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Wednesday, 16 October 1974
Page: 1798

Senator Baume asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:

(   1 ) Has a letter been written by the Minister for Social Security to the State Ministers for Health setting out the Commonwealth offer on Federal contributions to the funding of hospitals under the proposed new National Health Insurance Scheme.

(2)   In what manner do the offers vary from the proposals contained in the 'White Paper'.

(3)   Are there any qualitative variations in the offers made to the States, one compared with the other.

(4)   Will the Government, in the interests of 'Open Government', make the letters public, so as to enable electors to know the basis of the offer being made to their respective State governments.

Senator Wheeldon - The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1)   I have written to State Ministers for Health, setting out the suggested contents of the proposed agreements between the Australian and State Governments on the provision of public hospital services, including funding of hospitals. The purpose of my letter was primarily to seek each Health Minister's reaction to the general principles of the proposed agreement, which is based on the Heads of Agreement set out in Schedule 2 of the Health Insurance Act 1 973. I further proposed that once the Health Ministers had given a general indication of their views, officers of my Department and the Health Ministers' Departments might proceed to develop a detailed proposal for our examination.

(2)   The proposals contained in the document are based on the White Paper.

(3)   No.

(4)   The interests of open government have been better served by procedures adopted in this matter than on any other matter handled by any government previous to 1972. There was intensive public discussion on the 'Green Paper' and subsequently the 'White Paper' on the Health Insurance proposal extending over several months. The principles proposed in the letter to the States are set out in Schedule 2 of the Health Insurance Act 1973, as mentioned in paragraph ( 1 ) above.

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