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Thursday, 27 February 1975
Page: 820


Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Speaker,I wish to make a personal explantion


Mr SPEAKER -Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?


Mr SNEDDEN - I was misrepresented by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in that he alleged that I had not been consistent in the report which appeared in the 'Australian Financial Review' about Medibank. What I was asked was: 'Would you abolish the Medibank scheme?' My reply was:

It will depend on the extent to which the Medibank scheme had been imposed on the public. The freedom to reverse the scheme in its entirety is in practice confined.

We would, therefore, establish the manner by which we would restore the fundamentals. For example, freedom of choice of doctor and hospital and tight supervision of the expenditure of funds so that the alleged 'free' scheme does not send the community bankrupt.

When returned to office, we may be confronted with an irreversible situation. This was the experience many years ago of the British Conservative Party when they took office.

I do not accept the arguments which have been produced by the Government. My great concern for the Medibank scheme is that it would cause a massive increase in taxes for everybody. It will be much more expensive for the patient. He will pay more for health cover even though the sum will not be labelled ' health insurance '.

The percentage of gross domestic product going to health is estimated by the Prime Minister to grow to 12 per cent. No Government could finance that without a massive increase in taxes. The only alternative would be to savagely prune other government expenditure, for example, education, social welfare, defence or development

In present-day terms, this cost can be measured. The increase is from 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product, or about $3,200m, to 12 per cent of gross domestic product, or about $7,200m. Therefore, even to add all education spending ($l,535m) plus all defence spending ($ 1,500m) would not pay Labor's health services bill.

Professor Downing last December, in speaking about the compensation scheme, the superannuation scheme and the health scheme said: 'Each of them is admirable in itself. Add them together, however, and the total cost on prospect is sobering. The total cost to public revenue of these 3 major proposals is just on $4,900m, about 10 per cent of gross domestic product.'


Mr Uren - I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition is going beyond a personal explanation. He is making a very broad statement which has no relevance at all to the personal explanation.


Mr Chipp - If you uphold that point of order, Mr Speaker, the game is crook.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! That is an uncalled for interjection. The honourable member should wait until I have made a decision.


Mr Chipp - We expect a fair go.


Mr SPEAKER -The honourable member for Hotham should know better than to make a stupid interjection like that.


Mr Uren - My point of order was that the Leader of the Opposition is making a broad statement not relevant to the personal explanation. It is going far wider than that issue.


Mr Killen - On the point of order: The allegation made against the Leader of the Opposition this morning was quite specific and the right honourable gentleman in his reply is referring in specific terms to the occasion.


Mr Innes - The old bush lawyer again.


Mr Killen - At least I have some claim to respect justice. I cannot say that for the honourable member. The Leader of the Opposition is referring in specific terms to the occasion from which the allegation has been made. I submit that the right honourable gentleman is impeccably in order.


Mr SPEAKER -Everyone in the House would know that it is the duty of the Speaker to see that honourable members' remarks are relevant to the matter in relation to which they have been misrepresented. I ask the right honourable gentleman to make his explanation along those lines.


Mr SNEDDEN -Mr Speaker,I was quoting the full statement that I made. I wish to complete it. I said:

Professor Downing last December, in speaking about the compensation scheme, the superannuation scheme and the health scheme said: 'Each of them is admirable in itself. '


Mr Uren -i take a point of order. What have Professor Downing 's comments to do with the misrepresentation of the Leader of the Opposition? I am asking that this place come to order and that a fair go be given to both sides. The person on the other side is not in a privileged position.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I will give the rulings in this place, not the Minister. If he is dissatisfied he can move a dissent from my ruling. The point is that I will give the rulings here. It would be utterly impossible for any Speaker of this House to ascertain what is purely relevant to any statement that is made outside. Would honourable members expect any Speaker to be aware of every statement that is made throughout Australia appertaining to every Minister? It would be utterly impossible. The fact is I am not quite sure what was said on this occasion. I am asking the Leader of the Opposition, in all fairness, if he would keep to the point where he was personally misrepresented.


Mr SNEDDEN - I am about to conclude my personal explanation, Mr Speaker, I quote:

Each of them is admirable in itself. Add them together, however, and the total cost on prospect is sobering. The total cost to public revenue of these 3 major proposals is just on $4900m, about 10 per cent of gross domestic product. The additional burden will fall mainly on lower-income people . . .


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Leader of the Opposition I think is now getting on to the subject matter in regard to the total cost.


Mr SNEDDEN -Mr Speaker,I have only 3 lines to complete the quote which is:

The additional burden will fall mainly on lower-income people not now contributing to private schemes. This increased revenue will all have to be raised through direct or indirect taxes and will involve an increase of tax revenue from 22.3 per cent of the gross domestic product to 28 per cent- an increase of 25.5 per cent.

That was in then current terms. The final sentence of the statement was:

I know the Prime Minister and his Government would not disagree with Professor Downing on these estimates.

Now, Mr Speaker -


Mr SPEAKER -Order! You are now debating the question.


Mr SNEDDEN -No, I specifically am not going to debate the question.


Mr SPEAKER -What has this to do with your personal explanation?


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - On a point of order, Mr Speaker, how long are you going to allow this man to go on?


Mr SPEAKER


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I ask you, Mr Speaker, to make the Leader of the Opposition sit down.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Leader of the Opposition has no right to go further in his explanation other than to state where he has been misrepresented. He cannot debate the matter any further. I will ask him to resume his seat if he gets away from his personal explanation.


Mr SNEDDEN -You will be entitled to do so, Mr Speaker and I will do so. The misrepresentation was to the effect that there was some change in my attitude towards opposition to the Medibank scheme. Let it be totally clearly understood that I am completely and absolutely opposed to the Medibank scheme, have been and will continue to be. Both the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party are totally opposed to the Medibank scheme. If the Minister says anything to the contrary he is misusing the truth.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! That is a statement. That is not a personal explanation.







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