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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 3684

Mr SHERRY (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - My question is also addressed to the Minister for Social Security. Has his attention been drawn to protests by the Commonwealth Bank Officers Association against attempts to misrepresent the attitude of the Association to the Australian health insurance program? Has his attention been drawn to other vigorous expressions of support, for the program from sources such as Anglican bishops and the leader writers of major Australian newspapers? Finally, will he arrange for these most eloquent expressions of support to be collated and circulated to honourable members, and in particular to the honourable member for Boothby?

Mr HAYDEN - As honourable members would know, the Commonwealth Bank Officers Association has objected to the misrepresentation of the position of that Association for which the Australian Medical Association was responsible. It has pointed out that, contrary to the claims of the AMA, the Bank Officers Association is not opposed to and has not criticised the health insurance program. If I am correct, I believe the Association has endorsed it. The gentleman who prepared a paper which was critical of some aspects of the program and who sent it to the Association discovered after he had met officers of my Department and my personal advisers that he was wrong in his assertions. He has acknowledged his error publicly.

I have been pleased to note that ecclesiastics have supported the Government's program. The Church of England - indeed all churches have done so - has expressed concern about the rights of needy people who are not covered by the present system of health insurance. They have expressed concern about equally important aspects of our scheme, namely, that it introduces equity in its operation; the cost is distributed according to one's ability to pay. Some of them have indicated their support of the fact that it is a more efficient financial operation without in any way impairing the quality of medical care but in many respects enhances it. As I pointed out, the Church of England has been significantly to the fore in this broad area of concern for people's rights in the community and it has been noticeably active, for instance, in expressing its concern about the need for an effective campaign against poverty in the community. That is about to be done, now that we have expanded the poverty inquiry. I do not want to delay longer on that point at question time.

I come to the final 2 points which were mentioned. The first concerned the leader writers of various newspapers who are now indicating the attractiveness of our proposal as against the defects of the present scheme. Of course this is a very encouraging feature. I single out the 'Age' leader writer. When newspaper editorials such as those of the 'Age' take an even-handed attitude in these matters, criticising where it is justified and encouraging where it is believed to be desirable to encourage. they play an influential role in decision making, at least insofar as I am concerned. Where an editorial writer wears his political commitment on his sleeve, as happens with some newspapers, those editorials are immediately discounted. I have appreciated some of the critical comments that have been made in the past by the 'Age' editorials. Those critical comments were taken into consideration and, believe me, were influential in our deciding upon some of the modifications that were set out in the White Paper which I tabled in this Parliament recently following the planning committee report which was tabled several months ago for the purpose of stimulating public debate and which achieved that purpose.

The final point was whether I would collate these matters and distribute them in the Parliament. I am sure that all members of the Parliament would welcome such a distribution. I am certain that members of the Opposition would find it extremely informative. It would save them from making embarrassing mistakes at question time with some of their fallaciously based questions. I will consider this proposal and I will let the honourable member know later.

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