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Thursday, 23 August 1973
Page: 279

Mr THORBURN (COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the Minister for Social Security seen the letter written to the Adelaide 'Advertiser' by the former Minister for Health, the honourable member for Barker? If so, does he agree with the proud contention of the honourable member for Barker that his Government's approach to health care was the best in the world? Finally, does he agree with the judgment of the honourable member for Barker that the Australian Labor Party has adopted the Scotton and Deeble health proposals with indecent haste when, firstly, the Government has not accepted them yet and, secondly, the Australian Labor Party and the Minister have worked on health reforms for at least the past 6 years?

Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) - With characteristic behaviour a former Miinster for Health, now the Opposition spokesman on, 1 think, defence, although I am not sure we have heard from him on that subject, was exaggerating when he wrote that letter. No one could be happy with the present system of health insurance in this country, lt is inequitable. The wealthy pay least. Those least able to afford the cost of it pay most. It misses out on too many people. Over one million- people in Australia are without any cover at all, and a rather tardy effort to provide cover for low income earners was a complete failure. Only about 4 in every 100 families who are supposed to be covered have in fact been covered. Desperate efforts to remedy this defect completely failed. I think that the whole criticism of the present system can be summed up by the Nimmo report, which was a scathing condemnation of the present system of private health insurance. If any public undertaking were to receive such critical comment from a public inquiry it would be closed down; it would completely lose credibility and confidence from the public. That was bad enough but the last Government did not even take up the key recommendations of the Nimmo report, for instance, the proposals for a participating doctors' scheme, the zoning of open funds, the establishment of a national health insurance commission, arrangements for employers' group deductions of contributions for employees, cessation of commission paid to employers for deductions, means test-free availability of standard or public ward accommodation, the integration of public hospital out-patients' services and health insurance, the gradual elimination of honorary and concessional services-

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I raise a point of order. I cannot believe that the Minister has so much knowledge in his little head. The question is not a question without notice.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order involved.

Mr HAYDEN - I can assure the honourable member for Griffith that there is plenty of room for more knowledge to be fitted into that little head.

Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is certainly a gap there.

Mr HAYDEN - That is true, but it has never been big enough to allow me eligibility to enter the Country Party.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There are far too many interjections and I ask the Minister to ignore them.

Mr HAYDEN - I ignore the interjections from all honourable members. I thank the honourable member for Cook for this unexpected question. I want to make one final point. There has been no indecent haste in the Government's approach to the introduction of health insurance. We have not finalised our commitment to the planning report which was tabled in this Parliament in May shortly after we received it. That is unlike the practice of past governments when reports have disappeared into limbo. We have deferred final decisions on that report pending further discussions with the Australian Medical Association. We have done that at the Association's request. The key point in this matter was made by the honourable member for Cook, namely, that for the past several years there have been considerable discussions on the principles of our universal health insurance program. Members of the Opposition have contributed to it, not with particularly informed minds. The Australian Medical Association has contributed to it, with an even more prejudiced approach. The health insurance funds have bankrolled a lot of the spokesmen who are now opposing what we are putting forward. But our scheme is based on freedom of choice of medical practitioner, on private practice and on fee for service remuneration.

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