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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 815

Mr CARLTON(10.13) —The Opposition approached clause 18 of the Health Legislation Amendment Bill with an open mind and sought information from the Minister for Health. But having heard his response I must say that none of our concerns were met; indeed, our alarm has been increased by a substantial measure . What the Minister has said is this: This clause enables the Commonwealth Department of Health, or the Commonwealth Minister advised by the Commonwealth Department, to set the arrangements between hospitals and specialists of any kind, not just the ones mentioned in the second reading speech. I presume it means any doctor in a hospital, a visiting doctor or a salaried doctor. The only way in which we are assured that this is a satisfactory arrangement is that it is a deal between Federal and State Ministers for Health.

One of the requirements of the draft contract that has been agreed on with State Ministers is that all charges are to be at or below the schedule fee. That means that any visiting specialist who performs a superior task will be able to charge above the schedule fee. We would hope that, in our society, it is not considered impossible for that to be so. That is something which we would hold as important in order to encourage excellence in professions. That is one of the requirements. It applies therefore to any specialist, or probably to any doctor, or to any visiting specialist to a hospital as well as to salaried doctors. It might be agreed between Federal and State Ministers at some conference of their own but not be subject to any particular parliament.

The Minister has also confirmed that there is no disallowance provision at all by the Federal Parliament of the Minister's direction in this matter. So this Federal Parliament is being asked to sub-contract an important matter relating to the regulation of a profession-the interference by the Commonwealth Government into the delivery role of the States. It delegates this responsibility to an extra-parliamentary group or meeting of Ministers, with no disallowance provision to govern the rules that are set down by the agreement between these Ministers. On these grounds, Mr Deputy Chairman, it is not possible for the Opposition to support this clause.