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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 4397

Mr CHIPP - Mr Speaker, it is a pity that the interjections from the Labor Party were not louder, because at the time I speak such is the interest of members of the Labor Party that there are about only 10 Labor members in the House.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Minister for Social Security delivered his second reading speech in complete silence. I ask the House to extend the same courtesy to the honourable member for Hotham.

Mr CHIPP - My amendment continues: and that therefore this Bill and associated Bills should be withdrawn, because the Government's alternative proposals to the existing health scheme will (a) lower the quality of medical care for Australian families, (b) increase total costs for the Government and thus for taxpayers, (c) increase total costs for the majority of taxpayers, because they could only maintain the present quality of their health care by additional heavy commitments for private insurance, (d) reduce freedom of choice, (e) jeopardize the future of religious, private and country hospitals and (f) by design and intent be the first stage of nationalisation of health and medical care in Australia.'.

We believe that unequivocal opposition is the only course that we as an alternative government can take, because if this Bill and its associates are allowed passage they will produce an egg which a future government would find impossible to unscramble. Before I deal with some of the major specific criticisms of the Labor scheme and attempt to justify our reasons for rejecting it I would like to put our case in palpably clear and positive terms to try to avoid the inevitable charge that the Opposition is being negative and obstructionist. We state that we have a positive policy at this time manifested in the health scheme which is now in force, in the main, with outstanding success. Our scheme features the opportunity for a person to have a doctor of his own choice and in most circumstances the hospital of his own choice, and in all cases the form and nature of health insurance. Our scheme allows flexibility in its administration and competition between doctors, hospitals, health funds and everyone conconcerned with health. It also encourages standards to rise rather than to remain stationary or to fall. It encourages private hospitals and public hospitals to perform their special functions. It encourages voluntary involvement of citizens in the problem of national health.

However, we concede and have conceded that some deficiencies have developed within it due to the passage of time and the changes in the dynamic society in which we live. These deficiences need progressive reforms, which have been under intensive examination by the Liberal Party's committee on social security, health and welfare over the past several months, and I know also by the Country Party's health and social security committee. My committee, the Liberal Party's committee, has resolved guidelines in several areas. These decisions of principle together with appropriate questions have been allocated to small expert working parties throughout the country so as to test their practicability in the spotlight of expert knowledge. This has been done to avoid the many errors that the Minister for Social Security, in good faith, fell into by announcing principles before having his principles tested by expert practical criticism. The -reports from the working parties are now being received, collated and summarised, and will enable us to submit suggested reforms through the appropriate party machinery at a very early date.

Some of the major guidelines submitted to working parties by my committee on social security, health and welfare are as follows: We believe as a committee that health care reasonably available is a right. Secondly, we believe that the present Liberal scheme is basically a good scheme and we wish to consider alterations which result in significant improvements in the quality of health care or its coverage or its cost or which would simplify the administration of the scheme. Thirdly, we wish to see the pensioner medical scheme and the subsidised health benefits scheme integrated into the present national insurance arrangements to ensure that all benefits of that scheme accrue to pensioners and other low income sections of the community. Fourthly, we wish to see insurance coverage for basic health care for the maximum number of people. Fifthly, we wish to see the survival of the independent health insurance funds for all areas of health service, including paramedical services, so as to allow people a free choice of health insurance funds. Sixthly, we wish to see appropriate deterrents to the abuse of the health scheme either by patients or by medical practitioners, provided that the deterrent does not make the health scheme unduly complicated and that people needing health care are not unreasonably deterred in seeking it.

We believe in medical fees being determined annually by an independent tribunal. We accept that these scheduled fees are not binding on all medical practitioners, but if any health scheme is to succeed the scheduled fees must be adhered to by a substantial majority of medical practitioners. This tribunal should consist of representatives of government, consumers and the medical profession, and it should have an independent chairman. We believe in the retention of private hospitals although we are not necessarily satisfied with the present standards of all of them. We accept the continued existence of private profit-making nursing homes. However, we would encourage the establishment of non-profit-making homes run by religious organisations, philanthropic and community organisations. We would like to see appropriate control of admissions, rehabilitation and discharge policies. We would like to see a co-ordinated decentralised delivery system of domiciliary care and day hospitals in order to keep out people who do not need to be in nursing homes. We would like to see increased attention given to hostels as alternatives to nursing homes, and appropriate incentives for elderly people to remain in their own homes.

