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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 3370

Mr ADERMANN (FISHER, QUEENSLAND) - My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. When will he show me, as promised, the letters of protest against the national health scheme from Gympie about which he made serious allegations and which he has since repeated to me in a letter? Does he, by dismissing these letters and protests, indicate that he thinks that Australians and Gympie citizens are so stupid that they will sign and send letters of protest to their member unless those letters are an expression of their intent and feeling? When he says he is sending literature to each such correspondent in my electorate, does he mean the pamphlet 'The Australian Health Insurance Program - The Plain Facts' or some equally discredited document? Should he not make a contribution towards reducing government expenditure and controlling inflation by saving this pointless postage?

Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) - I commence by apologising to the honourable member if he has not seen those letters. I understood that he had. I certainly gave an instruction that he should see them. If he does he will see what seems, to me anyway, to be some forgeries in that there is a similarity in handwriting in more than one of the letters. As I pointed out on a previous occasion, all are written on the same note pad paper, and by an amazing coincidence the paper is exactly the same size as a doctor's prescription pad. If it is the honourable member's suggestion that the people of Gympie would be so stupid as to send that type of letter to me, I let the matter rest there. He suggests that we are wasting money on publicising the health insurance program. Actually it was a limited expenditure that we undertook.

Mr Anthony - How little?

Mr Sinclair - How limited?

Mr HAYDEN - Wait for it. It was a little over a quarter of a million dollars.

Mr Anthony - Party propaganda.

Mr HAYDEN - Wait, there is much more to come. It will be very interesting, especially for the Country Party. It cost a little over a quarter of a million dollars to put out that very simple and straight statement on the essentials of the scheme. The honourable member will be interested to know that there was a very rewarding write-in response from people who cut out the coupons that appeared in advertisements in the newspapers and sought copies of the pamphlet, and there was also an extremely rewarding response from people who collected the pamphlet from post offices.

Once or twice members of the Country Party have raised the question that it was a waste of money to do this or, alternatively or in combination, have suggested that we have no authority to do this sort of thing. I have a little booklet of about 30 pages and entitled National Health'. It was produced in 1953 by Sir Earle Page, who was then the Leader of the Country Party. He spent on that publication £135,000, which in real money terms was much more than we have spent on our booklet. Sir Earle Page had a copy of his booklet posted to every householder in Australia at the taxpayers' expense, but he had no legislative authority to do so. It was several months after he embarked on this effort that he obtained the legislative enactment of this Parliament for his health insurance program. Frankly, I would not be a party to such an irresponsible use or misuse of the taxpayers' money. In response to the enormous volume of inquiries we have had seriously seeking information, as distinct from the artificially contrived opposition that comes from various points such as Gympie in the honourable -member's electorate - I might state that it will be a short lived exercise in opposition - we produced this pamphlet. It was in response to public demand.

Finally, I suggest to the honourable member that the next time letters of protest come in from Gympie, apart from some of them being in similar handwriting and air of them appearing on the same sort of notepaper it might be advisable not to send them all in one envelope.

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