28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. J. F. Cope) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a matter of privilege. Yesterday afternoon, the Canberra correspondent of the Melbourne ‘Sun News-Pictorial’ approached me and asked me whether I had written a letter to the Melbourne ‘Sun NewsPictorial’ advocating a No, No vote at next Saturday’s referendum. I said that this was not the case. He advised me that a letter had been received at the office of the Melbourne ‘Sun News-Pictorial’ on House of Representatives notice paper, signed with what purported to be my signature. I read this letter to the House. It states:
Latest legal opinion obtained by the Australian Government indicates that power to make laws with respect to wages will be conferred on the Parliament if the coming Referendum in relation to Prices is carried in the affirmative irrespective of the result of the Referendum in relation to incomes.
Accordingly, wage earners should be careful not to give this power to the Parliament because although the present Labor Government will not use this power, there is no doubt that a non-Labor Government will do so.
May I proceed to say something about this, Mr Speaker, or is it appropriate for me to move a motion?
-Order! The honourable gentleman did consult me and the Clerk last night about this matter. Due to the seriousness of it and the urgency of making the honourable member’s position quite clear, I suggest that the matter proceed forthwith and that the honourable member move a motion.
– I move:
That the matter of the letter dated 2 December 1973 written to the editor of the ‘Sun News-Pictorial’ in the name of the honourable member for Casey, and published in the Melbourne ‘Sun News-Pictorial’ on 6 December 1973 be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
I hand to the Clerk of the House a copy of the letter concerned and a copy of the newspaper concerned. Judging from the interjections made already by honourable members opposite, there is some tendency on that side of the House to take the matter lightly. I suggest to those honourable members opposite, that there are at least 4 matters arising from this letter which should be of as much concern to them as to members on this side of the House. In the first place, I refer to the misuse of the stationery of this House; secondly, to the forgery of the signature of a member of this House to a letter for publication; thirdly, to the misrepresentation of the views of a member of this House who advocated a yes, yes vote at the referendum; and, fourthly, to the misrepresentation of the legal position in the matter of the prices question.
Any honourable member opposite is as vulnerable as any honourable member on this side of the House to what have come to be known since Watergate as dirty tricks. I think it is the more important that this matter should go to the Committee of Privileges, representing, as it does, a disconcerting tendency in the political life of this country. Honourable members will have no trouble in recalling the way in which the Liberal Party inserted advertisements in the name of the convenor of the Australia Party, Mr Gordon Barton, at the time of the last election, encouraging Australia Party voters to depart from their Party card. Honourable members will have no trouble in recalling that in my own electorate of Casey the Liberal Party offered to pay the cost of printing the Australia Party how to vote cards if it would change its preference allocation.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. This has nothing to do with the case and it is not true.
– It is all true and it is all part and parcel of the same thing.
-Order! The House will come to order. I have given the honourable member for Griffith a lot of latitude. NowI am warning him that if he does not behave himself I will certainly take action.
– What about him, Mr Speaker?
- Mr Speaker-
– Get on with it.
– I cannot imagine why honourable members opposite are so anxious that the matter should be hurried. If they found themselves in my position over this matter they might take a different view. It seems to me to be in the interests of every honourable member of this House that practices of this kind should be exposed and discouraged before they become more common. If honourable members on the other side of the House take another view, let them say so. It seems to be the case. I have cited two instances which have occurred in the last 12 months and which anticipated this particular event. I cite another - in my own electorate of Casey. Half an hour before nominations closed in that electorate there came the nomination of another supposedly independent candidate with the same name and the same initial as myself. He described himself as a student who, as soon as the-
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Casey that he is now getting away from the motion before the Chair. He has a motion before the Chair and he must speak to that motion.
– I will, Sir. I want to say simply this: In the misappropriation of the stationery of the House, in the forging of an honourable member’s signature, in the misrepresentation of the views of an honourable member to be put about in the community on the eve of an important referendum, in the misrepresentation of the legal position in respect of the prices question - we all know well that the legal opinion is in fact opposite to that expressed in the forgery, that when the questions of prices and incomes are raised together, in the event of the incomes question being lost, the prices power could certainly not be interpreted to cover incomes - in) those 4 important respects this is a matter that demands the attention of the House and of the Privileges Committee. When the stationery of the House can be filched, when the signature of an honourable member can be forged, when his views can be misrepresented, when the facts can be misrepresented, it is time we stopped worrying about the arrival of a Watergate situation because it is here already. The plumbers are among us. They have to be rooted out before it is too late.
– Let me say at the outset that I accept that what was purported to be written over the signature of the honourable member for Casey (Mr Mathews) was not his own letter and therefore I support totally the view that the matter should go to the Committee of Privileges. I believe that the person, whoever it might be, who perpetrated this acted despicably. I am glad to say that the matter has been exposed. I hope that the culprit will be identified and can be dealt with adequately, not merely by the forms of this House but, if they are available, by the forms of criminal proceedings. That having been said, I greatly regret that the honourable gentleman did not confine his remarks on the motion in the way that I have responded. I am tempted to respond in kind, but I will not do so. I am fed up with abuse being thrown backwards and forwards in this Parliament, and I will deal with the facts and nothing more.
There is only one matter introduced by the honourable gentleman to which I will refer, and that is the question which he introduced as an argument concerning whether or not prices power would include wages. The honourable gentleman made an assertion of law, and I want to deal only with that because I do not think his assertion is correct. The way in which the honourable gentleman put it was that if prices power were granted it would not include power over wages because, as he put it, if the referendum on incomes were rejected the High Court would say that it had been rejected as incomes, including wages, and therefore wages could not be fitted into prices. As a matter of legal interpretation, that is erroneous. If the High Court were asked to interpret the meaning of the word ‘prices’ it would interpret it according to the ordinary rules of construction and on the basis of the ordinary rules of construction while it is not certain that it would include wages, it is nevertheless the opinion of most lawyers - as the Prime Minister acknowledges - that it would include wages.
I had not intended to raise that matter but as it was put forward as argument by the honourable gentleman I had to respond to it. I will not respond to the rest of the matters. I return to where I commenced. The Opposition fully supports the reference of this matter to the Privileges Committee. I hope - in fact I feel confident - that the people of Australia in voting on Saturday will be in no way influenced by what was purported to be included in the letter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australia Health Insurance Program and any National Health Scheme; That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a General Practitioner, Specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Adermann, Mr Bonnett, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Cooke, Mr Corbett, Mr Drury, Mr Katter, Mr Killen, Mr Morris and Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Drummond, Dr Gun, Mr MacKellar, Mr McLeay, Mr McVeigh, Mr Viner and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will move to immediately revoke all whaling licenses issued by the Australian Government and to reimpose a total ban on the importation of all whale produce.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Gorton, Mr Berinson, Mr Chipp, Dr Forbes, Mr Luchetti and Mr McVeigh.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there are many people in Australia who still prefer ‘God Save The Queen’ as the National Anthem in preference to the alternatives that have been suggested.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will urge the Government to include God Save The Queen’ in any referendum or poll held for the purpose of deciding the future of a national anthem.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Fisher and Mr King.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned men and women of Australia believe in a Christian way of life; and that no democracy can thrive unless its citizens are responsible and law abiding.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will see that the powerful communicator, television, is used to build into the nation those qualities of character which make a democracy work- integrity, teamwork and a sense of purpose by serving, and that television be used to bring faith in God to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Ms McKenzie and Mr Roddocks.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of certain citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they have been deeply disturbed by recent reports of dire famine in Ethiopia, but warmly welcome the moves already made by the Federal Government to provide emergency relief supplies to the area. However, they feel it important that further aid be provided in such measure and for such time as is necessary for the present crisis to be resolved.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government send food, money, medical supplies and other available and needed forms of aid to help relieve the crisis situation which presently threatens the people of Ethiopia.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Crean.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the citizens of Canberra below respectfully showeth:
The petitioners protest at the imminent closure and demolition of the Occasional Care Centre of the Department of the Capital Territory in Alinga Street, Civic Centre, Canberra. The buildings and grounds of the centre provide unmatched faculties for occasional child care: particularly with regard to its convenient central position and the irreplaceable large shady trees.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Centre be not closed nor demolished and that the site be retained in its present form for occasional child care facilities.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) is leaving
Australia today for general discussions on trade matters in Hong Kong, Laos, North Vietnam and Thailand. He is expected to return to Australia on 16 December. During his absence the Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) will be Acting Minister for Overseas Trade and will represent the Minister for Customs and Excise in this House.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the claim by the Minister for Labour some days ago that members of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association had consumed ‘several hundred dozen’ bottles of beer prior to and during his address to that body in Adelaide? Is he aware that several hundred dozen’ means at least 4,800 bottles of beer or at least 24,960 5 oz glasses - an average of 83 glasses of beer per head?
If the allegation is correct, is the Prime Minister’s faith in the ability of his officers to work satisfactorily the following day shattered by the revelation, and has he ascertained the number of officers who were absent next day or the performance of those who arrived at work?
– Will the honourable gentleman blow the froth off and ask his question?
– Alternatively, if the allegation is false, as I believe it to be, does he intend to take stern action against the Minister for making such slanderous utterances against people under his control who are entitled to protection from a malicious, fiendish and reckless tongue? Finally, does the Prime Minister agree that the Australian public is fast becoming sick and tired of the smear and destroy tactics employed by some politicians when they describe others as drunk?
– I have no great concern about what public servants may do in their spare time. I have no reason to doubt that the Australian public servant is as diligent and effective during his long hours of duty as it would be possible for any man or woman to be.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. During the recent New South Wales State elections, in the electoral district of Coogee a number of citizens who applied for postal ballot papers did not receive them, despite the assurance by electoral officials that they were posted. As there is a strong possibilty that certain ballot papers have been either lost or stolen in the post, will the Postmaster-General institute an immediate inquiry into this matter in order to ascertain whether the ballot papers were ever posted and/or whether there was any interference with the mail in order to deprive electors from exercising their right to vote in what is a very close election?
Mi LIONEL TOWEN - This is my first knowledge of this matter. I noticed in the course of the recent New South Wales State elections that there was some reference in other electorates to the fact that the applications had not been received in time, even though they allegedly had been posted some 5 or 6 days before, and there was a further suggestion that in many cases it was too late to send out the voting papers. Coogee is a very important electorate because the balance is so fine. I promise the honourable member, as a matter of urgency that I will have an investigation commenced this day, and I will report further to him and the House.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Did the Chinese Premier, Chou En-lai, tell him that the United States of America should not withdraw its forces hurriedly from South East Asia and the Western Pacific? Did the Chinese leader say that Washington would bear a heavy responsibility for the consequences of rapid disengagement from the area in the encouragement of Russian extension of influence? Is it not true that, by running down our defence forces, Australia is encouraging American withdrawal from the region, because we are seen to be irresponsible in not providing adequately for our own defence capacity, contrary to the concept of the Guam Doctrine?
– It is clear that the first part of the right honourable gentleman’s question is based on a newspaper report. I do not refute, endorse or qualify reports of this nature. I have already said all that I intend to say or believe proper to say about the conversations I had with Premier Chou En-lai. It quite clearly would be impracticable to give an answer to a question without notice on matters which we discussed in 20 hours together, over half that time in formal session across the table. It is enough for me to say that 1 welcome the continuing detente in relations between China and the United States and the continuing detente between each of those countries and some others. The other part of the right honourable gentleman’s question alleged that there was a running down in Australian forces. That is far from the case. The Australian forces are in better heart and shape than they have ever been in peacetime. We have cut away some of the fat; we have built up- the muscle.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is sales tax applied in a way to ensure that no matter where the article is purchased it attracts only the same amount of tax or does it operate to attract additional tax in areas where freight and handling charges cause an increase in the wholesale price of the article? If the latter applies, will the Treasurer examine the situation with a view to rectifying the tax injustice which the previous Government was pleased to impose upon the people in country areas?
– As I think every member of this House knows, in general, sales tax is applied at what is called the level of the last wholesaler. But the wholesale prices of goods of the same kind may differ from vendor to vendor and according to where the goods are sold, so that it is a fact that goods of the same kind do not always attract the same amount of tax, no matter where they may happen to be purchased. While freight, handling and other charges are not subject to tax, they can attract tax where they form part of the actual selling price of goods. This is a matter that has received consideration under the previous Government. A great number of technicalities are associated with it. It has been examined with the possibility of eliminating the imposition of tax on the freight element and I have arranged for the matter to be further looked at to see whether anything can be done to remove what I believe is in many respects an unfair anomaly.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of an article by one of his advisers, Professor Fred Gruen, in the 9 November issue of the ‘ANU Reporter’, in which Professor Gruen asks what is wrong with economists drawing attention to the intractable long-term problems which have often been produced by price controls? Does the Prime Minister agree with Professor Gruen’s claims that price controls have led to 8-year waits for flats in Stockholm, the abandonment of thousands of apartments in New York every year, the virtual cessation of residential building in France in the 1920s and 1930s and many similar examples? Finally, does he agree with Professor Gruen who said: ‘It is up to Bob Hawke to give us some evidence for his assumption that a system of workable price controls can be devised in a mixed economy in peacetime’? If he does agree with Professor Gruen on these matters, will he say so now so that the Australian people will be aware of the dangers of price control before they vote on Saturday?