Before I embark on specific criticisms of the Labor plan I wish to state that there are some features of this Bill with which the Opposition concurs in principle. I mention the apparent - I emphasise the word 'apparent' - increased financial assistance to public hospitals; the proposals to enable visitors to Australia to participate in the scheme on the payment of an appropriate premium; the concept of special medical benefits for unusual or complex procedures; the right of doctors to appeal against the decisions of committees of inquiry; the proposed increase in payments to private hospitals; and the concept, as I have stated, that pensioners and receivers of subsidised health benefits will be integrated into the scheme and become entitled to the same benefits as are enjoyed by all other members of that scheme. However, all these reforms, which when taken in the context of the whole Bill are relatively small and which we acknowledge and approve of in principle, can be introduced with ease into this Parliament as amendments to existing legislation. I am authorised to say on behalf of the Opposition that if this is done, if I can assure the Government that the passage of the reforms will be expedited. In other words, we are saying that these things, which we concede, can be added immediately to the health care system of this country without decimating a scheme that is now running perfectly well and with outstanding success. So again I make the point that the Opposition is not being obstructive or negative in its approach to this legislation; the contrary is the case.

Let me turn to our basic philosophy and practical objection to the thrust of this Bill and, I emphasise, the associated measures - four of which we have not yet seen - which are summarised in the 6 points of the amendment which I have moved. I shall deal with these in very broad terms only. My colleagues on this side of the House who will follow me in this debate will develop them in finer detail. Most importantly, as I said at the outset, we claim that the Labor scheme will lower the quality of medical care for Australian families. For the purpose of making this point I divide medical care' into its 2 main components - hospitals and medical practitioner treatment. I deal first with the hospitals. In discussing hospitals we must do so in relation to both private and public hospitals. Let us see what the Hayden scheme, if I may use that abbreviation, will do immediately to public hospitals.

This Bill entitles every person to free treatment without means test in the public hospitals of Australia at a public ward or standard ward level. Such admission to those public hospitals is at present restricted to people on low incomes, to pensioners, to casualty cases and to those suffering from diseases, the treatment of which demand special and sophisticated forms of equipment or treatment. For the sake of accuracy I acknowledge that special circumstances obtain in some areas such as Queensland, but the thrust of the argument still holds. These public hospitals already are used to full capacity. This Bill, if passed immediately entitles millions of additional persons immediate access to admission. This simply means that, overnight, the already fully utilised public hospitals will be expected to cope with that enormous additional demand. Those kinds of people - this is the irony of this Bill - whom the Labor Party supposedly champions, who now have preferential treatment for free and immediate admission to a public hospital, will then find themselves competing for public hospital accommodation with every other Australian. If that is justice by the Labor Party to the poor, to the indigent or to the pensioner then I am confounded by that kind of logic. There are 2 reasons why we believe this additional demand will bc heavy. Firstly, it is human nature for a person to conclude: 'Well, if the Government is compulsorily adding to my taxes in order to provide me and my family with free hospitalisation then I will use it and get my money's worth.' That is human nature. That will create an additional immediate demand on public hospitals. I have challenged the Minister time and again to deny that his advisers in Melbourne have asked private hospitals for 900 additional beds - or, to use the Minister's expression, bed days - the day after his scheme comes into operation. In Melbourne there are roughly 5,000 public hospital beds. That means that the Minister's advisers- the last time I spoke to the Minister he had not found out whether his advisers had given this figure to the Melbourne private hospitals - expect a 20 per cent additional demand overnight on Melbourne metropolitan public hospitals. Therefore I believe that my first allegation can be concluded on that statement alone.

Secondly, many people will find that they have no option but to go to a public hospital if they are sick because they would not be able to afford the additional heavy financial commitment for private insurance in an intermediate or private hospital bed. The simple arithmetic of the equation is quite devastating. There will just not be enough beds in public hospitals to accommodate the new demand, as I have just proved. The only 3 possible solutions to meeting this demand are firstly, that new public hospitals will have to be constructed. This clearly is impossible and absurd in view of the time scale. So that solution is out. Secondly, waiting times for admission to public hospital beds for 'non-urgent' cases will be extended considerably. I am informed that under the United Kingdom scheme people with such 'non-urgent' problems have to wait up to 3 years and beyond for the treatment of varicose veins, hernias, 'non-urgent' gynaeco.ogical procedures and like complaints. The third possible and probable solution would have an even more disastrous effect: Australia's magnificently run private hospitals will have to be commandeered, invited, persuaded, induced, seduced - choose your own term - to give up some of the intermediate or private beds and become part public hospitals. When we talk about private hospitals I think it is vital to refer back to the Bill to understand the total ramifications of this course. This is the probable course the Government will have to take. I believe that under the provisions of clause 34 (1) of the Bill a hospital will be forced to go to the Government to have it take over some of its private beds as public beds for reasons which I will explain in a moment. Clause 34 provides that where a religious organisation running a hospital applies for a grant the Minister will consider the application. Clause 34 (3), which I submit the Minister did not make this clear in his second reading speech, provides:

Where the Minister approves an application under sub-section <2), he shall determine the number of beds at the hospital to which the approval relates.

