that this organisation is clearly not using. First, the survey and the answers for which it is asking are not anonymous. The respondent's name is required to be put on the letter. Secondly, I believe it is necessary that the results of the survey as taken should reflect the views of the people who are taking part in the survey. The second paragraph of the letter states:

This is being done in the national interest with the purpose of establishing or otherwise the considered need by the majority of private health cover.

One would wonder what a survey of only a select group of public figures has to do with the general needs of the community for private health cover. But the third paragraph states:

Your co-operation in replying would be appreciated as a non-reply will be taken as an indication that you are maintaining your private health insurance.

In a survey taken like this, in which people are asked to divulge private information, which many people may consider to be their own business, for an organisation then to say that a non-reply will be taken as an affirmative result and to incorporate this in the findings can result only in a false result and in a grossly distorted survey. It is interesting that the letter speaks of maintaining private insurance in one section, but then speaks of whether people will take out or continue private insurance; but the questions refer only to continuation of private insurance, as though everyone surveyed would automatically have had private insurance in the first place.

In summing up and in looking at this, one can conclude that this is not a survey but a questionnaire designed to produce a phoney result, which will then be reproduced as a scientific survey in order to push one line, that line being that overwhelmingly the select group of private figures take out private health insurance. The survey is not honest. The results of such a survey cannot be honest. One can conclude that the public relations aspect of Mr Walker's business is the one that is predominant here and that he is acting on behalf of interested parties to produce a specific result, not in any scientific way.