– The right honourable gentleman is giving wider currency to a distorted report of what Professor Gruen said. Professor Gruen drew my attention to this report. He resents it. It misrepresents him. Like all academic economists in Australia, and I believe the overwhelming majority of the Australian people, he believes that the national Parliament in Australia should have the jurisdication to make laws on prices. He also believes that it should have jurisdication to make laws on incomes and he believes, as all economists believe, that from time to time it is necessary for national governments these days to carry out policies on prices and on incomes.
– Has the Minister for Social Security had the opportunity of noting various medical and hospital benefit claim forms, for instance of the Hospital Benefits Association and the Grand United Order of Oddfellows, which require a claimant to authorise the hospital and medical authorities to supply any necessary information to the respective funds? I have some of these claim forms in my hand. Is the Minister concerned that compulsory authorisation is extracted from fund benefit applicants with the implied threat that no benefits will be paid unless this carte-blanche authorisation is given? Can he take steps to ensure that the privacy of contributors is maintained?
– I have noted at least some of the application forms for benefit refunds used by some of the private insurance funds. I have not looked at them all, of course, and I do not intend to do so as there are more than 90 funds. I have noted on some of these forms a requirement that the applicant must give authority to the fund to have access to information and to use that information. There is no proviso or qualification guaranteeing a limitation on the way in which that information would be used. Given the way in which certain interests in this community, including some of the spokesmen for private health insurance funds, have performed on the issue of confidentiality, I would have thought that in the last 20 years during which private health insurance has operated those funds would have taken adequate steps to write in guarantees of the preservation of confidentiality and a clear statement of the limited use which would be made of this very personal information.
It is a fact that in the private funds there is a wide range of access to the sort of information which is recorded on behalf of applicants to the funds. In those funds which have manual recording systems it would be virtually impossible to maintain an effective check as to who has this access and what is done with that sort of information. This sort of confidentiality of which we are speaking and about which we are concerned will be preserved under the new health insurance program. No steps have been taken by previous governments to preserve it in relation to the present system of private health insurance. I shall certainly take the opportunity now that the honourable member has drawn my attention to this situation, of drawing the attention of the private health insurance funds to their obligations to maintain confidentiality. I shall inquire as to what steps they propose to take to ensure that this confidentiality is achieved.
– Is the Minister for Labour aware of the shortage, amounting almost to total absence, of female assistance in one of the most honourable occupations that a young lady can take up, that of mothers’ help or the rendering of assistance to overworked housewives who do not have access to arbitration and conciliation? Is he aware that this type of assistance is practically non-existent in country areas? Will he discuss this matter with his colleague the Minister for Immigration and point out that the most favourable place for a migrant girl to become proficient in the
English language and to learn of the Australian way of life is in the shelter of an Australian home?
– I found it difficult to hear most of what the honourable member said. Next time he reads a question it would be better if he held his head up a little higher, as then his words might be audible. The question was not quite audible. From what I can gather, the honourable gentleman is asking whether I will support migrant labour for the provision of cheap house maids to wealthy squatters. I did see some reference in the Press only a few days ago to this question, and a question was asked of my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, the other day about the illegal importation of cheap coloured labour to be employed as cheap house help in wealthy people’s homes. I can assure the honourable gentleman that if his inaudible question related to that particular subject he will get no support at all from my Department. We are not prepared to support any proposition that envisages near slave labour for wealthy people’s wives, and that is the answer to that question.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. The Minister will be aware of the increased importance of the payment of pensions to pensioners as the end of the year approaches. I ask the Minister whether he will make the necessary arrangements so that pension payments due just after Christmas will be paid before Christmas.
– Arrangements have been made to achieve this end. The payment date for age and invalid pensions would be 27 December but it has been advanced to 21 December in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory and to 24 December in all other States and the Northern Territory. The payment date for widows’ pensions, supporting mothers’ benefits, child endowment and orphans’ benefits has been advanced from 1 January 1974 to 27 December in South Australia and the Northern Territory and to 28 December in all other States and the Australian Capital Territory. The Department of Social Security will also pay all unemployment sickness, and special benefits a week in advance during the holiday period.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. By way of a short preamble, I take it that we all want to see competition maintained within Australian commerce and we therefore want to see small businesses and small companies successful. Does the Treasurer accept that with the private company tax rate moving up to the public company rate private companies, particularly in an inflationary period, will have difficulty in financing normal growth let alone any expansion? Does the Treasurer accept that in all equity private companies should not be treated differently from public companies by being further disadvantaged in having to pay additional taxation unless they distribute at least half their after-tax profits?
– If the honourable gentleman were serious about competition I suggest that he should have a word with some of his colleagues in another place about the restrictive trade practices legislation. I would indicate to him also the statement made by my colleague, the Minister for Secondary Industry, with regard to setting up a system for assisting small businesses - something that well could have been done years ago and never was. As far as the treatment of private companies is concerned, here again is one of those areas where the honest and the legitimate have been penalised by the sins of the not so scrupulous. The private company law has been one of the most difficult areas and I suppose one of the most fruitful for the unscrupulous for tax evasion and tax avoidance. This Government, as did the previous Government, has endeavoured to close many of those doors. It certainly will make it a lot easier in the future if there be no perpetration of chains of companies where there is not much advantage in being a private company as against a public company. This at least is what we have done by endeavouring to bring ultimately the tax rate for private companies up to the rate for public companies. After all, the only difference between a private company and a public company now will be so far as the number of shareholders is concerned. Private companies, if they wish, can have a greater number of shareholders and become public companies. The sort of logic that underlay the idea that no undistributed profit difficulties exist in relation to the public company was that it was thought that the pressure of shareholders was sufficient to enable a fair distribution to be made. With private companies, because there was a limited number of shareholders who often were closely knit on a family basis, it was easy for the income of a private company to bear less tax than it would have borne if it had been earned by a partnership or by individual activity. I believe that that difficulty still exists as far as the undistributed part of private company profit is concerned.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Urban and Regional Development been drawn to an article in this morning’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’? Does the Minister consider that a Yes vote at the prices referendum on Saturday will encourage a black market in land? Does the Minister agree with Mr R. Ryko, the Managing Director of Parkes Development Pty Ltd - a large land development company - that it is unlikely that the recommendation will get off the ground?
-I have read the report. If a Yes vote is recorded at the referendum on Saturday and control over prices is given to this Parliament, it will mean that after legislation has been passed there will be authority to nominate any area with a view to stabilising land prices. There has been a precedent already. The Prime Minister met with the Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales. They were able to reach an agreement to stabilise land prices in an agreed area in Albury-Wodonga as at 3 October 1972. A formula has been worked out to take account of the increase in the price of land after the stabilisation date has been announced. The Managing Director of Parkes Development Pty Ltd talked about a future black market. Important matters have been brought before this Parliament during the last week. The first was the tabling of the report on the Commission of Inquiry into Land Tenures. One of the recommendations in that report was that when land is rezoned from rural to urban any capital gain that may be made should accrue to the Crown or to the community but not the person, the land speculator or the land developer who has the land. Secondly, legislation was passed by this House for the setting up of land commissions and new growth centres.
This year the Australian Government has made available almost $10Om for the purpose of improving the supply of serviced land, which is an important element in the price of land. We have made available $33m to create new growth centres, $30m for land commissions and $30m to overcome sewerage backlogs. It is my responsibility to nominate growth areas. If the people vote Yes on Saturday, I believe that it will be a great step forward in stabilising land prices. I stress the word ‘stabilising’. It will not mean a freezing of land prices. I assure honourable members that I believe that the report presented by those 3 prominent men - Mr Justice Else-Mitchell of the New South Wales Supreme Court, Professor Russell Mathews of the Australian National University and that progressive and enlightened developer Mr Dusseldorp - is a social landmark in this country. As the Minister responsible, I will be proposing to Cabinet that it give support to their proposals.
– My question is to the PostmasterGeneral. Is it a fact that 29 post offices in the Wakefield electorate have been scheduled either for closure or downgrading? Is this a greater number than in any other electorate? Is the Minister aware that this proposal would be a grievous blow to the people in my electorate and that it is also concerning the Union of Postal Clerks and the Australian Postmasters Association?
– Throughout the passage of many years the Post Office has been continually reviewing its official offices and its non-official offices. So there has been no sudden change of policy. As regards the Wakefield electorate, I knew the honourable member was going to ask the question, and I am able to tell him that the number of nonofficial offices closed in 1972 was 20. So two or three officials would have been downgraded from those offices in 1972. There has been no sudden move to downgrade post offices in the Wakefield electorate, although it does not appear to be making as much progress as other areas. Because of the poor trading results in a great number of post offices in that electorate a greater number have had to be considered. To give an indication, in Brinkworth $3,400 worth of stamps are being sold annually and it is costing $15,000 to keep the post office there open. I am not suggesting that the services should be removed but there is an opportunity to reconsider a more efficient way of handling the business that is there, small as it is. When we are talking about reclassification we are talking about providing the same services on a different basis.
– Who is talking about cheap labour now?
– Cheap labour? It is better than what is being suggested that where there is a declining area we should insist that a postmaster and his family should remain in that area when perhaps they do not want to remain there. There could well be a businessman in the town prepared to provide postal facilities. Obviously the honourable member does not want to help local business. The situation is that no clear policy has been announced suddenly that nas not applied before. But it is true that throughout Australia there are a lot of changes in usage of postal facilities. One of the major changes now taking place is that people are no longer buying money orders or postal orders and instead are using cheques. They do not necessarily require all the facilities that have been provided heretofore. It is for that reason and because of the loss of $10m that is involved - and the only alternative way to make up the loss is continually to increase postage charges, which is something we do not wish to do and have not done - we are giving this matter careful consideration from the point of view of what is reasonable. But I can assure the House that if any community - whether in Wakefield or any other electorate - can show that an existing post office is a viable undertaking and that the community oan support it, the retention of that post office will be given serious reconsideration.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security a question concerning a survey on incomes that has been conducted by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics on behalf of the Committee of Inquiry into Poverty. Can the Minister inform the House whether the processing of the survey returns has been completed? Can he also assure the House that following the completion of the survey, the results will be made public forthwith to enable their use by other organisations in the community concerned with the situation of low income earners?
– I am not certain of the exact position of the survey. It should be close to finalisation, if it is not finalised. I should imagine that the processing would be fairly well advanced. If the survey has been finalised it should be particularly well advanced. If it is close to finalisation there would be substantial processing of returns which have been completed within the total survey. I have a particular interest in the findings or results of the survey which will cover a wide area of particular interest to the Department of Social Security. It will cover low income earners and people in the community who have special need for welfare services and income supplements. Indeed, the whole purpose of the survey was to identify these people and the sorts of profiles that they represent for the development of a welfare program as conceived by the poverty inquiry.
It also has particular interest to all members of the House because I rather expect that we will get a reliable return of the degree to which there is coverage in the community from the current system of private health insurance. As far as I am concerned, the information from the survey can be made available. I have not contacted Professor Henderson on this but I will certainly do so. But largely the responsibility for these matters rests with my colleague, the Treasurer, as the Bureau of Census and Statistics comes within his area of administrative responsibility. I will discuss the matter with him also.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he seeks a Yes vote at Saturday’s referendum in order to transfer powers to the Federal Parliament in order to contain inflation or for some other reason. Does he assert and maintain that all economists, as he told the House a while ago, believe that the Parliament should have power over prices and incomes? I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware of this statement by Professor Michael Parkin, a visiting research economist with the Reserve Bank:
I don’t believe it’s sensible to attempt to control inflation by using either direct controls on prices, or wages, or both; both these policies are fundamentally misguided and are- going to miss the central problem. Therefore, I hope that the referendum in December, both parts of it, are not carried.
-The honourable gentleman is quoting from a newspaper. I ask him to put his question.
– I ask the Prime Minister: In view of Professor Parkin’s statement, will he acknowledge that all economists do not believe Parliament should have these powers and, in fact, some advocate a No vote on both the prices and the incomes questions on Saturday?
