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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 2091

Mr Whitlam asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:

(1)   What further progress has the Government made in its consideration of recommendations 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 17, 25 and 37 of the Nimmo Committee since his answer on 12th April 1972 (Hansard, page 1568).

(2)   What progress has the Government made in its examination of recommendation 19 on the initiation of appropriate disciplinary action in relation to tiny abuses of the health insurance scheme (Hansard, 7th October 1971, page 2129).

Dr Forbes - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   and (2) The recommendations of the Nimmo Committee have been thoroughly examined by the Government and a large number have been, implemented. In 1970 the new Health Benefits Plan was introduced under which medical benefits were related to the most common fees charged by medical practitioners. Some of the more important medical benefits measures introduced in the Plan were a single medical benefits table, differential benefits for services commonly performed by both specialist and general practitioners and, where doctors charge the most common fee. significantly reduced amounts of patient contribution particularly in the case of operations and the more expensive services.

Significant improvements were also made in the hospital benefits scheme, one of the most important of these being the introduction, in association with the rationalisation of benefits tables, of the all-inclusive fee principle. This has ensured that inpatients in public hospitals are now able to adequately insure not only for ward charges but also for extra services such as theatre services and prostheses. Some of the recommendations referred to in the honourable member's question raise matters which involve responsibilities of State Governments and cannot be determined by decisions of the Commonwealth alone. An essential element in most of these recommendations is Commonwealth/State financial relations. The measures that have been taken by the Commonwealth in the hospital benefits area have brought about the highly satisfactory voluntary health insurance scheme which the Nimmo Committee recommendations were designed to achieve.

In general terms, therefore, further consideration of the matters raised in those recommendations referred to in the honourable member's question is not necessary except to the extent that they may become relevant at any time in the process of the Government's continuous review of the National Health Scheme.

Charter of the United Nations: Review (Question No. 5907)

Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

(1)   Did Australia vote at the United Nations General Assembly on 11th December 1970 in favour of a resolution requesting the SecretaryGeneral to invite Member States to communicate to him, before 1st July 1972, their views and suggestions on the review of the Charter of the United Nations?

(2)   What views and suggestions did Australia communicate to the Secretary-General?

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   The following is the text of the reply which has been conveyed to the Secretary-General:

Australia has sought to uphold the aims, purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. Australia believes that the objectives of the Charter, drafted some 27 years ago at the San Francisco Conference, remain relevant today and that events since 1945 have served to underline the importance of adherence to the Charter.

Australia shares the interest of member states in enhancing the effectiveness of the United Nations. The Charter is a treaty which has shown an appropriate capacity for adaptation to changing circumstances. But the Charter is not selfexecuting. Its implementation depends on the willingness of member slates to work through the United Nations and to abide by the Charter. The achievement of a more effective United Nations depends in the first instance on the member states themselves rather than on any suggestion for reviewing the Charter.

Great care should be exercised in considering proposals to amend or review the Charter. Any review of or amendment to the Charter should be aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the organisation as the instrument for realising the purposes and principles already set out in Chapter 1 of the Charter. It follows from this that proposals must enjoy widespread support among member states and, in particular, the support of those member states who, by virtue of their permanent membership of the Security Council, have special responsibilities for the implementation of the Charter.

For these reasons Australia does not favour proposals that might lead to a wholesale review of the Charter. At the same time, Australia does not regard the Charter as an inviolable document to which no amendment is possible. Developments since the time the Charter came into force may require certain limited and specific amendments additional to those which have already been accepted. Thus, Australia is prepared to consider carefully and constructively, on their merits, specific proposals for review of or amendment to the Charter.

The Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, at its next session, might examine the SecretaryGeneral's report on this subject, with a view to recommending an appropriate course of action.'

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