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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3138

Mr DOYLE (Lilley) - One of the most important areas of responsibility which desperately needs Australian Government attention is that relating to the health services of this nation. Up until recently the Australian Labor Party was the only political party - (Quorum formed.) I noticed that not one member of the Liberal Party of Australia entered the chamber after the quorum was called for, although I am speaking about a very important subject, that is, the health program. Two or three members of the Liberal Party were present before the quorum was called. That shows the Liberal Party's interest in the health needs of this nation. I was pointing out that the Australian Labor Party was the only political party until recently to examine and campaign on the quality and accessibility of health care and health insurance. In government the Liberal-Country Party coalition caved in to any Australian Medical Association pressure and ignored the recommendations of its own committee of inquiry into health insurance - the Nimmo Committee. Its plans for rationalisation and reform of health insurance in Australia were swept under the carpet by the LiberalCountry Party coalition for fear of opposition from the powerful private insurance funds. In fact, the Australian Country Party has never shown any interest in this important area. Until recently I was unaware that it had even appointed a spokesman on health and welfare. It may as well have appointed the same public relations firm as the AMA because what it says is identical with what the AMA says.

The Liberal Party also has had its problems. Its first appointment to the shadow portfolio, the honourable member for Kooyong, Mr Peacock, was removed after only a week on the job. The next incumbent, the honourable member for Corangamite, Mr Street, was clearly more interested in tariffs and other matters and answered Press queries with the statement: 'The doctors have not told us yet what to say'. The honourable member for Hotham, Mr Chipp, the latest incumbent, was given the position when he proved to be too popular in his original area of interest. Is it any wonder that when the Opposition finally gets around to examining the Government's proposals it seems to be the mouthpiece for one or other of the vested interests instead of carving out its own policies in this area? I partly excuse Mr Chipp from this accusation for he has shown a commendable attempt to be fair. But even he has failed to differentiate between health insurance and health care and delivery. Many of his criticisms have failed to take into account the pioneering work being proposed and carried out by Dr Sax and his National Hospitals and Health Services Commission.

I would like to examine the Opposition's statements on our scheme, which was approved by the AMA in its gazette of 1 November. Mr Chipp is honest in his ignorance of the realities of health care today and in his doubts as to whether things are as bad as the AMA claims. But he, too, falls victim to the shockhorror forecasts of the AMA and the General Practitioners Society as to what is going to happen to health in Australia under our proposals. He trots out the old 'over utilisation of services' under a system of totally free hospital and medical treatment. He cites what is happening in overeas countries but presents no evidence to back up his assertions except for the hoary old fallback of human nature. I will certainly point to overseas experience to demonstrate that over utilisation is more likely to occur under our present system of feeforservice than under a free system which is, of course, not what we are introducing.

Free medical care from general practitioners exists only as a choice for doctors and not patients. A Canadian survey published in the New England 'Journal of Medicine' in May 1973 showed that patients thought by doctors to have sought medical advice rose by 1.1 per cent of all patients to 1.9 per cent, whereas those whom doctors thought should have sought medical advice earlier fell from 2.6 per cent to 1.8 per cent. Closer to home, the Director of the Melba Health Centre was reported in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of 12 November as having said that there was no sign that people were using the free service unnecessarily. Dr J. S. Lawson, the Director of Tasmanian Hospital Services, has found that operation rates for tonsillectomy, appendectomy and hysterectomy conducted on a feeforservice basis in Australia were much higher than operation rates in other countries where doctors did not receive a fee for each service. This was published in Volume 14 of the National ' Hospital Journal*.

Mr Peacock - Which doctor was that?

Mr DOYLE - Dr Lawson.

Mr Peacock - J. S. Lawson?

Mr DOYLE - That is correct.

Mr Peacock - He once stood as a Labor Party candidate, did he not?

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order!

Mr DOYLE - That merely indicates that he is an intelligent-

Mr Peacock - He was at school with me and once stood as a Labor Party candidate.

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