In practice that provision can be quite devastating. A hospital may find that some of its beds are empty. It may then apply through economic circumstances to have, say, 25 per cent of its beds declared public beds. But under this sub-clause the Minister can act in one of two ways. He can determine the number of beds to be declared public; he can say that he will declare them all to be public beds or declare none of them to be public beds. From that point on the private hospital is completely and utterly under the control of the Minister.

If one reads on in clause 34 one sees that the provisions become even more insidious. The beds in that private hospital that become public beds will attract the payment of $16 a day. I mention in passing that there is no provision in the Bill for that amount to be escalated other than by an amendment of the Act of Parliament. So that is set. That will provide little joy to people who run private hospitals, when inflation is running at 13 per cent per annum. Clause 34 (4) states:

There is payable by Australia to an organisation to which this section applies a supplementary daily bed payment-

That sounds all right. It is to make up the difference between the $16 a day and the cost of maintaining a bed. But the sub-clause continues: at a rate fixed by the Minister.

Normally a cautious man would look to see the criteria that the Minister would have to have regard to in fixing that rate. Clause 34(7) states:

In fixing a rate for the purposes of sub-section (4), the Minister shall have regard to the loss of revenue of, and any increased cost to, the organisation-

A private hospital. There is absolutely no guarantee built into this Act that any applications for supplementary daily bed grants will or need be treated with sympathy or with equity. I say that the thrust of clause 34 means in simple language that as soon as a private hospital offers to the Minister a proportion of its bed capacity for use as standard ward beds, that virtually places them under the control of a socialist Minister in Canberra.

The significance of this can be better understood if seen in the light of the present Minister's intent. If I misquote him I invite him, with your indulgence, Mr Speaker, to correct me forthwith. This Minister, who has the power I have just mentioned, was quoted in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' on 6 September 1972 as saying: the Labor Party is a Socialist Party and its aim as far as medical care is concerned is for the establishment of public enterprise;

That, too, to me is extremely significant. I invite my friend sitting at the table opposite, the Minister for Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) to correct me if I am wrong, but he was quoted on 23 July 1972 - I think this is a remarkably significant statement - as saying:

Private hospitals and private nursing homes are irrelevant to the Labor Party's concept of a national health scheme and the vast majority of people could easily be catered for in the public hospital sector.

I understand that at that time the Minister was a member of the Australian Labor Party Health Committee and therefore he made that statement with the authority of that Committee.

The question might fairly be asked: Why would private hospitals be foolish enough to allow themselves to be partly or wholly nationalised in this way? Why should they make an offer of beds to the Minister for Social Security, which offer in itself is an act of selfdestruction? The answer is simply that they will be forced to because they will be confronted with the uneconomic situation of having many empty beds. I say this for 2 reasons. I have mentioned the first one - that many who now use private hospitals will go to public hospitals because their compulsory taxes will entitle them so to do. The second reason is even more significant. Private hospitals will have empty beds because the cost of additional insurance for private hospital treatment to Australian families will necessarily be so heavy that they will simply be unable to afford intermediate or private ward accommodation.

I have received estimates from various funds of what it will cost a family man in addition to the 1.35 per cent supertax he will be forced to pay on his taxable income to insure for his wife, family and himself for intermediate or private bed accommodation in a private hospital. The estimates - it is impossible to get an accurate cost - range from $80 to $125 per annum extra in insurance costs to entitle him and his family to a bed in a private hospital. The private hospitals will therefore be forced to go begging to the Minister with the pathetic plea for the Government to take over part of the hospital.

I was amused to read in the Melbourne 'Age' of 28 November 1973 of the Minister's confident prediction that private hospitals would want to enter into agreements with the Government when his scheme began. His sense of humour came to the fore when he said that they would come voluntarily to him. He said: they would not keep beds empty just to stick to the principle of being private.