– The Deputy Leader of the Country Party, like the Leader of the Country Party, selects what passages suit him from speeches or comments made by economists. I well remember Professor Michael Parkin’s comments about the causes of inflation in Australia. He said that if our predecessor - the Liberal-Country Party Government - last year had revalued the Australian dollar and if it had made an across the board tariff cut, as the present Government has done, inflation would be much less than it is now. He said, furthermore, that if the Liberal and Country parties had been returned to government a year ago and had continued their policies of shelving, because of their internal differences, any matters concerning tariffs or revaluation inflation in Australia now would be at the rate of 20 per cent. I certainly studied what Professor Parkin said all over. The honourable gentleman quite misrepresents him.
After the honourable gentleman’s Leader asked me another selective partial question 1 went out and got a note from Professor Gruen. He stated to me:
A prices and incomes policy has been proposed and supported by many economists including myself, primarily for 2 purposes. First, they have been proposed as a means of controlling or reducing monopoly power in the economy. Secondly, price and incomes policies have a role to play in temporarily containing inflationary price and cost pressures whilst more conventional fiscal and monetary anti-inflationary weapons are being given a chance to act more slowly but more permanently.
It is no surprise to the public in general that the leaders of the Country Party should be resisting prices and incomes powers being reposed in the national Parliament because they do not want monopoly power in Australia to be controlled or reduced. Of course, they would see no purpose in using a prices and incomes policy as a temporary measure until anti-inflationary weapons, which they themselves refused to use, took full effect. I happened to notice in a Queensland newspaper today a big advertisement inserted by the Toowoomba Foundary Pty Ltd - a company which produces agricultural implements and is one of the companies which have exploited the primary producer for decades. It is no wonder that companies such as that oppose the national
Parliament having the power to pass laws on prices. A Country Party Premier, of course, will do nothing to protect country producers. In fact, he shields those manufacturers, such as the Toowoomba Foundary Pty Ltd, which have exploited primary producers for decades.
My view is and always has been that the Australian Parliament should have the concurrent power with the States to pass laws with respect to prices and incomes, as it always has had the concurrent power with the States to pass laws with respect to taxation, bounties, borrowings, currency, coinage, legal tender, banking and insurance. How can there be any such nonsense, except from honourable members opposite, suggesting that the national Parliament should not have these other concurrent economic powers over prices and incomes? Nobody would suggest that the 7 Australian governments could ever effectively get together to pass laws on the matters I have just quoted from the Constitution. Our predecessors sought the collaboration of the State governments on trade practices over the last 12 years, but they never got it. If anything is to be done about prices and incomes policies in this country, it will be done on the initiative of the national Parliament, armed by the Australian people with the necessary contemporary economic power.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which is supplementary to that just asked by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party. Is it not a fact that State parliaments already have the constitutional power to control prices but that to implement price control the State parliaments must assert their power by passing appropriate legislation? Similarly, will the Prime Minister reaffirm that a Yes vote on prices in Saturday’s referendum will not itself impose national price control on any goods and services? Will be remind the Australian people that even after the referendum is carried, despite the deception by people handing out how to vote cards on behalf of but not in the name of the Liberal and Country Parties, no item will be subject to price control until appropriate legislation is subsequently passed by both Houses of this Australian Parliament?
– The honourable member for Adelaide states the position precisely. All that the people can do next Saturday is give the Australian Parliament the jurisdiction to pass laws on prices and incomes. It will then remain for the Parliament to pass such laws. The State parliaments always have had the power to pass laws with respect to prices and incomes. The New South Wales Parliament, in particular, on many occasions in the last 20, 30 or even 40 years has passed laws with respect to incomes. It is because the New South Wales Parliament has passed laws with respect to incomes that in that State all wage and salary earners, male and female, were able to get equal wages and salaries, paid annual holidays, paid long service leave, quarterly cost of living adjustments, sick leave and a great number of other benefits - all done by a Parliament which had the power to pass laws with respect to incomes. All the State parliaments have had that power to pass laws with respect to incomes. In general, they have not exercised it. But if the people endow this Australian Parliament with that jurisdiction next Saturday, then early next year we can expect to introduce laws which will apply equal pay for men and women who are employees everywhere in Australia. We will introduce a program to bring in equal pay for all men and women. We will introduce a law to ensure that there are periodic cost of living adjustments for wage and salary earners as we are doing for pensioners. As regards prices, most of the States from time to time have had legislation to deal with prices.
– Mr Speaker, on a point of order, could you ask the Prime Minister to turn this way occasionally? We feel rather left out of it.
-Order! There has been quite a number of lengthy questions from both sides of the House regarding the forthcoming referendum and no restriction has been placed on the length of the question or the length of the answer.
- Mr Speaker, if the honourable member for Adelaide will pardon my back I will turn to his colleague from South Australia, the honourable member for Wakefield, whose questions on economic matters I have always thought to be the most enlightened coming from the Liberal Party. The South Australian Parliament has legislation on prices, and successive South Australian governments have exercised that power over several commodities and services. This was the case under Sir Thomas Playford and Mr Walsh, and it is the case under Mr Dunstan. It is because that power has been exercised by successive South Australian governments in respect, for instance, of incomes that the medical profession cannot exploit the public in South Australia to the degree that it does in other States, despite the findings of tribunals established by the Gorton Government, the McMahon Government and the present Government.
-What about petrol?
– It is because there is price control in South Australia over petrol that in fact the cost of petrol and oil products in general has been kept down throughout Australia. The other States have applied, in general, price control to commodities such as milk and bread. Quite clearly, the Australian public in general would be much better governed if the Australian Parliament had the power - to be exercised by whatever government the people elected from time to time - to make laws over the whole country for prices and incomes as the Parliament has possessed and as successive governments have exercied for other economic matters.
– Does the Minister for Health know that he was reported by Mr Peter Samuel in the ‘Bulletin’ on 24 November last as saying that he- the Minister - saw- community health centres eventually catering for between 80 and 90 per cent of general practitioner services in Australia, leaving private practice fee-for-service doctors only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the business? Did he say that he saw Australia moving towards the pattern in England and the Soviet Union where only a few well-off people use private doctors? I ask him a simple question in 2 parts: Firstly, did he say it, or anything like it, and, secondly, because of the silence of his usually non-silent colleague the Minister for Social Security, am I right in assuming that the Minister for Social Security agrees with the Minister for Health?
– The report in the Bulletin’ was based on my statement to this effect: Everywhere in the world there is a move towards increasing community responsibility to meet the costs of health care. This has applied in Australia under governments of all colours, as it has applied in Britain under governments of all colours. It has applied to the Soviet Union under a government of one colour - and indeed under governments of one colour in other parts of the world. It is a universal tendency. What I said was this: A doctor recently returned from Europe informs me that, in his estimate, in London and Moscow about 10 per cent of medical practice remains in private hands, that is to say, the doctors practise medicine without any government subsidy whatever. In Britain the doctor outside the national health service has no right to prescribe a subsidised medicine for his patient. The patient must meet the whole cost in Britain of any prescription written by a doctor outside the national health service. This does not apply in Australia. I therefore said that I cannot foresee the day in this country when private practice will fall to a proportion as low as 10 per cent, which is the estimate in Britain and the Soviet Union.
– Were you misquoted?
Br EVERINGHAM - Yes, to the extent that what I am now saying puts an emphasis on the facts completely different from that which was placed on them in the report in the ‘Bulletin’. I did not say that private practice would eventually fall to 10 per cent or 20 per cent. I said I could not see it falling as low as the 10 per cent that applies in those countries where there is no subsidy for private practice. The simple reason for my saying that is that Australia subsidises private practice. I said that the proportion of private practice may fall below 20 per cent, but that I could never see it falling as low as 10 per cent.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During the course of a reply in question time this morning I understood the Prime Minister to say that all academic economists in Australia had supported the granting of the powers proposed in the forthcoming referendum. I retain through my association with the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia some claim to a knowledge of opinion in this area. I would like to say that on a rough count there are at least 40 professors of economics as such in this country and 16 of these- -
– Order! The honourable member is entitled only to make a personal explanation of the way in which he has been misrepresented. I ask him to keep within those limits.
– Sixteen of those gentlemen do not speak for the whole group-
-Order! The honourable gentleman must resume his seat.
– And a significant number of those others-
-Order! I ask the honourable member to resume his seat.
– I raise a point of order. The honourable member can scarcely call himself an academic economist; he was the hired adviser of the Australian Medical Association.
– Order! There is no point of order involved. I ask the House to listen to me, because I want to make it perfectly clear that any honourable member may be granted the opportunity to make a personal explanation only by the indulgence of the Chair. Any honourable member who abuses this privilege will certainly not be allowed to continue to make a personal explanation. This applies to every member of the House. If honourable members want to make a personal explanation they must keep within the prescribed limits and not debate any subject at all. I call the honourable member for Berowra and I ask him to keep within those limits.
– I maintain that of this group a significant proportion-
-The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I am sorry, but I am of the opinion-
-Order! The honourable member must resume his seat. He apparently does not even know how to make a personal explanation.
- Mr Speaker, I wish. to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I asked a question in question time of the Minister for Labour. First, he claimed that my question was inaudible. That is the first time I have ever been accused in this House of being inaudible. In any case, if the Minister could not hear me he might have asked me to repeat my question rather than go on in the way he did. He said, if I remember the words correctly: ‘If he wants cheap labour for that purpose - ‘. My question did not mention cheap labour and I will tell him that at closer range afterwards if he cannot hear me now. My question did not mention cheap labour nor did it imply cheap labour. If the Minister will confer with officers of his Department he will find that domestic labour is scarce at the wages recommended by the Department. I found the answer grossly offensive, but that, Mr Speaker was not surprising.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, on a non-party political point in this morning’s Melbourne ‘Sun’ at page 13 where there appears a heading which reads ‘Chipp - no-hopers to gain. The Government health scheme would benefit only pensioners, migrants, indolents, no-hopers and alcoholics, the Liberal Party welfare spokesman, Mr Chipp, said yesterday’. I cast no reflection on the young man who was at the Press conference and wrote this article. His report of what I said is almost completely accurate. It is the heading to which I object because in fact at that Press conference I said the opposite. I said the present scheme gives preference in public hospitals to the poor, the pensioners, migrants, indolents, drunks and no-hopers. I said the Labor health scheme-
– The Liberal Party need never worry about a shortage of beds.
– I acknowledge that ridiculous interjection to place the calibre of the Minister on record. What I said was the complete opposite of what the heading suggests. I am becoming a little sick and tired, as I think are most other members of Parliament, of sub-editors putting on statements made by members of Parliament headings that have no relation to what those members said.
- Mr Speaker, I ask your indulgence to make a short statement. Some days ago either in a speech or perhaps by interjection I said something about a former distinguished member for Lalor in this House who had been Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a former Labor Government. My statement was incorrect. I said that the Minister as he was at the time, in a Labor government shortly after the War had sold Australian wheat to New Zealand below the world price and cost of production to assist a New Zealand Labor government. That was not correct. It was the predecessor of the Minister for Labor who made the sale, and the files would reveal that. The Minister did what ought to have been done by the Labor government at the time. He carried the can himself and did what he could to see that the matter did not become public. Perhaps he should not have done that, but he carried the responsibility for it courageously. It was his predecessor in the Labor government who sold Australian wheat below cost to help a New Zealand government. If the present Minister wanted to open the files to the public in the true concept of open government, I am sure that they would reinforce what I have said.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in my capacity as a client of the Toowoomba foundry.
– Order! There is no personal explanation involved. I am a shareholder of the Commonwealth Bank and that has often been misrepresented.
– Pursuant to section 58 (1) (C) of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956-1971, I present the annual report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959- 1969, I present the fourteenth annual statement of the operation of the Act and the payment of subsidy during the year ended 30 June 1973.
– For the information of honourable members I table a statement on the Government’s citizenship and settlement policy.
– Pursuant to section 11 of the States Grants (Dwellings for Aged Pensioners) Act 1969, I present the annual statement on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1973. An interim statement was presented to the House of Representatives on 27 September 1973.
– Pursuant to section 23 of the Australian War Memorial Act 1962-1966, I present the annual report of the Board of Trustees of the Australian War Memorial for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements.
Mr MORRISON (St George - Minister for
Science) - For the information of honourable members I present the final summary report of the Project Score survey of research and development expenditures by Australia in 1968-69.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1973. I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
International Terminal Building and Aircraft Aprons at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement in which I will divulge for the first time the full text of the so far secret terms of settlements of the recent Trans-Australia Airlines dispute. I have shown the terms of the agreement to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), who unfortunately is not present, and he has agreed to support my request.
– Is leave granted?
– I have not seen the terms of reference.
– No, I said the Leader of the Opposition, not the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I suggest that the honourable gentlement simply seek leave to incorporate the documents in Hansard because the House has other business before it at present.
