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Wednesday, 12 December 1973
Page: 2741

The PRESIDENT - Are you quoting from a document, Senator O 'Byrne?

Senator O'BYRNE - I am quoting from copious notes, as most of my colleagues do.

The PRESIDENT - That is some other President's ruling, one with which I do not go along.

Senator O'BYRNE - Would you like to make a ruling on it, Mr President?

The PRESIDENT - Yes. I suggest that you make a speech in accordance with the Standing Orders.

Senator O'BYRNE -I am making a speech in accordance with the Standing Orders.

The PRESIDENT - It is not in accordance with the Standing Orders.

Senator O'BYRNE -I will just continue from my notes and conclude by saying what magnificent hypocrisy there is in the statement by doctors that whereas patients eligible to be treated publicly may wait for weeks for admission they can be treated in private beds the next day. What sort of social attitudes produce a system in which all of the delays and all of the inefficiencies are borne by those who are unable to buy themselves out of it?

Senator Rae - Who wrote this for you?

Senator O'BYRNE - The blame for this situation lies squarely with the governments, Federal and State, which the Opposition now represents. I do not have to have anyone to write that for me. That is a fact. For 23 years this country has been lumbering away under the burden of governments that have had no thought for the ordinary person and that have been assisting those who have been taking the cream and leaving the skimmed milk for the general population.

Senator Little - You are going to tax the kids.

Senator O'BYRNE -I will speak to Senator Little about the position in Victoria. For example, the population of Victoria increased by 2 1 per cent between 1965 and 1972. May I quote these figures, Mr President?


Senator O'BYRNE -I repeat that the population increased by 21 per cent between 1965 and 1972. During this period the number of public hospital beds increased by only 8 per cent, whereas the number of beds in private hospitals increased by no less than 27 per cent. Even worse, all of the increase in the public hospitals was in intermediate and private accommodation, the number of public ward beds having actually declined. That is the fellow feeling that Senator Little and his colleagues in the Australian Democratic Labor Party have for the ordinary working man. This occurred at a time when the number of pensioners eligible for public ward treatment rose by 48 per cent to 325,000.

The Australian Government has positive proposals to remedy this scandalous situation. Under the new insurance program the Government will meet the full cost of the treatment of hospital patients without charge in religious and charitable hospitals which wish to participate in the program. They will be free to maintain their own admission policies and to retain the right to appoint their own boards of management and their own medical staffs. The Government is prepared to make substantial sums available to the States for the construction of public hospitals in a way which will correct the blatant distortions which now afflict the public hospital system. In the meantime the Government's offer to nonprofit hospitals is both generous and equitable. I challenge any member of the Opposition to say that this is not what the Austraiian community wants and needs and will get.

The PRESIDENT - Senator O'Byrne, you are the father of the Senate. I have served with you in this Senate for many years and I have never found you to have to rely on such copious notes in the past, and I hope that you will not do so in the future.

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