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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 4452


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! Honourable members on the Government side will remain silent also. The honourable member for McMillan is entitled to be heard without this chatter of argument across the chamber. I call the honourable member for McMillan.


Mr Holten - Just as well you included the Government.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I warn the honourable member for Indi.


Mr HEWSON - I repeat what Dr Cass, the honourable member for Maribyrnong, said as reported in the 'Sunday Telegraph' of 23 July 1972. He said:

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.

That is a pretty fair indication of how the Minister for the Environment and Conservation approaches the subject. It would be intolerable if a Labor Government were to use the alibi of the Constitution to excuse failure to achieve its socialist objectives - doubly intolerable, of course, because it is just not true that it need do so.

Charging medical treatment on the Government will not make it cheaper. Governments produce nothing themselves, except Public Service salaries. We want a health insurance scheme in which the citizen is always treated as an individual human being. I am quoting the remarks of Dr A. J. Forbes, former Minister for Health, which I understand he has quoted this evening. He said on 21 December 1972 - it bears repeating:

We want a health insurance scheme in which the citizen is always treated as an individual human being and not just as a cog in the medical care machine. We want a scheme in which his feelings, his convenience, even his idiosyncracies, are respected, in which he always remains a person and not just an illness or a cipher on a computer card. We also want a system which encourages a degree of self-reliance and which does not encourage the individual to rely entirely on the machinery of some monolithic government agency for care and sympathy - qualities which any bureaucracy, however well motivated its personnel, is ill-equipped to provide.

To support that argument let me quote the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) as reported in Hansard of 13 October 1971 at page 2260. He said:

.   . already we have seen that the subsidised health benefit plan is not working for the very reason that there is too much bureaucracy involved.

Here we are talking about creating another bureaucracy.

There is no doubt as to the Labor Party's intentions. I again quote the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden. In the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of 6 September 1972 he is reported 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.

What happens now under the socialist scheme? Costs will soar because health care becomes virtually free for all at the point of consumption, and responsibility for containing costs is removed from both patients and doctors.

What is Mr Hayden proposing in the area of ancillary services? At present many medical benefit fund contributors receive limited benefits for ancillary services, such as attention from physiotherapists in private practice. These limited benefits are provided without additional contributions. As proposed by the Bill such benefits will be lost. But by our amendment we propose to extend the range of ancillary care. The Minister seems incapable of learning from overseas experience. The Canadian scheme has been likened by Ontario's Health Minister, Dr R. Potter to a Frankenstein creation, out of control. The politicians have been warned in time. Now it is up to them to reform the monster before it bankrupts the economy and destroys itself. ls this what we want for Australia? The English scheme is presently being restructured in an effort to cut the administration costs which inevitably hang like a millstone around the neck of a nationalised scheme.

My experience of hospital administration convinces me that this scheme is unworkable. It will kill the initiative and the incentive of those who provide preferred hospital accommodation. My concern is shared by most hospitals. I shall quote an example from one hospital only. The Board of the Freemasons Hospital of Victoria stated:

According to the White Paper the Government has endorsed the idea of a dual public-private hospital system. Such a system will only continue if families are able to pay for extra private insurance. We consider many families will be prevented by the scheme from doing this, especially when both husband and wife are working and both pay the 1.35 per cent levy. Such families will seek admissions to public hospitals, which will adversely affect the concept of a dual system and also impose unnecessary burdens on accommodation available in public hospitals. Further, there seems no practical way in which a hospital the size of the Freemasons Hospital can continue public and private beds. Accordingly, it is submitted that the White Paper scheme in its present form is impracticable to operate so far as it relates to the Freemasons Hospital and likely to result in endangering the continued existence of this hospital.

That would be one example only of the situation facing many private hospitals in the community. I submit that this legislation is not worthy of this Parliament.







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