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Tuesday, 23 September 1958

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) .- Mr. Speaker,the policy speech just delivered by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was a rather indifferent policy speech from a number of viewpoints, but it did have some noteworthy features. The first notable feature to which I should like to refer briefly was its opening. The honorable member deplored the fact that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) had discussed the details of this measure with representatives of medical benefits funds. He deplored the fact, Sir, that this bill was not introduced into this Parliament without the medical benefit funds having been given an opportunity to learn in particular detail what were its provisions.

Mr Pollard - He did not say that. What is the honorable member talking about?

Mr KILLEN - If the honorable member for Lalor would keep quiet for a few minutes, this Parliament would be better off.

Mr Pollard - The honorable member foi East Sydney did not say what the honorable member has attributed to him.

Mr KILLEN - That is precisely what the honorable member for East Sydney did say. This is a rather novel change - the honorable member for East Sydney defending the institution of Parliament and playing the role of the jealous protector of parliamentary rights. It is a rather odd role for him to play, but no doubt he is trying to build up a reputation for versatility. A few days ago, we had the honorable member playing the role of the agrarian reformer. This evening, we have seen him playing the role of the political pharmacist. As he was addressing the House, Mr. Speaker, I wondered whether the sentiments that he was expressing were his own, oi whether, as a current pop song goes, he was putting himself in a position in which he was saying what the witch doctor told him to say. As I have said, this is a strange novelty - the honorable member for East Sydney playing the role of the defender of parliamentary rights.

The honorable member then said, with characteristic modesty, that Labour was the only innovator of sound and respectable social legislation. I will deal with that in some detail later, and I hope that the honorable member will see a little light in this world before he passes to the next. Sir, he asked whether this was an ideal health scheme, and he said that of course it was not. I should hope that the Parliament and the Australian people will very carefully analyse what the honorable member was hinting at when he said that this was not an ideal health scheme. I believe that it is, and I believe that the great majority of the Australian people who have been associated with this scheme in the role of patients, doctors or legislators, regard this scheme as being one of the finest of its kind in the world. But the honorable member for East Sydney said this evening, " This is not the ideal health scheme ". I think that there is one very clear implication in the honorable gentleman's observation this evening, Mr. Speaker. It is this: The Australian Labour party, if, by some mischievous mischance, it were to be elected to office at the next federal election, would smash the present national health scheme.

Then the honorable member put a rhetorical question and there followed the finger-waving that all honorable members who have watched the honorable gentleman over the years know, with his finger dancing backwards and forwards. If I may digress for a moment, I should like to say that I felt this evening that I had found the likely origin of the finger that appeared in a Royal Australian Air Force magazine during the war known as " Tee Em ". The finger represented a most highly derogatory order, and other ex-members of the Air Force will understand what I mean. I am quite sure that the artist must have seen the honorable member for East Sydney in action on one occasion, pointing his finger at some one. Of course, he invariably points it at me, and he turns on that charm and persuasiveness that have endeared him to me on so many occasions. The honorable member for East Sydney said that Labour did not get a fair go when it tried to introduce a national health scheme. He said that the British Medical Association sabotaged the scheme.

Mr Curtin - Hear, hear!

Mr KILLEN - The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith indicates by his interjection that he agrees with the proposition. The import of his interjection is that the British Medical Association sabotaged Labour's attempt to introduce a national health scheme. I hope that every elector in the Kingsford-Smith electorate takes heed of the fact that its member regards members of the medical profession as saboteurs because they will not agree to civil conscription. That is the simple truth of the matter, because whichever way one looks at Labour's impossible health scheme, which was happily cut short, one must conclude that it was a scheme to establish in Australia a form of civil conscription. It is no use the honorable member for East Sydney or the honorable member for KingsfordSmith saying otherwise.

The honorable member for East Sydney concluded his speech on a characteristic note by thumping the table. I thought by the colour of his face that he was about to have a stroke, but I would hate him to leave this place before the appropriate time. He said that when the people of Australia heard Labour's health policy they would immediately regard it as being immeasurably better than the present health scheme. Then, with simulated vehemence, he declared to the Parliament, " Take the case of tuberculosis. What has this Government ever done for tuberculosis? " The truth of the matter is that under a Labour government no special allowance, no special hospitals and very few beds were available to tuberculosis sufferers. The figures regarding the assistance given to tuberculosis patients show that in its last year of office Labour spent £151,000 on tuberculosis. In the year just finished, this Government spent more than £8,000,000. That is the contrast. I would hope that reasonably minded people looking at these figures would concede at least that this Government's record in the field of tuberculosis is infinitely superior to that of the Australian Labour party.

Mr Daly - How do you feel?

Mr KILLEN - I feel very well, and no doubt that upsets you.

Mr Curtin - You do not look very well!

Mr KILLEN - If I do not look very well, let me say that my looks belie my feelings; and how true that is when I look at you!