-Could I just say in support of my application for leave that the Leader of the Opposition agreed that I be given leave to make a statement. I ask that that promise be honoured.
– On the basis, unknown to me, that some arangement has been made -
– I think it might be possible to establish whether leave was granted. The secretary of the Leader of the Opposition is in the precincts of the chamber.
– I understand that the Leader of the Opposition has granted leave, in which case leave is granted now. I trust that it will be a short statement, unlike those normally made by the honourable gentleman.
– Leave is granted.
– I want to say that yesterday -
– There must be some misunderstanding. The Minister for Labour asked me whether he could put in Hansard the terms of settlement of the dispute. I understood that to mean that he would seek leave to incorporate the terms in Hansard. I agreed readily to that request because I felt that the terms of the settlement should be made public. Had he asked for leave to make a statement, I can assure him that I would have said: ‘Yes, you can have leave if you give us the normal 2 hours notice of the statement so that we can respond to it’. I think that the best thing for the honourable gentleman to do is, by leave, to incorporate the terms of the settlement in Hansard and give us a copy of the proposed statement. Then, in 2 hours, according to what stage of business the House has reached at that time, we will be very happy to give him leave to make a statement.
-The matter of the conduct of the House, of course, has nothing to do with the Chair. Is leave granted?
– Leave will be granted for the Minister to incorporate the terms-
– There can be no debate on the question of whether or not leave is granted. The question is quite clear and it requires a Yes’ or a ‘No’ answer.
– Leave is not granted to make a statement.
– Leave is not granted to make a statement.
– As leave has been refused, I shall seek to make a personal explanation.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been misrepresented by the Press. I had intended to refer to this matter when making my statement on the terms of settlement of the dispute.
-I ask the Minister to restrict his remarks to the area where he has been misrepresented.
– Most of the newspapers today carried a report which purported to represent what I said yesterday during question time in answer to a question relating to the settlement terms of the TransAustralia Airlines dispute. One serious error which appeared in all the newspapers but which I notice does not appear in Hansard states:
TAA could guarantee passage on day of choice to everybody who had purchased tickets’, Mr Cameron said.
That was perfectly correct. The article went on to say:
He said The airline had not re-engaged the dismissed pilot because it had a firm policy from which it would not depart’.
It then goes on to say:
It will always put the safety of its passengers above the private motive or above monetary considerations’.
That is not what I said. My recollection of what I said is borne out by the Hansard report where I am reported as saying:
That is, TAA - will always put the safety of its passengers above the profit motive or above monetary considerations,-
There is another correction that I wish to make. I said yesterday that: in no circumstances will Trans-Australia Airlines give up the right to dismiss a pilot who in the opinion of the Australian National Airlines Commission has committed a serious breach of safety regulations … He is still dismissed and will not be re-employed unless the Department of Civil Aviation in reviewing the case considers that the dismissal was a penalty too severe in the circumstances.
That was not a correct statement of the settlement terms. The settlement terms did not give to the Department of Civil Aviation the right to decide whether the penalty for the breach of safety regulations was too severe. The settlement terms made it perfectly clear that, in the event of the pilot appealing, the Director-General of the Department of Civil Aviation would advise the Minister of his recommendations in respect of the disciplinary action following the decision on that appeal and that the Minister would then advise the Australian National Airlines Commission of the comment and recommendations of the Director-General and ask that these be taken into account in reconsideration of the disciplinary action. The result of such reconsideration shall be referred back to the Minister for final decision. It was not a condition of the settlement terms that the Australian National Airlines Commission or TAA would review the decision to dismiss the pilot. The matter was to be referred to the Minister; but TAA would not necessarily be required as a consequence of the settlement terms to re-employ the dismissed pilot.
The terms of settlement provided that the agreement was not to be used as a precedent in any future cases concerning safety and that there would be no Press statement other than the statement that was then officially agreed to. I have not broken this last section of the agreement and neither has the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). I do not believe that Captain Guggenheimer, Mr Crofts or Mr Gray did. But somebody without any authority has been responsible for spreading the false rumour that the pilots had won the dispute and that the man who had been dismissed for an alleged breach of safety regulations had been re-employed. That is not true. It is not true that the dismissed pilot had been re-employed. Neither is it true that the Pilots Federation had been allowed to resume work under threat to engage in lightning one-day stoppages. The strike threat was lifted unconditionally. I am sorry that the full text of the hitherto secret settlement terms is being kept secret by the decision of the Opposition in refusing me leave to read the full text of the settlement terms.
– by leave - The House will meet again on Tuesday next at 11 a.m., the usual time, and the sitting will continue at the usual sitting hours until the business before the House is concluded. I am unable to indicate when the House will rise.
– Before the honourable member for Warringah commences his speech I should like to refer to standing order 74 in case the point in question is brought up during the course of debate. Standing order 74 states:
No Member may use the name of Her Majesty, her representative in the Commonwealth or her representative in a State, disrespectfully in debate, nor for the purpose of influencing the House in its deliberations.
As the proposed motion will be a substantive motion, the operation of that standing order becomes very wide. I ask honourable gentlemen not in any circumstances to use Her Majesty’s name disrespectfully.
– I move:
That, in the opinion of this House, Australia’s National Anthem should not be changed without a total vote of the Australian people on suggested alternative anthems including ‘God Save The Queen’.
I would like to make the motion clear right at the beginning, and to make sure that everyone understands the wording and intention of the proposition I shall read it again. It states:
That, in the opinion of this House, Australia’s National Anthem should not be changed without a total vote of the Australian people on suggested alternative anthems including ‘God Save The Queen’.
This is a very simple proposition, Mr Speaker, but like many simple propositions it embodies complex and deeply felt aspirations and desires. Firstly, it seeks to give every Australian of voting age the right to make a choice with respect to Australia’s national anthem. Secondly, it seeks to ensure that every voting Australian will have the right to express a personal view as to whether ‘God Save the Queen’ continues as our national anthem.
Before the proposition is subject to any misrepresentation let me make it clear what it does not attempt to do. It deliberately avoids an expression of opinion as to what should or should not be the anthem. It specifically leaves that question to be answered by the Australian people. It specifically does not enter into the argument as to whether Australia should ‘ or should not have a national song and a national anthem. It specifically does not offer an opinion as to whether our national anthem should or should not be an all Australian anthem with words and music composed and written by Australians alone. Most especially it does not attempt to impose upon all the Australian people an anthem chosen by a possibly unrepresentative minority - in addition a choice made without the opportunity of voting for the present Australian anthem.
Looking at the issues contained in the debate - issues incidentally which have stirred Australian citizens from all walks of life and of all political persuasions - I believe we can agree on some points. The first is the fact that a national anthem is a continuing symbol of enormous significance to the people of the nation it symbolises. As such it transcends the usual barriers dividing people such as age, income, or political allegiance. It is a symbol representative of all the people, from the youngest to the oldest, from the humblest to the highest in the land. Therefore, the choice of an Australian national anthem affects us all. The decision will be binding and I would hope will be accepted by all Australians, present and future. Should such a decision be arbitrarily imposed on the nation without every Australian having the opportunity to take part in that decision, I believe there is a very real chance of a divisive rather than a cohesive situation emerging.
It can be argued that never in the past were people given the chance to vote on their national anthem, that it is usual for a decision to be made by the authorities of whatever sort and this decision simply handed on to the people. I reject that utterly. Participatory democracy is a phrase which very readily springs to the lips of many people today. I have heard it frequently from members of the Government. Communication, education, community interest and awareness are such today that arbitrarily imposed decisions particularly of a symbolic non-materialist kind are less and less acceptable. Community attitudes and expectations are such that people believe on issues such as this that not only should they have the opportunity to cast their vote, but that indeed they have the right so to do.
It can be argued that it would take too long, or cost too much, to have a vote of all eligible electors - that is all that is meant by the words ‘a total vote’ - in other words a referendum on the question. I do not believe this position is defensible. After all, the present Government has not shown itself averse to holding referenda. We have two coming up this Saturday. The second was added after a decision to hold the first was announced. We already have decisions to hold referenda next year. There is absolutely nothing to prevent this question being voted upon at the same time, at minimal cost to the Australian public. In fact the cost of conducting a vote adding this question to the decisions to be made in respect of other matters would most assuredly be less than the cost of sampling 60,000 Australians as is presently proposed.
Is a referendum, or a total vote, a fair way to arrive at a decision? In this instance, I believe the case is incontravertible. I shall refer to what the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) said, on 14 November last in this Parliament in discussing proposed referenda. He said:
All the Government needs to do is to give the people of Australia at a referendum’ which he described in the same speech as perhaps one of the most democratic ways of deciding things in a democratic society’ - the opportunity to consider three propositions.
He went on to say:
Nothing could be more important than the democratic processes in Australia and nothing could be more important and indeed urgent than that the people of Australia should be entitled to consider these propositions.
In that speech he charged the Opposition with trying to prevent referenda being held and said that this was ‘wrong and scandalous’, and made it clear that the Government was determined to hold the referenda.
The propositions were to alter the Constitution and those opposing my motion may argue that the choice of a national anthem does not need a constitutional alteration and, therefore, no referendum is required. It is quite true that it does not need a constitutional alteration, but matters other than for altering the Constitution can be put to referendum. This can be done either by Act or by command of the Governor-General. Of course, it is normal for the Governor-General to follow the advice of his Ministers. Referendums other than for altering the Constitution have been held. They were the military service refer endums held in 1916 and 1917. So the precedent obviously is there.
It is of interest that the present anthem has been by long practice rather than by formal legal acceptance and that the Queen, through the exercise of executive prerogative authority in Australia at the Commonwealth level, could issue a proclamation in relation to this matter. But under the present constitutional position the States are self-governing British colonies with Governors who are agents of the British Government as well as formally representing the Queen. Therefore, there is the possibility of conflict if the Commonwealth approved a new anthem that was not acceptable to some States, and if those States insisted on playing God Save The Queen’ on state occasions. I do not believe that such a situation would arise, but it could; and, if it did, then a very divisive element would be introduced into Australian society. It certainly would be avoided if all electorally enrolled Australians were given the opportunity to participate in the decision.
It may be argued, as we hear so frequently, that the Government has a mandate to change the anthem. It certainly does not have a mandate to change the anthem in the way it proposes. Newspapers all over the country carried reports of a speech made at Griffith by the now Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 19 November 1972, just 13 days before the election. I have a copy of the statement. It is headed ‘Whitlam at Griffith, Sunday, 19/11/72’, and I obtained it from his Press office this week. It says that Australia will have its own anthem and: we shall invite and ensure the participation of the people in choosing it.
It also says:
The choice of the Australian people, not the musical tastes of George II, should determine Australia’s National Anthem.
Nothing could be plainer than that. That is a clear undertaking to invite and ensure the people’s participation in the choice of an anthem. I do not wish to score political points by speaking of promises made and broken. But here is a clear and unequivocal undertaking made just 13 days prior to the Government’s obtaining office. It should be honoured. All Australians eligible to vote should have the right, as offered to them by the Prime Minister, to exercise their choice on this question.
The second part of my motion refers to the choice offered. I do not wish to comment on the 3 suggested alternatives, except to say that I find it extraordinary that a national contest was held, more than 1,000 entries were received; they were judged in almost obscene haste, and not one was considered good enough to put before the Australian people - an absolutely extraordinary situation. Be that as it may, the Government has decided on the 3 so-called Australian songs. However, to obtain a true indication of the will of the Australian people, and not simply the will of the Government, the present anthem must be included in the choices offered. Not to do so is to make an arbitrary decision on a subject which, as I have said, transcends party politics and individual differences. There is a very real concern in the electorate on this matter; newspapers have been inundated with letters for and against the present anthem and the suggested alternatives. Members of this House have received - I know I have - thousands of letters on the subject. Petitions bearing thousands of signatures have been presented in this House.
As I have said, my motion offers no opinion as to which of the alternatives should be our anthem. It does not seek to delve into the nationalism or otherwise of the Australian people. It does not offer an opinion as to how that nationalism should be manifest. The Government obviously believes that an expression of nationalism should be manifested in a new anthem. That can be tested only by a full vote of the Australian people, with the opportunity of expressing an opinion on the present anthem being given to them. This House should make abundantly clear to the Government that it will not tolerate the arbitrary imposition of a national anthem on the Australian people. The satisfaction of one man’s ego should be submerged and the genuine expression of the Australian people should be allowed to declare itself. To do less is to cheat and distort that expression and to deny the rights of present and future Australians.
-Is the motion seconded?
