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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3095

Mr McVEIGH (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. Is Queensland being unduly penalised in receiving only $55m in Commonwealth finance under the proposed Australian health insurance program when on a per capita basis the figure should be $66m of the $460m total payout? If so, is Queensland being penalised for having the most economic and efficient scheme?

Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) - I welcome the interested reaction of the honourable member. The program for universal health insurance which the Government will be introducing is a most generous one. It will allow public hospital systems throughout Australia to be restored to a proper standard, and the long term neglect which symbolised the past 20 years of administration at the national level will be a thing of the past. State governments can no longer conduct public hospitals at a proper level of service, qualitatively and quan titatively, unless there is a generous infusion of money from the national Government. We aim to do exactly that. The Queensland hospital system stands to gain immeasurably from the program we have introduced. It will be getting in 1974-75 I think $35m over what it would have got if the present system of hospital insurance were to continue - that is, the system which the Opposition would have maintained if it had been in government and which it would persevere with if it were ever returned to government. We cannot tolerate that sort of inequity.

There is no discrimination against Queensland. In fact, if the honourable member were to do a few calculations and relate the amount of money being provided to Queensland from the total pool of money being collected for hospital services to the proportion of taxable income which is raised in Queensland he would find that what is being proposed under this scheme is not only generous to Queensland but also effectively presents a redistribution of income to that State. So he should not labour the point too heavily because he might find that Liberal-Country Party State governments outside of Queensland might want to argue for some other system whereby this redistribution does not take place. We support the redistribution for the simple reason that Queensland's hospital service has been allowed to regress for too long. In a desperate effort to keep the public hospital system in that State free, the State Government has pared back on all forms of expenditure. It has pared back to a completely intolerable level on education expenditure so that on a per capita basis Queensland has the lowest effort contributed on education of any State in the Commonwealth. This is reflected everywhere in public expenditure at the State level. In other words, not only does Queensland have a second rate Government but also second rate standards which are tolerated by that Government. The sort of program which we are introducing will bring some equity back into the system.

I conclude by reminding the honourable member that the 'Australian' newspaper ran a series of articles which can only, and quite fairly, be described as a rather scandalous exposure of deficient standards in the Queensland hospital system, of inadequate equipment, of delays in responding to requests for urgently needed medical equipment and of medical staff being imposed upon quite unnecessarily and unfairly in an effort to make the small amount of money, in a relative sense, that is available to the hospital system go far enough to keep the system in operation. But it cannot limp on much longer. We will do something about it. Members of the Opposition, as members of the Government, did nothing about it, never proposed to do anything about it and still do not propose to do anything about it.

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