Labour's health scheme was a dismal failure. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) in a very fine analytical speech this afternoon also identified Labour's health scheme as a dismal failure. The honorable and learned member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) this evening pointed out quite clearly that Labour's attempt to introduce a sensible and rational health scheme was nothing but a failure.

Mr Curtin - Sabotage!

Mr KILLEN - There, once again coming from the Opposition benches, is the cry, " Sabotage ". I think this is of fundamental importance, because, if honorable members opposite believe that others are saboteurs because they will not submit to a form of civilian conscription, their thinking has reached a pretty wretched level.

In introducing their health scheme, members of the Labour party went out of their way to insult the British Medical Association and to threaten the doctors. Only on Sunday night, having nothing better to do, I read through a speech made by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith on the national health scheme of 1954.

Mr Curtin - What did it say?

Mr KILLEN - Let me tell you that it was a cherished example of plain humbug. I was most surprised that any living person could have recited in a national parliament the sort of nonsense that you did.

Throughout the honorable member's speech was a threat to doctors, if they did not submit. Even during the 1949 election campaign, the then Labour Minister for Health declared that if Labour was returned to office, only the Almighty would be able to help the doctors. There is the case. Under Labour, the formulary was limited. Under Labour, the doctors were obliged, not only, as the honorable member for East Sydney said, to write out prescriptions in triplicate, but also to make available to government officials records dealing with their patients. That was the fundamental reason why members of the British Medical Association rejected Labour's national health scheme. That was one of the fundamental reasons why the Australian people threw Labour out of office and, if my judgment is any good, will keep Labour out of office. The truth is that Labour set out to destroy the doctor-patient relationship, and that is the very crux of the matter. 1 ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who is sitting at the table on the Opposition side, to state in plain terms, if he gets an opportunity, what Labour's policy is regarding health. Is it, as the honorable member for Balaclava declared this evening, that Labour's policy is to nationalize all health services? That is still part of Labour's platform, but I know that honorable gentlemen opposite will say that they have not the constitutional power to nationalize health services. That may well be, but let us assume that circumstances over the next ten or fifteen or twenty years - or indeed over the next five years - present to this Parliament a situation in which it has full command of all legislative power throughout Australia. Would the Labour party nationalize health services in that given situation? There is a responsibility on the Labour party to say where it stands, because many millions of people believe that Labour's policy of nationalization of health services would be a dreadful blow against the good sense and the good management of affairs in Australia.

Mr Daly - Finish on that note!

Mr KILLEN - It would be a far better note to finish on, than the one on which you finished.

I want to deal in some detail with this Government's record in the field of national health and, by way of contrast, to show up the very poor record of the Labour party. May I first take hospital benefits to pensioners, about which the honorable member for East Sydney declaimed this evening? The truth of the matter is that since June. 1953, this Government has spent more than £7,462,000 in that field. How much did Labour spend? Not one penny! I turn to the Pensioner Medical Service. Since June, 1951, this Government has spent more than £16,555,000 in that field. How much did Labour spend? Not one penny! Then, on hospital benefits other than to pensioners, from June, 1946, to June, 1950 - I go to June, 1950, because no doubt the budgetary proposals of the Labour party would have continued until about that time - the Labour party spent £22,145,000. This will provide the House with an opportunity to examine the record of the Labour party. From June, 1950, to June, 1958, during the life of this Government, more than £60,000,000 has been spent in this field. From June, 1954, this Government has spent £24,288,534 on this aspect of its health scheme. Let us look at the position in relation to the tuberculosis allowance, in relation to which the honorable member for East Sydney claims the Labour party has such a fine record. From June, 1947, to June, 1950, the Labour government spent a miserable £468,930 on tuberculosis allowance. From June, 1950, to June, 1958, this Government has spent £13,216,622 for tuberculosis sufferers.

Now I turn to the position in regard to pharmaceutical benefits. From June, 1948. to June, 1950 - a period of two years - the Labour Government spent £453,726 on pharmaceutical benefits. From June, 1950, to June, 1958, this side of politics, this character of government, spent more than £76,000,000 on pharmaceutical benefits. Then we turn to the assistance given to mental institutions. Honorable members opposite see occasion now to laugh and snigger. I should hope that all sensible and serious-minded people in this Parliament and outside would heed the fact that when I mention mental institutions honorable members opposite laugh as much as to say that it is a laughing matter. I would hope that the electors of the Australian Capital Territory in particular will notice that the member for their electorate sniggered when I referred to mental institutions. The fact of the matter is that from June, 1949, to June, 1950, the Labour Government's contributions in regard to mental institutions amounted to £255,586. From June, 1950, to June, 1958, this Government has made available nearly £5,500,000 in the same field.