I cannot help being reminded of the 'voluntary confessions' obtained by Father Torquemada and some of his moralist contemporaries, when the Minister talks of the private hospitals voluntarily coming to him to ask him to take beds. This procedure must result in the end of autonomous administration of private hospitals. It must mean that any private hospital which makes an offer to the Minister is playing fly to the spider.

There is, however, another equally if not more serious consequence of private hospitals becoming part or mainly public hospitals. The greater the number of private hospitals which become public the fewer will be the number of patients who will be able to be treated by the doctor of their own choice. The Minister has made a lot of the fact that his scheme will allow people to have a doctor of their own choice. The scheme does not interefere with that right, he says. Let me give an example. The Mercy Hospital in Melbourne - a great private hospital with fine traditions and a magnificent record of service to the community - has 200 beds. If, say, half of those become public beds, does the Minister seriously suggest for a moment and does he seriously ask us to believe that patients in the 100 public beds would be able to be attended by the doctor of their own choice? Does he seriously suggest that a Melbourne man who wants to be treated in the Mercy Hospital and who goes into a public ward - presuming it is half pub- lie and half private- will be able to be treated by the doctor of his own choice? Does the Minister really suggest that a woman in a public ward would be able to have a doctor of her own choice attend her and deliver her baby? Anyone who knows anything about the administration of hospitals would know that that is an absurd proposition and that it just will not work.

I shall speak a little further about how this Bill, and its associated measures will lower the standard of medical care. I now turn away from hospitals to the effect of this legislation on medical practitioners, or doctors. I concede that the effect on them will not be as immediate as the effect on hospitals, which will occur overnight. There are dangers in the Bill, particularly those related to the Government's expressed intention to introduce socialised medicine. At the one end we have the fixing of fees. I do not disbelieve the Government for a moment when it talks about nationalised medicine and fixing doctors' fees. Anybody now in this House or listening to the broadcast of these proceedings, who saw the public debate on television a little while ago, in which I thought the Leader of the Opposition absolutely trounced the Prime Minister, will know that the Prime Minister was flushed out with the first question at question time in that confrontation. He was asked by a pressman: 'What impact, Prime Minister, would it have on the Government's attitude of fixing doctor's fees if the prices referendum had a Yes vote on Saturday? Without hesitation the Prime Minister stood and responded without equivocation: It would give us the power to fix doctors' fees, to make the decisions of the tribunal mandatory on doctors'.

Mr Daly - So they ought to be, too.

Mr CHIPP - I am very glad to have that kind of interjection, which Hansard will now acknowledge, from the Minister for Services and Property on record. So doctors now, I think, can take little comfort from the Prime Minister and the confirmation by his hatchet man - the Leader of the House - who confirms that that would be a good thing. From the passing of this referendum at the one end doctors' fees will be fixed, and fixed for ever. At the other end - here I want to be fair to the Minister for Social Security and I do not want to misquote him - I suggest that the whole thrust of the Green Paper, sugared down a little in the White Paper and sugared down a little more in the Bill, is bulk billing.

Did the Deeble report refer to bulk billing as a cornerstone of the plan'?

Mr Snedden - Of course it did.

Mr CHIPP - It did. Has the Government resiled from that eventual ambition? I have heard no denial that it has. I want to be fair on this question. My suspicion is based on past statements of many members of the Government on nationalising doctors and nationalising medicine generally.

However, let me take another case which I think is real, not based on suspicion, and this refers to specialists, particularly surgeons, who now serve both in an honorary capacity and on a fee for service basis in private hospitals and in public hospitals. If the number of private beds in Australia declines - I do not think any honourable member on the Government side will deny that it will; that is the whole purpose of the Government's Bill - it naturally follows that the ability of specialists - I am talking particularly about surgeons - to service and serve patients in private wards or private beds will decline by the same ratio. Honourable members, are aware that specialists rely for their income on treating patients in private beds. The honorary system or the sessional basis upon which specialists treat people in public hospitals has served Australia very well. They are able to treat public patients on an honorary basis because of the fees they can earn by treating private patients after consultation in their private rooms or in the private or intermediate wards of private or public hospitals.

If the number of private beds declines - and it will - so too will the capacity of those specialists to earn on a fee basis decline. This is the very thing I believe the Labor Party is about. There are only 2 alternatives left - if one can have 2 alternatives - to those specialists. The first is that they must resort purely to a sessional basis working in a public hospital, or work for a salary, both of which results, I believe, would please the Minister for Social Security and his Party immensely.

