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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 3237

Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation) - I wish to reply very briefly to what has been said by some Opposition speakers. The purpose of clause 38 (b) is to retain the number of existing friendly society pharmacies. We think it would be most disgraceful if the friendly society pharmacies- they are small in number and do provide services for many people who would not, in the past at any rate, have been able to afford to obtain pharmaceutical goods without the existence of friendly societies- were to be destroyed through the introduction of a national health scheme. I would be interested to know what suggestion could be made as to how the same sort of taxation provisions as are applied to a private entrepreneur could be applied to a cooperative of the nature of friendly societies which conduct pharmacies. I think this is contrary to the encouragement to which lip service is paid by most governments which would be content at least to say that they were in favour of cooperative enterprises. I believe that the Opposition should be clear about what it is saying here. It is saying something which is consistent with the whole theme of its approach to a national health scheme. The Opposition Parties believe that health services ought to be conducted for profit, whether it is by a private medical practitioner, a private hospital or a private pharmacy. What we are trying to do in this case is to encourage the sort of thing which they have said in debates on other Bills in relation to social welfare which have come before this place ought to be encouraged, namely private initiative. Although it is not private enterprise in the ordinary sense of the words 'co-operative enterprise', it is private initiative. I am informed that according to the Commissioner of Taxation- I know he is not held in very high regard by some members of the Opposition, or at least by one of themthere is no differentiation in taxation as between friendly society pharmacies and private pharmacies. That is what the Commissioner of Taxation informs us. I know that reflections were cast last night on the Commissioner and I hope that we will not hear the same reflections cast on him again this evening. If the argument of the Opposition Parties is that there is some differentiation in taxation, all I can say is that my advice from the Commissioner of Taxation is that this is not so. We do believe in co-operative enterprise as far as health is concerned. We do not believe that health is something which ought to be in the hands of private enterprise for individuals to make private profits from, and for that reason we are opposed to the deletion of sub-clause 38 (b).

Question put:

That clause 38(b) be agreed to.

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