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Wednesday, 12 December 1973
Page: 2743

Senator WEBSTER -The Senate resumes the debate on the health Bills which were brought into the Senate yesterday. Basically these are the Labor Party's proposals for a health scheme for Australia. To understand this one has only to read the speech in relation to this legislation which was written by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and one has only to hear the speech by Senator 0 'Byrne-

Senator Rae - Read by him.

Senator WEBSTER -Read by Senator O 'Byrne- you are quite right, Senator Rae. It was a highly hysterical speech, if I may say so. It contained words of spite, as Senator O 'Byrne must agree, against the medical profession and private hospitals. I doubt whether anyone would take Senator O 'Byrne, as a Labor spokesman, seriously on this matter after having heard the speech which he read to the Senate. But the Opposition must take this matter seriously. If that Labor Party speaker is indicative of the attitude of the Labor Party to those who are involved in medical services at this time I believe that the public generally will support the Opposition's move which is for the defeat of this legislation. The view of the Opposition has been stated. Previously I read all the points of our opposition to the legislation. In short they were the lower quality of medical care which is envisaged under Labor's proposals, the greatly increased cost to the majority of the taxpayers, the loss of freedom of choice so far as the individual is concerned, the jeopardy to the whole future of religious, private and country hospitals and, what is more important to many of us, the first stage of Labor's proposals for the nationalisation of health and medical care in Australia.

Labor has proposed a significant change to the method of delivery of health services to the Australian public. This is not inconsistent with Labor's attitude because it proposed that when it came to office it intended to change many things which previously existed in Australia. Labor, and the previous speaker Senator O 'Byrne, said that the Government had a mandate to do what it intends to do. During the suspension of the sitting for dinner I took the interest to look up the promises which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made. Mr President, I will not bore you with what they were but I refer to one matter from his speech. I challenge the Minister for the Media who in this chamber represents the Minister for Social Security and ask him, when he has an opportunity to reply, to please say whether Labor is keeping this promise which Mr Whitlam gave during his speech on the Australian Labor Party policy. Among other things page 10 of 'It's time for leadership' states:

Hospital care will be paid for completely by the Fund in whatever ward the patient 's doctor advises.

That has been completely reneged on by this Government. The Labor Party says it has a mandate for what it proposes to bring in under this health scheme. But this is something which the Prime Minister promised. Honourable senators on the Government side certainly cannot claim that Labor will provide free medical and hospital care in whatever ward the patient's doctor advises. There is the situation. Undoubtedly the Minister may attempt to answer it. I hope that he will. But I think he will be honest and say: 'Well, that is one matter which we perhaps have had to overlook in our endeavour to get a health scheme, such as Labor wishes, under way at this time. ' But it was a promise by the Prime Minister. It is something for which the Labor Party can claim it was given a mandate. But it is not doing that. Labor must stand condemned, if it wishes to say it has a mandate to do that and it does not do it.

The scheme in Australia as it exists at the present time and as it has existed over the past few years has been an excellent scheme. I am attracted to the general Bill which has been put forward by Senator Little of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. This was an attempt by a political party to correct the faults which exist in the present medical scheme and to see whether it could upgrade the service in any way. The upgrading and the modernisation of the present health scheme is required. I do not think that any member of the Parliament will say that there are not progressive measures that need to be taken. But I think that in a gradually improving society where more funds are becoming available obviously these benefits will be brought to the public. Of course the present medical scheme, as we know it is based on the attraction to the public of various important factors. The present scheme leaves some respectability with the citizen. It leaves to the citizen a freedom of selection of the type of hospitalisation he will have, the doctor of his choice and the method by which he will insure himself. An obligation is left to the citizen to do that.

Privacy is retained in the present scheme which, under Labor's proposal, will not exist. At the present time there is pride left in the medical profession which I am quite certain will disappear under Labor's proposals. There is a competitive nature in the research which one finds in various areas of hospitals these days, whether it be private, public, specialised or country hospitals. There is a different area of interest in each type of hospital. We find that various areas of research lead to benefits in our health services in this country. There is a dual development of private and public hospitals. One can see that under Labor's proposals this will be eliminated if Labor has its wish. I notice that Senator O 'Byrne is quiet when it comes to stating whether Labor wishes to see the abolition of private hospitals in the community.

Senator O'Byrne - Of course we do not and the honourable senator knows it.

Senator WEBSTER -The honourable senator shakes his head but indeed he does. The present Minister, Mr Hayden, approximately 12 months ago when speaking of Labor's proposals for a socialist philosophy in relation to hospitals said:

Labor is a socialist Party and its aim, as far as medical care is concerned, is for the establishment of public enterprise.

Senator Gietzelt -Hear, hear!