Mr Cook I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– Australians have spent most of this century seeking a national identity, but we have spent nearly ISO years looking for a national anthem. In many respects we have been painfully slow to emerge from our colonial past, and it seems that we still suffer from some colonial hangovers. 1 think this motion is one indication of that. There has been a recognition on all sides of the Parliament of the need for a distinctively Australian -national anthem. The last 2 Prime Ministers favoured a distinctively Australian national anthem. ‘Last year the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony), referring to ‘Advance Australia Fair’, said:
I would like to congratulate you-
It was a reference to John Laws, who favoured this song-
I think the recording will have popular appeal and will go a long way towards engendering the kind of national spirit you are seeking to foster.
A very good comment. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), said:
Like you, I am intensely Australian and feel it is progressively necessary to identify ourselves as a nation as distinct from the United Kingdom.
Again a commendable sentiment. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) had a particular choice, but there was no doubt in what he said that he wished to have a distinctively Australian national anthem.
Public opinion polls on this matter have been conducted for many years now. In 1965 the gallup polls showed that 38 per cent of the people wanted a distinctively Australian anthem. By 1967 the figure was 44.1 per cent; by 1969, 51.4 per cent; by October 1972, 72.3 per cent; and in July this year, 80 per cent. A poll released a few days ago by the Morgan gallup polls organisation indicated that support for ‘God Save the Queen’ as the national anthem of Australia had fallen by 3 per cent since June. So there is no doubt about the way in which the Australian people generally are feeling at the present time. In fact, it was interesting to see that the only significant section of the Australian community covered in the poll who favoured the status quo were people in their fifties.
The search for an anthem, the desire for a distinctively Australian expression, has been going on, as 1 have said, for a very long time. It began in 1826 and since that time we have had 17 national anthem competitions. So, surely we have come of age. We can go back to the famous day of 11 April 1933 when J. T. Lang, then the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, made it clear that he believed, even at that time, that we should have a distinctive national anthem and spoke up and spoke out for it. In recent years Australian athletes who have been participating in international events across the world and have brought great honour and laurels to Australia have come home disappointed, embarrassed and resentful because when they mounted the victory podium they were not recognised as Australians; they did not find their country given distinctive recognition. They were disappointed. Many of them have told me so, and many of them would welcome a change. I can remember vividly that when Lionel Rose, typical of the first people of Australia, met and vanquished the Japanese champion in Tokyo no distinctively Australian anthem was played and the hundreds of Australians who were present were very rightly resentful.
Let us be quite blunt. Colonial Australians borrowed the anthem which is now normally used, but they also abused it. They played it after and at every bunfight, even weddings. I remember vividly a maternal relative of mine, who spent her early years in Glasgow in Scotland, attending her first wedding in Australia. They played it there and she thought it was a wonderful touch because she thought that the King of that time had paid for the wedding. But she had never heard it in Britain. It was not a British custom; it was a colonial custom. The position is that there is no law, no statute and no ordinance which establishes any national anthem for Australia. We have never been given permission even to borrow the one that we have used. In any case, Australians should understand the origins of the anthem that has been used.
It began, as far as historians can gather, in about the 16th century. It became the song of the Jacobites. As a matter of fact, one line was that the King was ‘soon to reign over us’ - a reference to the Old Pretender, James III.
Then the words were changed and it was adopted by the Hanovers and their supporters. It became a personal salute to George II. It became a royal anthem. At about that time it also became a tune that was adopted by the Danes. It was used as a German anthem by Prussia, Saxony, Hanover, Brunswick and Weimar. Then the Russians used it. The Swiss used it in all of their cantons. Even Liechtenstein adopted it. The United States colonies used it in one form or another before independence. They changed the words and they still use it.
It appears that ‘God Save the King’ was the first piece of non-Aboriginal music performed in Australia. It was played by a drumfife band at the raising of the British flag at Port Jackson by Captain Arthur Phillip. It is notable that at the time of the First Settlement in Australia it had not gained general acceptance in Britain as a national anthem, although at that time it had been identified with the monarchy and with certain political groups. But there has never been any legislation in Australia to establish it as the national anthem. It seems to have been adopted by the various British colonies in Australia and of course it continues in this role. The honourable member for Warringah referred to the States as a group of British colonies that could still use it, as British colonies, is they wished. I would hope they would join the nation as a whole rather than opt out into some colonial backwater.
From the history of the present anthem the following conclusions can be drawn. Its initial public acceptance was as a partisan political song. Its words had not been regarded as immutable and have been amended somewhat to suit the views of those using it. When it gained widespread popularity it was as a royal anthem, not a national anthem. At the time it was first played in Australia it had the status of a royal anthem and not a national anthem. It is not uniquely British or a Commonwealth of Nations song but it has been used extensively by composers in many nations. The large number of attempts to find a distinctively Australian anthem to replace it indicates that the Australian community has not strongly supported the existing anthem for almost 2 centuries, although some of its supporters would claim it has.
It was against that background that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announced at a magnificent meeting attended by 4,000 people - an historic meeting - at Griffith on 19 November 1972 that a poll would be held. There has been a reference to what he said at that meeting. He said:
It’s time for truly national thinking.
In the great issues facing this nation, it’s time for a national approach.
And it’s time we had our own symbols of our own nationhood.
It’s time . . . that we had our own national anthem.
That is what was said. It was not contested. There were no protests. In fact, it was widely supported. Then on Australia Day in a special broadcast on 26 January this year the Prime Minister said:
He also said that it is in the tradition of the present anthem that it would revert to the original tradition and that it would be used as a royal anthem. He said that when the Queen is present or when it is especially important to acknowledge our links with the Crown it would be played as a royal anthem. There was no argument about that. There were no dissenting voices. Then we moved to do exactly as had been announced. Four thousand Australians submitted the words and/ or music for a new national anthem. What a tremendous amount of interest there was. Entries came from every State. It was a wonderful effort. It showed that the people were interested; they were involved. A decision was made based on their assessment. It was decided that three of the songs - ‘Advance Australia Fair’, ‘Song of Australia’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda’ - should be put to the people. How was this to be done? A poll has been organised by the Bureau of Census and Statistics as part of its national household survey. All these types of surveys which involve 60,000 people in all States are based on scientifically selected samples. The surveys involve all States and people in all walks of life. This was announced on 24 October.
At that time a pilot test for a national anthem poll had already been carried out. All is under way. The announcement to conduct the poll was made in October. It is now December. It is a little late now to hold up the process on the pretext that we should have no change again. Therefore we reject the motion because there is no substance in it, there is no general support for it in the community and, above all, it is merely another device to deny Australia a badge of independence. The wording of the motion suggests that we should bring into the poll all suggested anthems or songs. Just imagine the situation if all the suggested songs were included and the people had to decide on all of them. I can think of some good elector of mine favouring I Love Riverina Red’.
I do not really think the suggestion that has been advanced by the honourable member for Warringah is a serious one. In fact, I regard it as absurd. I also point out that there is an urgency about this matter. We are very much a new nation at this time. Forty per cent of our” people are under 21 years of age. One Australian in three is a post-war migrant, the son or grandchild of a post-war migrant. How do we explain to the new generation, to the 3,000,000 newcomers, that Australia nationally is songless and voiceless? This is really something that we have determined to do and the overwhelming number of Australian people want us to do. They have been getting more impatient about it as time has gone on. We feel that what has been put forward is merely another delaying device. I would hope that the House would completely reject the motion.
The suggestion that we should include somebody else’s tune, an anthem shared by a dozen nations when we have gone forth to talk about something distinctively Australian, should not be adopted. We can see that it is not even in the tradition of the song. It is not even in the proper use of the words. So as far as that is concerned, it just does not stand up. It will be retained as a Royal anthem as it was originally. We are seeking, as we have said, something particularly and distinctively Australian. If this is rejected by honourable members opposite then that is their choice, but as far as I and the majority of the Australian people are concerned I think the effort that has been made by the Prime Minister in conformity with his promise made at Griffith 12 days before the last election should be commended and we will implement it. I would hope that at this time next year when somebody says ‘Advance Australia’ we will know what it means. We will accept it and we will honour it as it should be, as something distinctively Australian; we will accept whatever the choice of the people may be.
– The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) has given us the usual hysterical speech. He assumes that the quality of the speech is gauged by the number of words per minute that gush forth. He completely misunderstands the purpose of the motion. He deliberately assumes, as the Labor Government unfortunately seems to have a penchant for assuming, that the majority of Australians are on its side. The Minister assumes that the majority of Australians want a national anthem other than the one that is played at the present time. There is no support for that. In fact the gallup polls would seem to suggest that a majority of Australians would not like to see any change at the present time. But the Minister’s approach to the motion has the same sort of logic behind it as Henry Ford did. Henry Ford said: ‘You can have a car of any colour provided it is black’. The Minister says: ‘You can have any national anthem provided it is one of the three about which we are asking you*.
– But not the present one.
– But not the present one, as my colleague says. All that the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar), who moved this motion, and I, as the seconder, ask is that the Australian people be consulted on this matter of importance. There are many matters on which the Australian people are to be consulted by way of referendum both this coming Saturday and in the future at enormous cost. I think about $3m will be required to run the referendum next Saturday. Goodness knows how many millions will be required to run the referenda with which we have been threatened for next year. These are to decide matters that, I would venture to suggest, the majority of Australians could not care less about. But when we move into an area of emotional feeling, such as is involved with a national anthem, I feel that the people are interested and concerned and that they ought to be consulted in the same way as they are to be consulted on these other matters which the Labor Government considered important to it, but which the Australian people probably will not consider to be very important at all.
There are several points to be made in relation to the national anthem. Firstly, I think we would accept that it is quite true that
God Save the Queen’ is more in the nature of a royal anthem rather than a national song. But of course it comes back to the concept that Australia has a constitutional monarchy as in the United Kingdom. Our head of state is a constitutional monarch and the national anthem is in fact an expression of goodwill by the people towards that constitutional monarch. Consequently, the national anthem is more in the nature of a royal anthem. There are circumstances in which it is appropriate that royal anthems be played in order to symbolise a unity of the nation under the Crown. But this does not apply to republics, for example. In such circumstances national anthems take on a different connotation.
If we are to consider Australia as a republic I think the people ought to be consulted about that also. I do not particularly mind whether the majority of people think Australia ought to be a republic dr whether it ought to remain as a constitutional monarchy. I have some personal preferences, but my point is that if there is to be a change of such magnitude everybody in Australia ought to be consulted about it. The Government ought not to resort to a shabby device of running a sample poll of 60,000 people to determine what is to be the national anthem. It is like consulting taxi drivers as to what national policy ought to be or taking a random sample of that sort as a basis for legislation.
The question of a national anthem cannot be resolved simply by running a competition. I think the efforts of the Government have proved that point very clearly. A competition has been held to determine the verse or words of the national anthem and that has proved to be a singular disaster. All that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) could say after that competition was that we have not yet had the competition for the music and perhaps we might be able to get a better result from the composers. The competition for the music has been held and no one seems to have come up with a suitable anthem tune. The point is that national anthems cannot be concocted. The United States of America national anthem evolved as a song during that country’s struggle for independence; it was not as a result of a competition. It was something that grew up, and the country accepted it as being uniquely its own.
The same can be said about the French national anthem, the ‘Marseillaise’. That song started in the south of France as a marching song of some of the revolutionaries. It spread across the country and captured the imagination of the people. No song in Australia has the same sort of history, other than, perhaps, Waltzing Matilda’. There may be some circumstances in which ‘Waltzing Matilda’ would be an appropriate Australian song to play. I do not want to continue my remarks for much longer because I know that other speakers want to express an opinion. But I think that the points I have made are important. As the seconder of this motion I think that the point ought to be made clear that the Government should not gloss over the intention of the motion. The mover and the seconder did not say that ‘God Save the Queen’ ought to remain as our national anthem. We say that the Australian citizens - all of them - ought to be consulted if a change is to be made and that they ought to be given the option of saying that they want ‘God Save the Queen’ retained as our national anthem.
– The honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) has moved:
That, in the opinion of this House, Australia’s national anthem should not be changed without a total vote of the Australian people on suggested alternative anthems including ‘God Save the Queen’.
He has not spoken in support of that motion today, but he has modified it. He spoke about every Australian of voting age. The motion does not say that. It refers to a total vote of the Australian people. He referred next to those people electorally enrolled. There is nothing in his motion to that effect, if we support this motion today we would be voting to require a total vote of the Australian people to decide the question - that is, every man, woman and child in the country. It means the children, the Aborigines, the criminals in gaols, the persons in mental institutions and members of the Armed Forces at home and abroad. In fact, it means everybody in the community. Although I lack the honourable member’s education I know that ‘total’ means everything.
