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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 3877

Mr CHIPP (HOTHAM, VICTORIA) - I ask the Minister for Social Security a question, and I will give him the opportunity either to mislead the House or not mislead the House as he misled a television audience on Sunday night-

Mr Bryant - A point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr CHIPP - . . . when he stated the untruth that this House had had stacks of opportunity to debate the White Paper-

Mr Bryant - A point of order!


Mr Bryant - My point of order is that the honourable member is not directing a question; he is directing abuse at the Minister for Social Security.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I remind the honourable member for Hotham that the idea of a question is ask for information or to press for action. I now call the honourable member for Hotham.

Mr CHIPP - Well, I am pressing for action and I am pressing for honesty. As a premise to my question, may I remind the Minister with ultimate respect that it is a much more serious offence to mislead this House than to mislead a television audience. I ask him simply: Will he deny that his advisers have informed private hospital proprietors and managements in metropolitan Melbourne that, on the implementation of the Hayden health scheme, there will be an immediate demand for an additional 900 beds at standard ward level? To that question, I want a simple yes or no.

Mr HAYDEN - The honourable member asks a lot. First of all, there was no misleading of a television audience on Sunday night when I said that there had been stacks of opportunity to debate our health program in this House. I would suggest that members of the Opposition should have activated themselves earlier and got corns on their minds apart from other parts of their persons, because there have been stacks of opportunity in this House. The only initiative taken here has come from a back bencher on the Opposition side who moved for a debate on our national health program. That action took 12 months. Let us be clear about the demand for hospital bed days. There is a distinction between saying that there will be an additional demand of 900 hospital bed days above the total demand at the present time and that there will be a change in the pattern of demand or that tks same total pattern will apply. I think the honourable member for Hotham, who has just asked a question about this matter, ought to clear up that confusion in his own mind.

Mr Chipp - What did your advisers say?

Mr HAYDEN - I would not know whether they said it was 900 or 200. But the fact is that roughly the same total number of bed days as is demanded under the present system will apply under the new scheme. The change will be that people will be given an opportunity as a matter of choice, which they do not have at the present time, to select public ward or standard ward treatment. At present the means test precludes them from doing that. I said earlier and I repeat that we expect that there will be an increase in the demand for this sort of 'bed day treatment because people will exercise this choice, which they are currently deprived of. With any increase in this sort of demand there will be a concomitant reduction in the demand for nonpublic ward treatment. That is a simple statement of the position. Whether it is 200 or 900 bed days is not the significant factor. The significant factor is that the pattern changes but the total number of bed days does not. The private hospitals are not going to keep beds empty just to stick by the principle of being private. They will want to enter into agreements with us. They will be generous agreements. They will be entered into voluntarily. In spite of the misrepresentation of people like 'the honourable member for Hotham, who is trying to exaggerate the situation and misrepresent it completely, the people of Australia understand what we are saying. I shall repeat that. The honourable member for Hotham does not seem to understand the situation.

Mr Turner - I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have already pointed out that the Minister is not entitled to debate this matter.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! No point of order is involved.

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