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Wednesday, 11 December 1974
Page: 3383

Senator GRIMES (Tasmania) - I also do not wish to delay the Senate for very long. We have had a feeling of deja vu in this place for about the last 3 years every time that health insurance Bills are debated. Senator Guilfoyle stated quite clearly the Opposition's attitude to these Bills and to the health scheme in general. She gave some outline of the Opposition's plans. I thought at that stage that these Bills would pass away quietly but then the debate became more fascinating with Senator Baume 's rather tortuous logic in attempting to justify his opposition to the machinery Bills. He accepted the fact that there had been 2 elections, that we had won them, that the legislation had been accepted, that a joint sitting took place and that the legislation had been passed. Senator Hall demonstrated quite clearly that he alone on the Opposition benches reads what Mr Hayden and others of us on this side say about health. He is the only person who takes any notice of it.

Last year, before I was a member of this chamber, the proposed scheme came under some criticism because it was a contributory scheme in that the levy on tax to pay for the health scheme was separated from the general taxation. Mr Hayden made it quite clear then that he wanted the levy kept separate because he did not want anyone to be under the false impression that health care would be free. In the recent debate in the House of Representatives, as Senator Hall pointed out, Mr Hayden said quite clearly that if the Opposition persisted in opposing the machinery legislation to carry out our national health insurance scheme we would have to fund it from Consolidated Revenue. This has been pointed out since in newspaper articles. But apparently it was not until Senator Hall came out with his shattering light this afternoon that inspiration suddenly hit the Opposition that this is what would happen and that throwing this Bill out would not necessarily throw out the Government's health insurance scheme.

Senator Townleyhas always been opposed to the principle in this Bill, but this is standard procedure for him. I would expect Senator Townley to support those vested interests who look after the large national health benefit funds. I would expect him to support the gentlemen in these health benefit organisations who elect themselves; organisations which have been described in a rather quaint way by Mr Chipp as cooperatives, yet give their members no vote; which give their members no say in how their funds are used; which lend their public relations officers to the Opposition during election time; which distribute propaganda paid for by the contributors to their funds, to be distributed by doctors and others during election time without asking for the contributors ' permission.

I would expect Senator Townley to support this group of people, as I would expect him to support groups of people like the General Practitioners Society whose principle of fees is the same as that of the retail traders organisationthat a doctor should charge what the public can bear. I dare say that this is the principle in Senator Townley 's shops. This is the principle of that small group of doctors who belong to the General Practitioners Society. To suggest that our scheme does not provide universal access is nonsense. To suggest that it decreases efficiency is nonsense. To suggest that it is an attack on private hospitals is nonsense. But to go on with all the old argument that has been going on since 1968 and 1969 in Australia is crazy.

Senator Townleyreflected on those horrible countries like Sweden, New Zealand and Great Britain which have national health schemes. It is an unfortunate fact, of which Senator Townley would not be aware, that if Australia had an infant mortality rate anything like the rate in Sweden, we would be very proud. In fact, if we could reduce our infant mortality rate to the rate applicable in Britain or in New Zealand we would be very happy.

Senator Baume - How about our suicide rate like Sweden's?

Senator GRIMES -That is affected by the health scheme, is it? If we could increase our life expectation to that which applies in these countries, it would be very helpful indeed. Ask the people of Sweden or New Zealand or Britain whether they would like their health schemes taken away. Let us remember the words of the President of the New Zealand Medical Association who, when he arrived in Australia, said that he could not understand what the Australian doctors were about, why they were so utterly conservative, why they were so frightened of a universal health scheme. I ask honourable senators to read the letter from the President of the Canadian Medical Association who was most incensed at being misquoted by the General Practitioners Society in Australia which suggested that the Canadian Medical Association did not like Canada's health scheme. Honourable senators opposite are reading the articles of the General Practitioners Society, but what is more, they are in the unfortunate situation of believing what is in the articles.

Senator Townley - How many doctors do they have to get to keep the English scheme going?

Senator GRIMES -The English health scheme is not the same as the proposed Australian health scheme. Senator Baume knows it, every doctor in Australia knows it, but Senator Townley, who is not a doctor, does not know it.

Senator Baume - What about Queensland?

Senator GRIMES - The proposed Australian health scheme is the same as the Queensland scheme on the hospital side. I do not see Queensland senators getting up in this chamber and opposing the Queensland health scheme at the present time or at any time. Ask Mr BjelkePetersen whether he is suddenly going to start charging in the Queensland hospitals. I am in a different position from Senator Baume. I do not believe that the paying of a fee makes any difference to the standard of service given by the doctor. I have a higher regard for my colleagues in the community than apparently Senator Baume has.

Senator Baume - I was just correcting a misstatement.

Senator GRIMES - There was no misstatement at all. We know what the English hospital scheme is. We know what the Queensland hospital scheme is. We know that there are private hospitals in Queensland. We know that the health standard in Queensland is almost as good as it is in most other places in Australia. The opposition to this scheme, as it has always been, is to protect the vested interests which control the voluntary health insurance schemes. Senator Townley opposed this legislation when he was an Independent. He is still opposing it now that he has rejoined the fold opposite. He was pretending to be an Independent but his robes were so transparent that he was left looking quite obscene.

Senator Townley - If the Government brings in good legislation I will support it any time.

Senator GRIMES - The honourable senator has never supported anything from this side of the chamber. I am sorry the Opposition is opposing the legislation because this is a good health scheme. It could have been modified if any difficulties came up. I would prefer that the scheme be funded by a levy so that it was obvious to everyone how much they were paying for it. This country needs a universal health scheme. If the Opposition forces the Government to fund it out of Consolidated Revenue I suggest that we will do that in order to provide the people of this country with the health scheme they deserve.

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