I will deal later with a number of other matters in regard to the suggested alternatives. I would have liked the honourable member to tell me of any precedents for his suggestion. Those honourable members on the other side of the House who are clamouring for a referendum on this issue, and the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) who has just spoken, could not give a hang about prices and incomes, but they want to vote on the national anthem. They want to spend $2m of the Australian people’s money to have a referendum on an anthem. They said that prices and incomes do not matter and every honourable member sitting opposite voted against every referendum proposal we have brought to the Parliament this year. What a fantasy this motion is. What do they want to save?
They do not even know the origin of the song they are trying to save. This is the origin of ‘God Save the Queen’: In the song books and hymn books we find the tune of ‘God Save the King’ ascribed sometimes to John Bull, sometimes to Henry Carey and sometimes to Dr Arne. Other books are wisely non-commital and state simply: ‘Source unknown’. One fact is known with precision; the date and occasion of a famous public performance, supposed to be the first public performance of the complete song, one which caused it to leap into popularity. This was on 28 September 1745. It was the year of the second Jacobite rebellion. It was realised that a Jacobite invasion of England was inevitable. So the Whigs, the anti-Jacobites and those who held that George II with all his disadvantages was better for the country than another James, realised that a good song was wanted immediately, a song to steady the popular feeling and to rally the adherents of the House of Hanover. So at first sight it seems that from somewhere suddenly emerged ‘God Save the King’. As I mentioned, the origin of both the words and the melody are obscure. Earliest copies of the words appeared in a gentlemen’s magazine in 1745. The honourable members who want to sing ‘God Save the Queen’ never look at the second stanza. If you had a piano, Mr Speaker, I would sing it for the audience. This is how the second stanza goes:
O Lord our God arise
Scatter her enemies, and make them fall:
Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix: God save us all.
But one early version of the words said: ‘Frustrate their Popish tricks’. As a good Catholic I could never tolerate that. Actually those words are a long way from the present words. This is the origin of the song that those gentlemen opposite know nothing about but now seek to impose on Australia for all time, irrespective of the future changes of population.
I mentioned that it has been said that the Government has not consulted the people. With the consent of the House I should like to incorporate in Hansard Press statement No. 76 of 12 April by the Prime Minister on the Australian National Anthem quest. It shows that the Government has consulted the people.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
On 26 January the Prime Minister announced that the public would be invited to submit entries for the words and music for a new national anthem and that the Australian people would be consulted in the final choice.
As the first stage of this contest, entries are now invited for the words of an anthem. These entries will close on 31 May. Entries may be written without any tune in mind or to the tune of one of the familiar songs which have some claim to being accepted as a national anthem. A selection of texts from among those submitted will be made by a panel of judges and published in a booklet. This will be available to all interested people from the beginning of July.
Members of the public will then be invited to submit the music and words for an anthem. The music may be set to words written by the composer himself or by a collaborator. If the composer prefers his music may be set to one of the texts chosen for the booklet. Details of this second stage of the contest - the calling and judging of music entries - will be announced early in July.
It is anticipated that a panel of judges will choose six or more anthems, from which the public will help make a final choice on or before 26 January 1974. Among these six anthems will be at least two familiar or traditional songs. The Australian Council for the Arts, in consultation with the Australian Government, representatives of the media, the ABC and other interested organisations, will determine the method by which the public’s preference will be expressed.
An award of $5,000 will be made to the writer of the words chosen for the national anthem. A similar award will be made to the composer of the music of the anthem, unless the music is that of an already familiar song. Awards of $500 will be made for the words and for the music of any entry selected for the public’s consideration.
Entry forms and details of the conditions of entry may be obtained by sending a stamped addressed envelope to: Australian National Anthem Quest, Australian Council for the Arts, PO Box 373, North Sydney, N.S.W. 2060.
A number of people have already submitted entries in consequence of the Prime Minister’s announcement of 26 January. Those whose entries have been received by the Australian Council for the Arts will be sent entry forms. Canberra, A.C.T.
– I thank the House. Having said so much, I now get back to the terms of the honourable member’s motion. He has suggested that alternative anthems should be considered and put to the Australian people. However, those to be referred to the people have firstly to be decided upon. Who will decide which ones will be submitted to the Australian people? Later I shall give a few examples of songs to which some members of this House probably would subscribe. The ballot paper for such a referendum would be immense if every song proposed were included on it. Suggestions will come from members of this House. If people were required to vote on each proposed anthem an impossible situation would arise. If the anthem were to be selected by referendum, the cost of such a vote would be approximately $2m, and this is on the assumption-
-Order! It now being 2 hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate on the motion is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the time for the discussion of notice No. 1 General Business be extended.
– Such a referendum would cost $2m, on the assumption that no pamphlets would need to be printed, as is the case with the referendum on incomes and prices. But surely, if pamphlets had to be issued to list the entries in order, the ballot paper would be mammoth in size. The cost would be tremendous. I think that in many cases, such a ballot paper would not be understood by the Australian people. I ask honourable members: Who will decide what anthems are to be submitted to the people? I ask honourable members to look at the variety of people in this House and variety of views that they hold. I mention some of these songs in a light-hearted vein, but they are most appropriate, and, on top of it all, I am certain that some of these songs would be adopted by some honourable members in this House.
Naturally, every member of this Parliament would have the right to subscribe to an anthem that might be presented. Any honourable member would have the right to propose a serious anthem or a good anthem, as he wished. As I look at members of the Country Party I think that they would get a mammoth vote for the ‘Donkey Serenade’. The former Prime Minister might suggest that the song which should be put on the ballot paper is ‘Just One More Chance’ or, perhaps, “The Impossible Dream’. Members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party would go for the song Matchmaker’. Would not that be a super one?
They might like the song with the words: “There was I waiting at the Church’ or something similar. Do not put it past them. These songs would bob up. All kinds of suggestions of this type could be made.
I imagine that my friend, the Treasurer (Mr Crean), might go for ‘If I were a Rich Man’. Other songs with similar sentiments might occur to him. The Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) might choose the song with the words ‘Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening and sugar at suppertime’. Any of these songs could be suggested as anthems. I am quite certain that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) would go for ‘Superstar’. Without doubt, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) would get back to ‘Gentleman Jim’. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) - we have heard how good he is - would have as his favourite ‘You must have been a beautiful baby*.
I can imagine the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) proposing Don’t fence me in’ as the song that he would like best as a national anthem. Unfortunately Mr Speaker, to whom I wish to direct these remarks, is absent from the Chair at this time. I would imagine that he would advocate If I had a hammer’. I can imagine that the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) would want ‘Stand up and fight until you hear the bell’. Without a doubt, the other former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) would choose ‘I did it my way’. Can honourable members imagine how the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) would like I am the very model of a modern major general’. Would that not appeal to the Australian people? I am sorry that the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), who was here a few moments ago, did not stay. I should imagine that his favourite would be ‘I am a lonely little petunia in an onion patch’. My slumbering friend opposite, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), would want ‘Red sails in the sunset’ or perhaps ‘Midnight in Moscow’. Some honourable members, in view of recent events, might prefer the song Roll out the barrel’. I think that, collectively, members of the House might vote for ‘The pub with no beeT’. These sorts of suggestions could be made. Where would we be if all these were submitted? And they might be.
All kinds of things can occur in verses. Prominent writers submit all kinds of verses for anthems in this and other countries. Some lyrics have been put forward by Phillip Adams, who is well known to all culture lovers and who is, among other things, a leading light in the Australian Council for the Arts. Recently he wrote an article in which he included some lyrics which were written to a melody which appeals to me greatly and which has endeared itself to people throughout the world; that is’ The Wearing of the Green’. This is what he wrote:
I love this ripper country
Full of funnel-webs and sharks! With blowies, big as eagles,
Where yer car gets booked by narks! Where yer team gets trounced each Sat’dy
Where the pubs run out of beer! Where there’s redbacks on the toilet seat,
And yer nagged by Germaine Greer! ! ! !
He has written those lyrics to the tune of ‘The Wearing of the Green’. That is certainly a commentary on some of the anthems submitted in the national competition. The situation is that for a referendum of this kind suggestions could be made in this Parliament and in other places which would bring all manner of verses to light.
The motion moved by the honourable member for Warringah deserves to be treated with a certain amount of ridicule because it is an impossible proposal embracing, as it does, every man, woman and child voting on every suggestion - good, bad or indifferent - which will be presented to and decided on by the Australian people at tremendous cost. I bring the House back to the fact that we in this Parliament are not rejecting ‘God Save the Queen’. It will, I believe, long be sung sincerely by Australians when the Queen is present and on other appropriate occasions. But this nation and its people will, in the future, be acknowledged and saluted by an anthem which is as unmistakably Australian as we ourselves are. The proposal for a new national anthem was clearly enunciated during the pre-election campaign. The action that has been taken is carrying out an unmistakable mandate given by the Australian people. It has been put clearly and concisely.
The proposal put forward today - a half baked proposal - is designed to gain some form of political support for the honourable member for Warringah. It is put forward in a way in which it could not be accepted by the Government. We oppose it, not with any disrespect to Her Majesty or to the anthem but because we believe in a really Australian way of life and we believe in an Australian anthem for the Australian people. I mention again that we are linked with the people of the British Isles by deep and emotional ties. In many instances we share common ancestors. We are inheritors of the same traditions and moral values. We remain their firm friends and allies, as they do to us. This Government has taken action to identify the Queen with this Parliament and the people of Australia in a clear and unequivocal style. She is, for the first time, unmistakable - and by our decision - Queen of Australia. We have heard from Her Majesty’s lips the pleasure that this decision has given her. We propose to have an Australian anthem for an Australian people. Irrespective of what the Tories opposite say, I believe that every Australian - man, woman and child - will endorse our action as being appropriate in this age of changing times, advancement and Australian nationhood.
– I rise to support the motion moved by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) on this terribly important subject. I am absolutely disappointed at the attitude of the 2 speakers who have been put up today ‘by the Government. We have heard hysterical arguments rather than historical arguments. I believe that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) and the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), both of whom are at the table, ought to be ashamed of themselves for advancing such weak arguments. The Minister for Services and Property used a number of excuses based on technical grounds. He even criticised the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke) and the mover of the motion, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar), on the ground that they said that a vote would need to be taken of all Australians including people in aged persons homes, etc. I have never heard anything as silly or ridiculous as what I heard in that respect.
The Minister for Services and Property made light of the whole subject. I am very disappointed that he took that line. He made reference to the fact that a referendum on an Australian national anthem would cost at least $2m. That is not right. If a referendum were held solely on this issue, perhaps his claim would be correct. But naturally the people of Australia would accept the principle that such a referendum would be held in conjunction with other referendums or with an election for the Senate or for the House of Representa tives. After all, as the Minister for Immigration said, the argument for a new national anthem has been discussed for many years. I claim, as many other people in this country claim, that no great urgency exists for a determination of this matter. I believe that there is no real dispute that there is some merit in having our own national anthem as distinct from ‘God Save the Queen’ the present anthem. I do not think that there is any doubt about that fact. But what would the cost of a new anthem be - I am not speaking of the financial cost - to the nation from an historical point of view.
I was a little disappointed at some of the comments made by the Minister for Immigration. He appeared to do nothing but put forward a number of excuses for the fact that the Government is Tunning away from this question. He referred to a lot of reasons why it had been rejected in former times. The interesting thing is that it had been rejected by people in former times. Why is there this rush now? I think I can say with confidence that most honourable members, present in this chamber, when they were boys at school, recognised the importance of the Monday morning ceremony at their school when they saluted the flag and honoured the monarch. Many thousands, if not millions, of people would remember those actions, and that is why they remain loyal to their country.
The question, as I see it, in the resolution moved by the honourable member for Warringah and the question on the lips of people is, firstly, whether we really want a change in the national anthem. If the answer is yes, the second question is: What is wrong with giving all the people an opportunity to voice their opinion? If we have had the existing anthem for 100 years why should a handful of people decide that they are the ones to make the change? That is all we ask. We want as many people as possible to voice their opinion on this subject. Like all other honourable members in this place, I represent about 50,000 voters plus many non-voters. Whilst I am here I will always endeavour to put forward the thinking of these people I represent. My constituents and I feel very deeply about this subject. In recent weeks I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) a question. On the first occasion he absolutely refused to answer. He ran away from it. On the second occasion he did likewise. It was not until the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made a query and there was some crossfire in the House that the Prime Minister reluctantly answered part of the question.
