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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3151

Mr McLEAY (Boothby) - The honourable member for Dension (Mr Coates) has dealt at some length with what he described as health dossiers and the impossibility of the information made available to Government departments being used against individuals. I express significant concern in the opposite direction. I quote as an example what happened during a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Civil Rights of Migrant Australians on 19 July this year. I refer the honourable member for Denison to page 35 of the Hansard report of the proceedings on that date and to the cross-examination of a witness by one of his own Labor Party colleagues, Senator James McClelland. In this instance Senator James McClelland used the private medical records of a witness to discredit him. I should like to read briefly from the Hansard record of those proceedings.

Senator JamesMcClelland stated:

So that we will not have to do any guessing, I ask you on behalf of this Committee to request the Minister for Defence, who is responsible for the Navy, to make available to this Committee all papers concerning the Naval service of Leslie Leonard Shaw, and in particular of medical examinations and medical and psychiatric opinions relating to his discharge from the Royal Australian Navy.

The point I wish to make is that there are some people in the community who will willingly attempt to destroy a person by using the person's so-called private records. So far as any security in any Government department is concerned, having looked at Senator Murphy's attitude towards the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, I believe that there is no security whatsoever. I dismiss the defence that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) has put forward.

Last Thursday just a few minutes before the House dealt with a private member's motion on health insurance this so-called White Paper entitled 'The Australian Health Insurance Program' - my colleague the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) referred to it as a whitewash paper - was tabled. We had a few minutes to look at it and we still have not had time to really examine it. I have had a chance to have a look at some aspects of this so-called White Paper but before dealing with them I ask the

Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) whether he will ask the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) to answer the 5 questions that I put to him in the debate last Thursday because he did not answer any of them.

Mr Hayden - Enumerate them and I will.

Mr McLEAY - I will enumerate them. 1 thank the Minister for his interjection. The first relates to the error of $10m in calculating doctors' fees and the second relates to the erroneous figure used by the Minister to discredit doctors in Perth on 14 August last when he referred to the cost of medical services when we on this side were in government. He inflated the figure by 100 per cent. Thirdly, will he explain the figure, which 1 claim to be incorrect and false, and which is repeated in this so-called White Paper, in regard to the number of people who are not insured and who previously he said had no protection. I want to know where those people are. Fourthly, will he explain the estimate he made in October 1972 of the amount of $700m as the cost of the health scheme when the Labor Party got into office? We all know that the amount will be infinitely higher than that. The fifth question relates to the miscalculation in respect of doctors' incomes which he mentioned on three or four occasions, starting at $23,000 and ending at something under $20,000.

They are just a few of things which I have selected from the debate last Thursday which the Minister did not answer and to which we would like to have answers. I would like the Minister to be a little more explicit than is the White Paper in regard to the number of Australians who are not insured. I appreciate the fact that the Minister is paying attention and will give us some answers. He will remember saying that one million people have no protection. In the White Paper he said that over one million Australians are not insured. Will he give the Committee some explanation on this matter? According to figures I have, 83.2 per cent of the Australian population are voluntary members of health insurance funds; 9.6 per cent are in the pensioner medical service; 3 per cent are in the repatriation medical benefits service and almost one per cent are covered by defence forces benefits. On the figures that I have, that is nearly 97 per cent of the population.

I have dealt with just some of the points that were raised in the debate last Thursday. We on this side of the chamber have had no opportunity to have a thorough look at this White Paper but there are two or three things in it which stand out. At page 4 the White Paper - I take it this is the Minister's paper - he deals with what he describes as the wealthier person's contribution for insurance cover and how that is worth more as a tax deduction. The Minister quoted the case of a man with a wife and 2 children in the State of New South Wales, earning $70 a week and paying $77 a year for medical and public ward hospital insurance after tax. I would not dispute that; it is probably right; I have not had time to look it up. But the Minister went on to say that a comparable family on $400 a week pays $52 a year after tax. I would like to know the grounds on which he worked out that figure. There are many hypothetical inferences. What concessions were used in arriving at those figures? What assumptions were made in regard to the period of hospitalisation? I think those figures are quite ina.curate

I think that the statement on page 51 paragraph 4.29 is false. I will not use anything stronger than that, Mr Deputy Chairman, because you would not appreciate it. It is less than truthful. Paragraph 4.29 states:

The $16 per bed day which will be available under the new program compares with a $2 per day Australian Government benefit now paid to patients in private hospitals.

That seems to indicate that patients who are currently going into private hospitals are recouping only $2 a day. The position is that the cost of accommodation in a private hospital is at least $30 a day and under our scheme - the voluntary scheme - patients who are currently going into private hospitals are recouping nearly the full cost. So in truth this White Paper is under-estimating by $14 a day the actual amount of money that is recouped. I wish that the Minister would be serious about this because it is a serious matter. Paragraph 4.3 1 of the White Paper reads:

These arrangements will provide substantial cover foi the average fees of private hospitals throughout Australia.

That is quite untrue. If I were allowed to use a stronger word, I would do so.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - It is not telling the truth.

Mr McLEAY - It is not telling the truth. Paragraph 4.31 of the White Paper continues:

It should be pointed out that if the present system were to continue, patients seeking coverage for private hospital treatment would be required to take insurance cover for at least $14 per day more than that proposed under the new program.

That is a false statement. At the moment a person in the voluntary scheme has almost the whole of the $30 refunded. Under the program which your Party, Sir, is sponsoring, a person would have to pay the difference between $16 and $30. The Government would not pay; it would be the person who would have to insure privately. On top of that he would pay the compulsory tax.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - Order! The honourable gentleman's time has expired.

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