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Wednesday, 30 August 1972
Page: 977

Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) - I would like to take a few minutes to deal with the lack of democracy in the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia. With the federal election imminent we shall undoubtedly be faced with attacks on the Australian Labor Party's alternative health scheme. These attacks will come mainly from the Voluntary Health Insurance Council of Australia which is a front organisation representing the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia. This large 'mutual benefit' organisation pretends to speak of nearly one million contributors plus 2 million to 3 million dependants. But what actually happens? Neither the Federal Council of the Medical Benefits Fund nor the State Executive Committee provides for a single person elected by contributors. The contributors, who paid over $68m to the Medical Benefits Fund during 1970-71, are told their rights in clause 18 of the articles of association which I have finally obtained. Clause 18 reads:

Contributory members shall not be entitled to attend or vote at any gene al meetings or to receive notice thereof.

Only medical members have a vote. Clause 7 reads:

Medical members of the Association shall be elected by the Council or by a Committee appointed by the Council wilh power in that behalf.

In other words, the Council elects the people who elect the Council. To make sure that not too many tame medical members need be found, clause 37 states:

Five medical members personally present shall be a quorum of a General Meeting.

This general meeting then elects the council. This 'representative' body then deals with the affairs of a fund which in 1970- 71 had an income of over $68m from its members and over $45m from the Commonwealth. It showed a profit of over $10m for the year, and this was added to the net current assets making them nearly $48m of contributors' money on 30th June 1971.

The Medical Benefits Fund often denies that it is run by the Australian Medical Association for the Australian Medical Association, but let us look at this. It was formed by 17 persons 'desirous of being formed into a company' - the MBF. They described themselves as surgeons - 8, medical practitioners - 7, and physicians - 2. Their signatures were witnessed by officers of the, then, British Medical Association, and 14 of them have been BMA or AMA State presidents. The net effect of this control by the AMA is the restriction of benefits to services rendered by medical practitioners.

Under the Government's rules up to 5 per cent of income can be spent on unmatched services, that is, ancillary services such as physiotherapy, optometry, nursing, attendance at public hospitals and so on. But the Medical Benefits Funds spends only 1.5 per cent in New South Wales and 1.4 per cent in Queensland, its 2 main States. This is the lowest percentage of any of the many funds. Can the Council really argue that this is acting in the interests of its contributors? On the other hand, it spends money on anti-Labor propaganda. Even though the articles of association show quite clearly that there was never any intention to allow contributors any say, their claim now is that there is no common roll for elections. If this is so, this is breach of article 21 which states:

There shall be a register of members kept by the Association and there shall be entered in such register the full name and address of each member.

The present members of the Council of the Medical Benefits Fund include 12 active AMA members plus a consultant for the Development Finance Corporation Ltd and former deputy general manager of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Co. Ltd, the national executive director of the Australian Institute of Building, a Country

Party Member of the Legislative Council in New South Wales and director of country newspapers and television, another board member of Development Finance Corporation Ltd and director of light companies including Australian Fixed Trusts Queensland Division, Queensland Oil Refineries, the National Bank of Australasia, City Mutual Life Insurance Society, Ltd, Mutual Acceptance Ltd, and a Tasmanian Liberal ex-member of the House of Assembly. They are the people who claim to be representing the Medical Benefits Fund contributors and controlling the policy and huge reserves of that fund. I appeal to the people of Australia to remember that, when they issue their antiLabor propaganda, they do not speak for the one million-odd contributors of the Medical Benefits Fund.

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