The people have been refused the opportunity to voice their opinions, and that is where the Opposition objects to the actions of the Prime Minister. This has resulted in a great deal of correspondence on the subject. I will not attempt to state with any accuracy the number of people who have spoken to me on this subject other than to say that, coupled with those who have engaged in correspondence, it would be in excess of 2,000 people. That is a mighty lot of people. Let me give an illustration of how people have reacted. A coupon entitled ‘The National Anthem’ was placed in one of the local newspapers in my electorate, the Wimmera ‘Mail-Times’ - I will table it if anybody wants to see it - to give the people an opportunity to voice their opinion on this subject. I checked and found that the circulation of this newspaper is a little over 9,000. The coupon was printed in 2 editions. The last time I added up the figures - I have still a whole lot more here to place before the Prime Minister; he has already got over 800 - there were about 980 coupons. In other words, that is a return of over 5 per cent from the public. I believe that that is rather considerable. A lot of journalists will admit that 5 per cent is almost impossible to attain. The Sydney ‘Sun’ also carried out a similar exercise. I have been in touch with the Sydney ‘Sun’ and I have been informed that over 30,000 coupons have been returned to that newspaper. Yet the Minister for Immigration says that there is not a great deal of interest shown. The significant point is that those coupons that have been returned are running at 4 to 1 in favour of the retention of the present national anthem. The Minister cannot ignore that.
As I said a little while ago, I have received a lot of correspondence and petitions on this subject. The Clerks of the House know only too well that I have been presenting petitions. I received another one only late last evening. There are only about 11 or 12 subscribers to it but it contains a little note at the bottom which is terribly important because a lot of people today say that it is only the elderly and the infirm - the old diehards, the old loyalists - who are interested in retaining the present national anthem. The footnote says: Average age 26 years’. That is all it says. Surely that proves the point that it is not the elderly alone who are interested in this subject.
I have had some correspondence from various organisations throughout my electorate, outside my electorate and even outside Victoria. I have here a letter signed by. 29 people. Other letters have been signed by 31 people, 14 people, 23 people, 26 people, 14 people and 42 people. These are letters, not petitions. I have not got time to quote all the various statements appearing in these letters. In these organisations to which I ‘have referred I include a lot of municipalities that have been in touch with me on this subject. The Minister cannot say that they are irresponsible organisations. They have been good enough to discuss the matter at their various council meetings and have decided to carry certain resolutions. Why are they doing it? For the simple reason that they believe it is important.
I want to quote from some of the letters. I will not mention the names nor will I quote the whole letter. One letter states:
My personal opinion is that it should be retained as it has been our national anthem for over 200 years, and why should a few politicians change it. If a song is required for such events as sporting functions and the Olympic Games, and this has much to commend it, I would be in favour of Advance Australia Fair being used. Mr Whitlam says that God Save The Queen would be used when Her Majesty is in Australia. To me that is the joke of the week, or perhaps I should say of the year!
Another one says:
Secondly, Australia’s noisiest boast has always been our freedom and democracy. Is Mr Whitlam afraid of being outnumbered that he refuses to include ‘God Save The Queen’ in the list of anthems.
A further one says:
The British people love the Royal Family as their own and honour them for what they are - a wonderful example to each and every one - through war and peace. I am sure this has kept the nation together. I have lived with them and know.
I turn to another one which states:
Let us hope that Mr Whitlam is man enough to admit that he has made a mistake here.
I endorse those remarks. Is the Government man enough to admit its mistake? The Minister for Immigration says that it is too late.
– You woke up too late. If you had been interested you should have raised it at the beginning of the year. You should not try to stop it now.
– That would be one of the weakest arguments I have heard in defence of the present situation, that we have woken up too late. It is never too late. I appeal to the Minister to analyse what the Prime Minister said in answer to one of those original questions. He said that he was going to take a vote of 60,000 people, or get their views, and then place them before Cabinet. Is it then too late? What would happen if the 60,000 people voted against the Government’s proposals completely? I challenge honourable members opposite to tell me what they, as individuals, would do if they were fortunate enough to be among the 60,000 people and if they wanted to retain the present national anthem. How would they cast a vote? They would be given no option but to vote 1, 2 or 3. I am not sure whether it will be done that way or by a tick. If they were opposed to the 3 of them how would they vote? All I suggest to people who may be fortunate enough to get a vote is that they do not ignore it but write in ‘the present national anthem’ and at the same time abide by the rest of the voting instructions. That would indicate whether some people do not agree with it.
I would like to say many things on this subject but time will not allow it. But, I believe that I speak on behalf of many Australians when I say that if I am wrong in my judgment and am against the majority I will respect the decision of the majority; and if I am correct I would expect the reverse to be the position, that is, for the minority to respect the majority decision. No country can survive historically if there is no loyalty. Australians cannot and will not respect a decision if it is made by a few with the support of the minority against the majority, and that is what I fear will happen here. I appeal to the Prime Minister and the Government in all the sincerity that I can offer to reconsider this subject. Let the people decide the issue because I believe that it is one of the most important historical decisions that can be made in the interests of the future of this great country. The issues are straightforward, as they have been enumerated by my friend and colleague the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar). One issue is to include in any form of poll the opportunity for the people to decide whether they want to retain the present anthem, and the other is to give as many people as possible - if that is the way the Minister would like me to spell it out - the opportunity to be able to voice their opinion as to whether they want ‘Waltzing Matilda’, ‘Advance Australia Fair’ or whatever it may be. I again say that it is not too late to do as the honourable member for Warringah suggests, and I am surprised at the Minister for Immigration for talking such rubbish as to say that we should have woken up earlier.
No one took this question seriously when the Prime Minister first mentioned it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The motion that we ‘are discussing asks this House to express the opinion that the Australian national anthem should not be changed without a total vote of the Australian people. I believe that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) did indicate what a total vote means and how complicated it would be to achieve one. It would be even more complicated than asking the public to vote on any one of the number of entries which were submitted by people who are genuinely concerned about this matter. People with a national pride submitted some 4,000 entries consisting of either words or music or of both and representing what they believed should be the Australian national anthem. They do not believe that we should have an anthem that his been passed on from our colonial days. When it is said that the present anthem has been our national anthem for 200 years it is worth recalling that we have been a nation for only 72 years, and it is a matter of personal pride to me that we are now going to have an Australian national anthem.
I agree that the anthem decided on may not be my choice, but I certainly believe that we should have an anthem that is Australian, that is about Australians and that will be sung by Australians whenever they feel there is a necessity to sing the national anthem. The words and melody of ‘God Save the Queen’ are obscure. It has been stated that the words have been changed on various occasions in order to spare the pangs created by the original verse but, as I say, the words are obscure. The earliest copy of the words appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine’ of 1745. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in announcing the plans for his proposal to hold a competition for the Australian national anthem has on a number of occasions indicated that he is not scrapping -God Save the Queen’. He is not suggesting this at all. He is relegating it to a most important place in our Australian history and our way of life. It will be reserved for Royal occasions when the Queen - or whoever is the monarch at the time - will be present. Indeed, these will not be infrequent occasions because we will soon have had within 6 months 2 visits to Australia by the Queen.
The same people who are criticising the proposal for an Australian national anthem have criticised the Prime Minister. In fact, I heard some critical remarks passed at the recent parliamentary reception when the Prime Minister proposed the toast to the Queen of Australia. Some of those people must have thought very hard when the Queen herself said that this was a title that her father had sought back in 1947 and how pleased she was to have this title bestowed upon her. I do not believe that Australians are any less loyal than their English counterparts. I would not say that it was altogether voluntary and I would not say that we dodged the occasion, but as the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) said, we all remember in our school days assembling before the flag and singing ‘God Save the Queen’ - although in my day it was ‘God Save the King’.
I must admit that my singing ability is very limited. As a matter of fact, not long ago I stood on an occasion when we sang God Save the Queen’ at the loyal toast and a gentleman who has some knowledge of music and who was sitting alongside me said, ‘How come your wife can sing so well and you cannot even sing “God Save the Queen”?’ I recall that at school when there was choir practice I was always given the job of going and weeding the garden. So I cannot claim to have any knowledge of music, Mr Deputy Speaker, otherwise I would probably sing you some verses of ‘God Save the Queen’ at the moment. Probably one of the few people in this House who is qualified in music is my colleague the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) who, for 6 years, held the Australian championship in E flat bass. He was one of the best players in the brass band at the time when the Cairns Citizens Brass Band was one of the leading bands in Australia. I would say that the honourable member for Leichhardt would be better qualified than most honourable members to say what should constitute the national anthem.
– The others can play their bugle pretty well.
– There is a story about the man- the better bugler- with the 4 B’s, but I will reserve that for another occasion. There is within Australia a feeling of nationalism. We want something that is distinctly Australian. The gallup polls have shown that an increasing number of people are in favour of an Australian national anthem; in fact 80 per cent have already indicated that they favour an Australian national anthem. I do not think that any of these people are disloyal or merely want to drop ‘God Save the Queen’, but they feel that there is a need for an Australian national anthem. People will be going shortly to New Zealand for the Commonwealth Games - and I believe that the word ‘Commonwealth’ is used properly in that sense as it involves the Commonwealth countries. It is not used properly when it is applied to this Parliament. However, the people who will attend these games - and this applies to those who, for instance, attended the Olympic Games in Munich - will see Australians win various events and hear ‘God Save the Queen’ played as the national anthem of the winning country. They will wonder who these Australians are - are they Englishmen or are they Australians? Some of the comments that were made by Australian competitors returning from the Munich Games brought that point home to us. I believe that ‘God Save the Queen’ should not be included in any opinion poll. The newly-found interest of Opposition members in referendums is strange to understand. I do not recall any call for a referendum when it was decided to conscript the youth of the country and send them to Vietnam. Perhaps that was not so important as whether we should retain ‘God Save the Queen’ I hope the motion is defeated, because I want an Australian national anthem, about Australia, written by an Australian, if necessary. I do not care whether it be a new or old Australian, but certainly I want an anthem of Australian origin and for Australia.
– I think it is time that the House, or what there is of it, came back to the actual terms of the motion. The motion deals, first, with the question of the means whereby we should decide on a national anthem. The motion advocates that this should be done by a total vote of the Australian people, in other words,, by a referendum. Should it be done by a referendum or by a survey? The second point involved in the motion is that among the alternative anthems included for the decision of the Australian people should be ‘God Save the Queen’. If a national anthem is not a symbol of the unity of the nation, it is absolutely nothing. This matter could not have been dealt with in a more divisive fashion than it has been dealt with by the Government, so much so that in the end, whatever the choice is, it might not be acceptable to the bulk of the people.
What is the difference between a referendum and a survey? There are 2 great differences. One is that a referendum is subject to debate. People have to think and make up their own minds about it. A referendum is very different from a survey of people who have never thought about the matter at all. A referendum means debate, thought and deliberate decision of the people. That is the first thing about a referendum.
The second thing about a referendum on a national anthem is that it is a matter of considerable emotional content to people and they must feel committed to the decision. However, they will not feel committed to a survey carried out by the Bureau of Census and Statistics. A survey has nothing to do with emotion, whereas the choice of a national anthem is a matter of great emotion to the people. What is the basis for this move? Was it contained in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam)? It was not. Has it been the subject of parliamentary debate? It would not have been, except for the initiative of the honourable member for Warringah (Mr Mackellar).
Now we are going to be told that the choice is to be limited by a ukase of the Prime Minister. We are told that there shall be no choice of ‘God Save the Queen’. The argument put up on the Government side by these 2 prime comedians is: ‘How shall we know what alternatives to give the people?’ The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) has been very funny about this matter but, Mr Deputy Speaker, can anyone say that the anthem which we have had for 200 years is to be treated in the same fashion as any suggestion, humourous or otherwise, that may be put up?
The departure from what has happened for 200 years is a matter of enormous consequence and there could be not doubt in the mind of any sensible person that ‘God Save the Queen’ should be one of the choices for the Australian people. The argument from Government supporters is an indication of the paucity of argument that can be put to the motion. I do not have time enough to deal with this matter as I would like to deal with it, but I say that the way in which anthems have emerged in the past has not been through a survey conducted by a bureau of statistics or in the divisive fashion the Prime Minister has adopted. Anthems have emerged in a natural fashion. ‘God Save the King’ or ‘God Save the Queen’ may indeed have been the choice of George II. If that is so, he chose a pretty good tune, anyway, and I would not substitute that choice with the Prime Minister’s choice, nor do I think that half the Australian people would substitute that choice.