I turn to the question of the increased total cost of the scheme to the Government and thus to taxpayers. One of the rare flares of humour the Minister has shown has been his statement, which I have heard nobody express belief in or acceptance of that his scheme will be cheaper and cost less than the present Liberal-Country Party scheme. My colleagues who will follow me from this side of the House in the debate will talk about over- utilisation of hospital and medical services through his scheme. I simply state that point. I refer now, in specific terms, to a survey published by Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd. I think the Minister would be gracious enough to concede that that company is one of the most highly respected institutions of its kind in Australia. It has stated categorically that the Minister already has underestimated the cost of his scheme by nearly $300m in the first year and that after the first year the cost will escalate sharply.

The Minister has always been one of all the people on the front bench of that side of the House who is notorious for planting Dorothy Dixers among his friends - I do not blame him for this - to correct mis-statements and misrepresentations that have been made against the Minister or made about his scheme or its figures. I will concede that there have been some misrepresentations. In fact, I have come to his defence in this respect on one or two occasions. But unless I have missed it, this is one allegation, by Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd, about which the Minister has not cared to plant a Dorothy Dixer, has not made a statement about and has not attempted to refute, that is, that his scheme is underestimated by S300m. Why has he not done this? One wonders.

Already since the Green Paper we have seen a 1.35 per cent tax proposed. It was said that the money to be collected from that tax would be matched $1 for $1 out of Consolidated Revenue. That figure was then raised to $1.25 out of Consolidated Revenue to the $1 raised by tax. In the White Paper - there is no mention of this in the Minister's second reading speech - the figure has risen to $1.28 out of Consolidated Revenue for the $1 from that tax. That is for the first year of the scheme only. Somewhere else, the Minister, or someone else, has suggested that in the second year the payment will be $1.50 out of Consolidated Revenue to each $1 raised by the 1.35 per cent tax. This is the kind of hidden subsidy that will continue to come from Consolidated Revenue-

Mr Snedden - .From the taxpayers.

Mr CHIPP - . . . that will finally, as my Leader reminds me, have to be met from one source only, that is, the taxpayers of this nation. The increased cost to taxpayers. I have already covered in the additional heavy commitments they will have to make for private insurance coverage. It will be between S70 and $115 to $120 a year. Let us look at the young family man on a middle sized income. Again these are the kinds of people who at the last election the Labor Party was supposed to champion and to appeal for directly. Can he afford to have a 1.35 per cent tax added to his taxes? That man wants his wife when she has a baby to go into a private ward or an intermediate ward. The people have shown this by voting through their cheque books, that is, by opting for intermediate or private ward accommodation. At least 70 per cent of Australians who insure have opted that way. That man wants his wife or his children to have intermediate or private ward accommodation. Can that man afford - on top of that tax and on top of other rising costs caused by inflationary tendencies - to pay another $80 or $120- whatever the figure may be - a year for that privilege? I suspect that that man will be deeply hurt, and most hurt of anybody, under this scheme.

Mr Street - Especially if his wife is working.

Mr CHIPP - Especially, as the honourable member for Corangamite interjects - I thank him for his interjection - if his wife is working because each of them will pay a 1.35 per cent tax. That is an intolerable situation for any young family to find itself in.

I return to the fourth point that I made earlier, that is, reduced freedom of choice. I have mentioned that the Government, in its Bill, reduces freedom of choice of a doctor. I dwell briefly on this point. I know that my colleagues will develop this point later in the debate. The scheme reduces or eliminates freedom of choice in the choice of an insurance fund up to standard ward level. The Minister, myself and many members on this side of the House, have had some discussion and argument about how many people are now covered by insurance, by the pensioner medical service or other sorts of health insurance cover. The Minister's figure is 87 per cent; our figure is 92 per cent plus. But for the sake of argument let us split the difference and say that 90 per cent of people are covered today. The Opposition believes it is more, but let us just say that it is 90 per cent of the population.

The Government says: This is no good. We will disregard the wishes of that 90 per cent of the population and we will force those people to pay insurance into a Government health fund through the taxation mechanism.' The Government says: To hell with the ex pressed wishes of 90 per cent of the Australian people to be covered voluntarily by a health insurance fund of their own choice. We will force them into this monstrous, monolithic, bureacratic, mind boggling, one single Government insurance fund which, at the last count, will handle the again mind boggling figure of something like 90,000 claims every day of the week.' Only the mind of a nonsocialist would boggle at that kind of single, monolithic, Government fund handling that volume of work. But the minds of honourable members on this side of the House are appalled at such a prospect.