I come to the field of capital expenditure and maintenance payments in respect of tuberculosis. From June, 1949, to June, 1 950 - which gives the Labour Government the benefit of the doubt, since it was out of office before June, 1950 - a little over £500,000 was spent in this, direction, in the last eight years under this Government more than £38,000,000 has been spent on capital works and maintenance in respect of tuberculosis. Then there is the free milk scheme, introduced by this Government. From June, 1950, to June, 1958, this Government has spent more than £14,000,000 on free milk for school children.

The Labour Government's expenditure on the flying doctor service - a service in which my honorable and gallant friend from Bowman (Mr. McColm) has shown a great interest - in the last year of its term of office, amounted to £12,500. Under this Government the expenditure on the service since June, 1950, has been almost £300,000. Under Labour, not one penny was made available to the Red Cross blood transfusion service, but this Government has devoted £397,134 to that purpose.

There, in brief, very compacted form, is the social services record of this Government compared with that of the Labour government. Yet the honorable member for East Sydney has the hide to stand in this House and say that all social service legislation is either initiated by Labour or pushed along or prompted by Labour. Sir, how silly can people get when they cannot even read the record straight? This Government has a magnificent record in the field of social services, and it is not going to be washed away by the half-hearted attempt at whimsical nonsense of the honorable member for East Sydney. The record of this Government in the field of social services will stand long after the honorable member for East Sydney has pushed on his well-defined way.

Now I turn to the legislation before us. The honorable member for East Sydney despises the Government's social services scheme. He asks, "What is all this ballyhoo about? " The truth of the matter is that this legislation is a notable step forward which makes medical and hospital benefits available to people who hitherto, because of age, the chronic nature of their illnesses or the fact that their illnesses were pre-existent to their joining a fund, have been denied the opportunity of receiving medical and hospital benefits. Yet the honorable member for East Sydney, one of the chief trumpeters of the Labour party, "tq rhetorically, "What is all this ballyhoo about? " This legislation is being anxiously awaited by many thousands of decent Australians, and I should hope that every one of them who lives in the electorate of East Sydney will recognize that the honorable member for East Sydney has this evening contemptuously referred to this legislation.

I want to conclude on this note: This legislation enshrines the doctor-patient relationship. The legislation introduced by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) made sure that the doctorpatient relationship was kept intact. The legislation since introduced by the honorable and gallant Minister for Health also ensures that the doctor-patient relationship is kept intact. Labour's ambition, and one of its declared aims, is to destroy the doctor-patient relationship. Let me say to honorable gentlemen opposite that there are many millions of people in Australia who believe that the doctor-patient relationship is one of the most valuable relationships in existence. There are many millions of people who regard their local general practitioner not solely as a doctor but as the doctor, and as an advisor, counsellor and friend. Under Labour that would be destroyed.

The great virtue of this legislation is that the doctor-patient relationship is kept intact. Medicine must always remain a profession. Under Labour it would be reduced to some trivial trade. It would be regarded as an industry. If medicine is ever reduced to the stage where it has become a tool of the government of the day it will no longer be medicine at all, and one of the really finer aspects of the medical profession will have evaporated.

I deplore the tendency towards the group handling of patients. Any person who has any doubt about the great danger and the tragic consequences of the group handling of patients need only read the report of the Birmingham meeting of the British Medical Association. In Great Britain, under the nationalized health scheme, people are not treated as individuals or patients, but merely as figures. It may well be that, in the cynical words of the poet Lowell, with which, no doubt, the Minister for Health is acquainted -

A single doctor, like a sculler plies, The patient lingers, then slowly dies, But two physicians, like a pair of oars, Shall waft him swiftly to the Stygian shores.

The general practitioner is a very important person in the Australian community. I have referred to the importance of his relationship with his patient. I believe that it would be a very sorry day for the Australian people if a magnificent health scheme that has been created by men dedicated to their task, trained in their task, and convinced in their own minds that they were working to build a magnificent social service edifice, were ever to be exposed to danger, to threat or to attack by the election of a party which, in all conscience, cannot even govern its own affairs.

Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I rise to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). The honorable member declared that I had said that it was wrong in principle, and immoral, that there should be private arrangements with insurance societies for medical benefits and to cover hospital treatment. That statement is absolutely incorrect. The honorable member for Balaclava was present while I spoke. He heard what I said, and he is trained in the meaning of words and in the grasping of meanings. This, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is what I said -

The Opposition, of course, has no objection whatever to the existence of private medical and hospital funds. Indeed, it thinks that they are, very valuable institutions and it would encourage, so far as may be possible, every one in the community to belong to such funds. But the Opposition is strongly of the opinion that it is immoral and utterly wrong in principle to require a person to belong to a private society or a private association as a condition of obtaining a Commonwealth governmental benefit.

At this stage, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) interjected that it was scandalous. I agreed and then I added -

But we regard it as a bad departure from principle to require a person to belong to a private association as a condition of. acquiring a public benefit. Governmental pressure should never be placed upon a citizen to belong to a private association. The whole principle of freedom of association is involved.

I do not know how the honorable member could have made the mistake and come to the conclusion that I had-

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