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Wednesday, 12 December 1973
Page: 2742

Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) -Mr President,I am pleased that you have noted that Senator O 'Byrne read most of his speech this evening and that it was necessary for you to draw his attention to the fact. We would be most interested to know who wrote that speech for the honourable senator.

The Senate is dealing with two particularly important pieces of legislation- the Health Insurance Bill 1973 and the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973- and it is incumbent on the Senate to give them the closest attention. I think it is worth noting that these 2 measures were introduced into this House on 1 1 Decemberyesterday. As important as health is to this community, the Labor Party in its wisdom has decided after 12 months in office- and it has celebrated that 12-month period- that it is appropriate to bring in 2 health Bills at the very end of this session. It is the Government's decision that they should be debated this day. They are of sufficient importance that greater attention should be given to the length of time spent in debate on these Bills in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. But the unique situation that we are in is that several other pieces of legislation- the exact number of which we know not- which apparently are of great import to the health of this community are to be brought in some time in 1974.

We note that in his second reading speech on the Health Insurance Bill, the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) said:

Further legislation relating to the scope and operation of private health insurance organisations and the introduction of levies on taxable income and on motor vehicle third party and workers' compensation insurers and the protection of individual privacy will be introduced in the autumn sittings of 1974.

Senator Little - He does not tell us whether it is the companies which accept the premiums or the people who pay them.

Senator WEBSTER - I note your point, Senator Little. It is most important that the Senate should be aware that we are having presented to us a piecemeal approach to most important legislation concerning the Australian public. Particularly significant changes in health services to the community are proposed in these Bills by the Australian Labor Party. The Opposition opposes the legislation and will vote against it because we believe that it will lower the quality of medical care for Australian families; that it will increase the total costs for the Government and thus the taxpayers; that it will increase total costs for the majority of taxpayers because they can maintain the present quality of their health care only by additional heavy commitments for private insurance; that it will reduce the freedom of choice; that it will jeopardise the future of religious, private and country hospitals; and by design and intent it will be the first stage of nationalisation of health and medical care in Australia. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later hour today.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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