If the Government had argued that universal health insurance cover is desirable, that the 8 per cent to 10 per cent who are at present not covered by health insurance or other means should be covered in some way, and then set about devising some means of bringing in that 8 per cent to 10 per cent, leaving the 92 per cent to their own voluntary choice, that sort of move would have had my complete support. But the Government has gone the other way with the 92 per cent. It is already looking at the ones who have voluntary health insurance. It will add to their taxes and force most of them and their families into public wards whereas 70 per cent of them already choose to insure for intermediate or private accommodation.

I come to the last point of my amendment - nationalisation. My colleagues will take up other important issues raised in the Bill and its associate Bills, such as the worrying aspect of identity cards; the doubtful provisions of section 131; the deep concern felt by liberals about a Government data bank, its mechanical fallibility and the human fallibility of the persons who have access to it; the fact that 70 per cent of Australians have already voted with their cheque books by opting for private or intermediate ward accommodation; the dangers to the doctor-patient relationship inherent in the Government's scheme; the massive injustice to Queenslanders on which I believe my friend the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) will expand.

Mr Hurford - Ha, hal

Mr CHIPP - The honourable member for Adelaide is having one of his rare moments of amusement. When my friend the honourable member for Griffith speaks I am sure that the smile will vanish from his face with astonishing alacrity. Let me conclude by referring briefly to the sixth point in my amendment which is the allegation, agreed to unanimously by all honourable members on this side of the House in the Party room, that by design and intent this Bill is the first stage of nationalisation of health and medical care in Australia. The Opposition supports its charge by no less an authority than the Prime Minister himself. At a Fabian lecture on 25 July 1972 he said:

The major act of nationalisation in the traditional sense to be undertaken by a Labor Government in the next term, will be through the establishment of a single health fund, administered by a health insurance commission . . .

What better, more impeccable, higher authority? What greater source, to use already famous words - or should I say the greatest source - could we use to support our fears? He has kept his promise. This Bill certainly does that. But in its design and intent we believe that it goes far beyond the area of the nationalisation of the health funds. This Bill apparently is just part of a sextet, because 4 other Bills are to be introduced next year to complete the Labor jigsaw.

Do we accept the sugar coated 'innocence' of this Bill or do we believe the publicly professed intentions of the Australian Labor Party about socialisation and the expressed intentions of honest men such as Cass, Everingham, Gun and Hayden, who have gone on record saying that their aim is socialisation of the public sector of medical care, which is palpably on record as their future intent? We certainly cannot disbelieve them in this area where they stand up and are proud to be socialists. The great health debate has gone on for about a year. The task of the Government - not our task - was to prove that its alternative scheme was better than ours. This it has failed to do. Its task was also to persuade the responsible organisations associated with health care that its alternative was better than ours. This also it has failed to do.

For the record let me state that the Australian Medical Association - the federal and 6 State branches, the National Association of Medical Specialists, the Australian Association of Surgeons, the National Association of General Practitioners, the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia, the National Standing Committee of Private Hospitals, the Association of Medical Superintendents of Australian Hospitals, the Catholic Hospitals of Australia, the Freemasons Hospital, the National Conference of Major Superiors of Catholic Religious Orders, the

National Conference of Junior Chambers of Commerce - I could go on with the list - have failed to be persuaded by Labor's scheme. Its task was also to persuade the people of Australia that its alternative was better than ours. This also it has failed to do. A gallup poll reported in the Melbourne 'Herald' on 12 September 1973 showed that 54 per cent of Australians preferred the Opposition's scheme and only 43 per cent supported the Government's alternative. Therefore, as a responsible Opposition, we will react to this Bill and the associated measures in the only responsible way - by total, vigorous and unequivocal rejection.

Mr SPEAKER -Is the amendment seconded?

Mr MoltenI second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.

Or CASS (Maribyrnong - Minister for the Environment and Conservation) (3.33) - First of all I would like to touch on some of the points made by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). He suggested some positive aspects of the Liberal-Country Party health scheme as if they were something the Government had not thought of before and, what is more, that the Opposition had not thought of before either. For example, he came out with the statement that health care reasonably available is a right. Surely no one has ever denied that. Surely that is what all of us should be aiming for. The problem with the present scheme is that the right is limited by one's financial capacity in many situations unless of course one happens to be a really indigent type of person or a pensioner.

Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Who has ever denied the right? Give us an instance.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I intend to maintain silence as far as possible. If the honourable member for Cowper interjects again I will name him.

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