Senator WEBSTER -We hear 'hear, hear' from the great left wing socialist Senator

Gietzelt. He certainly wishes to see the elimination of private hospitals. The honourable senator with his ' hear, hear ' shows he agrees. He does it very appropriately. But Labor in its proposals casts aside many of its principles in its headlong drive for complete Government control of medical services in this country. Labor's proposals have effected the States, hospitals which exist at this time, various medical professions and the insurers. For one who has some pride in the achievement of the present system there is reason to believe that these philosophies of Labor are not for the good of our society. The introduction of similar schemes can be seen in overseas countries. My voice is going a little hoarse and I would be quite pleased if the Senate would be quiet for a moment or two. After the introduction of schemes in Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand we heard news from those great countries indicating that their medical schemes were a failure. Yet we find that the Labor Party, in the goodness of its heart, thinks that a scheme similar to those operating in those countries should be adapted to the Australian situation. I recall a report on 'This Day Tonight' on the New Zealand medical scheme. The reporter said to Dr Geiringer who I understand is the Minister in that country:

Another measure of the decline in the New Zealand scheme is the over-strained public hospital system. The vast base hospitals which dominate the city-scapes simply cost too much to be extended to meet demands. The result: for non-urgent surgery, the waiting list in some cases is up to three or four years- gall bladders, hernias, cartilages, varicose veins- anything troublesome but not vital has low priority. . . . The chronic bed shortage has meant a massive swing to private health insurance. Ten years ago, it was virtually unheard of in New Zealand. Now perhaps 1 5 per cent of the population has opted for medical insurance- the only way of guaranteeing elective hospitalisation.

One could quote from other statements that have come from the several countries I mentioned. I have a copy of what was written by one British general practitioner to a medical friend in Queensland. The British doctor said: 1 have long since given in to the system. If the National

Health Service wants me to be a sorter and form-filler, if it's what my patients want and the Hospitals expect, why should I fight them all? I no longer seek adventure and interesting cases but an easy time. In assessing a case for admission I don 't think (as I used to), 'Is it essential?' but, provided the hospital would happily accept it, 'why not?' The patient and relatives will prefer it and will save me ' X ' number of visits and possible worry. I am thinking of pneumonia, cardiac failure, threatening miss, etc I adopt the same attitude to OP referrals. I do no maternity. No casualty work or minor surgery. No family planning. (This could be a mistake- it is paid per item of service as regards smear tests.) I have reduced home visiting to a minimum. I do no night work after bedtime. I do no weekend work . . .

One can gather from that statement what is taking place in relation to nationalised health schemes. I was speaking to a visitor to Canberra last week who told me about taking the opportunity to visit the . medical centres m Canberra which this Government has set up. One is under the control of four private doctors and the other is operated by salaried doctors. I do not wish to criticise salaried doctors but that individual was able to say to me: 'You can see externally and from a quick visit internally which is the Government run operation. ' I suggest it may do honourable senators good if we go out and see how these Government operations are being run. Labor's scheme introduces the philosophy of socialists. Prior to Labor coming to office it was said that there would be complete central control by the Government. I hold the view, Mr Presi-dent, that at the present time the Australian public is becoming alert to Labor's true aims. The uneconomic, the inefficient, the expensive and the labour-intensive use of Government ownership and direction are typical of what Labor is introducing in every area where it wishes to see central government domination. Labor is using public funds in my opinion to surround itself with a publicity force and physical assistance in the form of its personal friends to assist it in putting its own cause to the public. It is rather regrettable that that should be brought about but it is quite obvious what Labor is intending to do in relation to many areas. We see it in the structure of our industries, we see it in our mineral industries, and we see it in our manufacturing industries. Nowhere is it more evident than in the Bill before the Senate relating to the health of the community.

In my view there are three particularly important areas where this legislation will have a great effect on the Australian public. One relates to the type of health service that will be delivered to the public. There are to be free public wards. That sounds wonderful. However, Mr President, you and I know that nothing is actually free. Somebody will be paying for it. When the Labor Government says that it is going to give it to us free you can bet your life that somebody will be paying the bill. All residents of Australia, according to the Minister's second reading speech, are supposed to be covered automatically. Pensioners are to receive a specialist service. In fact at least 85 per cent of the doctor's bill is to be paid by the Government operation and each visit or each attendance by a medical practitioner will cost no more than $5.

It is supposedly a free health scheme but one only needs to look into various areas to realise that it will not be a free health scheme for those who choose to have something a little better than public ward attention as they have been able to choose for many years in the past. Again I realise that it is Labor 's philosophy for everyone to have public ward attention so that there will be no choice by the individual of an upgrading or otherwise. The Government will lose the initative, as I see it, of the medical profession. It aims at having a totally employed community. There will be a great extra cost if an individual wishes to have intermediate or private ward treatment. The Minister has said that this is to be a complete medical service paid for by the Government. He knows that that is far from true. There is another point which I regard as being of concern. Perhaps I can refer to my friend Senator Little of the Democratic Labor Party, although I do not wish to refer to the DLP regularly. Senator Little has been attempting to get the Minister to say what will be the actual cost of this scheme.

Senator Little - I am going to tell the Government later.

Senator WEBSTER -Senator Little has been attempting in the last week to get the Minister to answer some questions. Under the present scheme, an individual may pay $60, $70 or $80 into an insurance fund. I pay $90 for my family. The point is that under the present scheme a member of the public is able to deduct that contribution from his taxable income. The lowliest worker is able to deduct that amount from his income. If he pays X cents in the dollar in tax he gets an immediate refund for his medical and hospital cover. What is the truth about this Government's scheme? We heard no word from the Minister. He tried for three or four days to avoid Senator Little's questions. The fact is that there will be no such deduction under this scheme. Not once has the Labor Party said that it is going to save $200m- or is it $300m- on tax rebates to the public. Such rebates will be eliminated under this scheme. Does the public know that? The Labor Party has never told u;. As late as last week in this Senate 'here wen honourable senators who were still attempting to find out the truth about the Labor Party's scheme. Most people in the community will be paying a higher amount for the type of health service which they want than they pay under the present scheme.

Senator O'Byrne - That is untrue.

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