Regarding the ‘Marsellaise’, as has already been said, it arose from the circumstances of the French Revolution. It was composed by an artillery officer in a French division from Marseilles fighting against the invaders of France after the Revolution. The Star Spangled Banner emerged long before it was ever given legislative approval. It was given legislative approval in the last 20 or 30 years, I think, whereas the song had been accepted by the American people for perhaps well over a century. Similarly, the question of whether God Save the King’ arose at the time of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion does not matter in the slightest degree. What matters is that for 200 years it has been our national anthem, and accepted by the people as such. I refer to the colonies into which this nation was finally formed. One cannot say that the nation was formed 70 years ago. The Australian people in their colonies and since Federation as well have accepted ‘God Save the Queen’ for 200 years. To say that ‘God Save the Queen’ should not ‘be included as a choice, because we do not know who composed it or because some of the words may be silly, is meaningless. God Save the Queen’ is established, and it should not be disestablished except by a vote of the Australian people.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That the motion (Mr MacKellar’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. J. F. Cope)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Kingsford-Smith-
Postmaster-General) - I present the report by the Tariff Board on the following subject:
The Government has accepted the Board’s recommendations. No change in the rates of duty is involved.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Bill reported from the Senate with a request.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) agreed to:
That the amendment requested by the Senate be taken into consideration in the Committee of the Whole at a later hour this day.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on Prices, I bring up the Committee’s report on the price of meatmeal together with the minutes of proceedings taken in connection with this inquiry.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave - The report on the price of meatmeal which has just been tabled is the 4th report presented to Parliament by the Joint Committee on Prices. The inquiry into the price of meatmeal is the second inquiry by the Committee into complaints received from the public. Meatmeal, together with other protein meals such as fishmeal and oilseed meal, is an important input in the production of pig meat, poultry meat and eggs. In the period September 1972 to August 1973 the price of meatmeal increased by nearly 200 per cent. Such increases contributed to increases in the price of eggs, poultry meat and pig meat.
The main cause of the increases in the domestic prices of meatmeal was the rapid increases in export prices because of world shortages - yet another example of the fact that we are, to such a large extent, importing inflation. The Committee also found that the extent of the increases in domestic meatmeal prices was influenced by the practice of some meatmeal manufacturers consulting on the establishment of list prices for the industry. This practice has resulted in prices being higher than those established under more competitive conditions. The Committee has therefore recommended that this matter be brought to the attention of the Commissioner of Trade Practices by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy).
The Department of Primary Industry has power to control exports of protein meals under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations. The Department intensified its supervision of exports of all protein meals in 1973. Domestic users told the Committee that despite this surveillance by the Department, it was difficult at times, and in certain locations, to obtain supplies. Exports of protein meal increased by 60 per cent between 1971-72 and 1972-73 while total supplies of protein meal available to the local market fell by almost 10 per cent. Apparent local sales of meatmeal fell by 4 per cent.
The Committee has therefore recommended that the power of the Austraiian Government to regulate the export of meatmeal be applied more stringently, not only to ensure that the domestic market has priority in the use of available supplies, but also as a means of reducing and stabilising the price of meatmeal. I commend the report to the House.
– by leave - The Australian Government will provide a sum of $750,000 over the next 3 financial years to study Australia’s wildlife, both plant and animal. Grants totalling $120,000 will be made in this financial year.
The face of Australia has been changed rapidly by development. But it has become increasingly recognised that development must be guided so that we do not endanger the survival of native animals and plants. Knowledge of our native animals and plants is incomplete. For example, experts believe that possibly only half of Australian insects are known to science and that a quarter of native plants have yet to be described. There are also deficiencies in the publication and dissemination of available information. The most comprehensive set of descriptions of Australian plants was published almost a century agoin 1878. Even less complete is the scientific understanding of the ecological systems within which various animal and plant species evolve.
A greater effort in taxonomy and ecology is. important for other reasons as well as conservation. Practical benefits could flow to the Australian people through such avenues as forestry, agriculture, pharmacy, recreation and aesthetics. There is also the intrinsic scientific value of such a study. Valuable work in taxonomy and ecology has been performed in the past by museums, herbaria, universities and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, but a great deal must still be done. The need for more intensive study of Australia’s biological resources has long been recognised by scientists and has been a plank in the Australian Labor Party platform for some time. In spite of several representations to it over the last 10 years, the previous Government declined to take any action on this matter.
The House of Representatives Select Committee on. Wildlife Conservation in its 1972 report recommended:
That a biological survey be established by the Commonwealth Government to undertake on a continuing basis surveys of birds, mammals and reptiles and their ecology around to establish a national collection of wildlife species.
The Australian Academy of Science has made similar recommendations over many years. The Government, by the establishment of the Interim Council, is giving effect to the Committee’s recommendation and in fact is going further by including the study of Australia’s insects and plants. The membership of the Interim Council will be as follows: Dr D. F. Waterhouse, Chairman, CSIRO, Division of Entomology, Canberra; Dr H. G. Cogger, Australian Museum, Sydney; Dr L. A. S. Johnson, Director, Royal Botanic Gardens and Herbarium, Sydney; Dr K. H. L. Key, CSIRO, Division of Entomology, Canberra; Dr W. D. L. Ride, Director, Western Australian Museum; Dr L. J. Webb, CSIRO, Division of Plant Industry, Brisbane; and Dr P. Wilson, Western Australian Herbarium, Perth. We invited these gentlemen to serve on the Interim Council both because of their scientific knowledge and to achieve a proper balance between different fields of study. The Interim Council will not merely respond to requests for funds but will give positive leadership in establishing priorities for critical fields of study.
The terms of reference of the Interm Council are as follows:
The establishment of the Interim Council marks the beginning of a national effort to investigate our flora and fauna. I am sure the initiative will have the support of the House.
– by leave- On behalf of the Opposition, I should like to say that we are happy to see that the Government has made this amount of money available for the purposes stated by the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison). If I have any personal criticism, it is that the amount is not large enough. The study was recommended by the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wild life Conservation, of which I had the honour to be Chairman. The Committee recommended that a biological study be carried out in relation to birds, animals and reptiles and their ecology. It is a well known fact that in the past many countries have destroyed unique areas of habitat which can never be replaced. It is also well known that hundreds of species of wildlife have disappeared and, in the main, this has been due to encroachment on their habitat and not because they have been hunted.
We, as a Committee, considered that this survey was urgent, and I commend the Minister and the Government for making this amount available. I believe that before any development takes place in any virgin area of land it should be essential that an environmental impact study be carried out. For the present, the provision of this amount of money and the establishment of this Council are steps in the right direction and we completely support them.
Debate resumed from 28 November (vide page 4006), on motion by Mr Crean:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is one of a number of metric conversion measures which alter the unit for a charge from a ton to a tonne. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill, but we ‘believe we should point out that there will be a slight rise in the levy, since a tonne is slightly less in weight than a ton. We do not regard that as important in itself; but, as with so many other metric measures including postal charges based on metric weights introduced surreptitiously by this Government, the effect will be to raise costs to the industry concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Daly) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.45 p.m.
Debate resumed from 29 November (vide page 4149), on motion by Mr Hayden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Health Insurance Commission Bill as they are related measures. Separate questions may of course be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Hotham speaking without limitation of time.
Mr CHIPP (Hotham) N(2.47)- We are presently debating 2 Bills concerning health care for the Australian people which the Labor Government hopes will become Acts of this Parliament. These 2 Bills taken together with at least 4 other foreshadowed Bills to be introduced in the autumn session, and which of course we have not yet seen, represent the Australian Labor Party’s alternative health scheme to the one now in existence which was brought in by the Liberal and Australian Country Parties. It is perhaps unfortunate that these Bills will be debated in a political context - political not only in the sense that Parliament is a political forum but also because the dark political shadow of threats of double dissolution hangs over the final result of our deliberations in this and the other place. I say it is unfortunate because the real consequences of the result of this debate will not be some shallow transient victory for the side which enjoys the dubious success of scoring the greatest number of cheap political points against the other, but because the real issue here and the only important thing here is to adopt or to reject a scheme which can best care for people who become sick, injured or old, or who suddenly contract a disease which takes away their health.
It is an inevitable result of living that all of us at some stage or other will lose even temporaily - hopefully only temporarily - that rare quality that we take for granted while we have it, good health. We appreciate good health only when we lose it. Shakespeare once said that relief from pain is sheer delight, and surely the converse is true. The fool or drunkard in a motor car can decimate the future hopes of an innocent pedestrian. The predatory virus can strike without discrimination. The killer diseases of cancer and of the heart can cripple without warning or discrimination. We are therefore today discussing measures which will affect the lives, happiness and future of every Australian now living or about to be born.
It is in this context and with this approach that I say, with the full authority of the Opposition Parties in this House, that we will oppose to the end the health scheme submitted by the Government as an alternative to the scheme now in existence. We offer this unequivocal opposition fully conscious of the political consequences of such an act - and I refer to the repeated threats of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) that the political consequences of opposition to this scheme wll be a double dissolution. We oppose the scheme simply and sincerely for the reason that we believe that if implemented it would be bad for the Australian people, and therefore I move as an amendment to the Bill:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House is of the opinion that the existing health scheme is one of the best and most efficient in the world-
– You are joking.
– Mr Speaker, it is a pity that the interjections from the Labor Party were not louder, because at the time I speak such is the interest of members of the Labor Party that there are about only 10 Labor members in the House.
-Order! The Minister for Social Security delivered his second reading speech in complete silence. I ask the House to extend the same courtesy to the honourable member for Hotham.
– My amendment continues: and that therefore this Bill and associated Bills should be withdrawn, because the Government’s alternative proposals to the existing health scheme will (a) lower the quality of medical care for Australian families, (b) increase total costs for the Government and thus for taxpayers, (c) increase total costs for the majority of taxpayers, because they could only maintain the present quality of their health care by additional heavy commitments for private insurance, (d) reduce freedom of choice, (e) jeopardize the future of religious, private and country hospitals and (f) by design and intent be the first stage of nationalisation of health and medical care in Australia.’.
We believe that unequivocal opposition is the only course that we as an alternative government can take, because if this Bill and its associates are allowed passage they will produce an egg which a future government would find impossible to unscramble. Before I deal with some of the major specific criticisms of the Labor scheme and attempt to justify our reasons for rejecting it I would like to put our case in palpably clear and positive terms to try to avoid the inevitable charge that the Opposition is being negative and obstructionist. We state that we have a positive policy at this time manifested in the health scheme which is now in force, in the main, with outstanding success. Our scheme features the opportunity for a person to have a doctor of his own choice and in most circumstances the hospital of his own choice, and in all cases the form and nature of health insurance. Our scheme allows flexibility in its administration and competition between doctors, hospitals, health funds and everyone conconcerned with health. It also encourages standards to rise rather than to remain stationary or to fall. It encourages private hospitals and public hospitals to perform their special functions. It encourages voluntary involvement of citizens in the problem of national health.
However, we concede and have conceded that some deficiencies have developed within it due to the passage of time and the changes in the dynamic society in which we live. These deficiences need progressive reforms, which have been under intensive examination by the Liberal Party’s committee on social security, health and welfare over the past several months, and I know also by the Country Party’s health and social security committee. My committee, the Liberal Party’s committee, has resolved guidelines in several areas. These decisions of principle together with appropriate questions have been allocated to small expert working parties throughout the country so as to test their practicability in the spotlight of expert knowledge. This has been done to avoid the many errors that the Minister for Social Security, in good faith, fell into by announcing principles before having his principles tested by expert practical criticism. The -reports from the working parties are now being received, collated and summarised, and will enable us to submit suggested reforms through the appropriate party machinery at a very early date.
Some of the major guidelines submitted to working parties by my committee on social security, health and welfare are as follows: We believe as a committee that health care reasonably available is a right. Secondly, we believe that the present Liberal scheme is basically a good scheme and we wish to consider alterations which result in significant improvements in the quality of health care or its coverage or its cost or which would simplify the administration of the scheme. Thirdly, we wish to see the pensioner medical scheme and the subsidised health benefits scheme integrated into the present national insurance arrangements to ensure that all benefits of that scheme accrue to pensioners and other low income sections of the community. Fourthly, we wish to see insurance coverage for basic health care for the maximum number of people. Fifthly, we wish to see the survival of the independent health insurance funds for all areas of health service, including paramedical services, so as to allow people a free choice of health insurance funds. Sixthly, we wish to see appropriate deterrents to the abuse of the health scheme either by patients or by medical practitioners, provided that the deterrent does not make the health scheme unduly complicated and that people needing health care are not unreasonably deterred in seeking it.
We believe in medical fees being determined annually by an independent tribunal. We accept that these scheduled fees are not binding on all medical practitioners, but if any health scheme is to succeed the scheduled fees must be adhered to by a substantial majority of medical practitioners. This tribunal should consist of representatives of government, consumers and the medical profession, and it should have an independent chairman. We believe in the retention of private hospitals although we are not necessarily satisfied with the present standards of all of them. We accept the continued existence of private profit-making nursing homes. However, we would encourage the establishment of non-profit-making homes run by religious organisations, philanthropic and community organisations. We would like to see appropriate control of admissions, rehabilitation and discharge policies. We would like to see a co-ordinated decentralised delivery system of domiciliary care and day hospitals in order to keep out people who do not need to be in nursing homes. We would like to see increased attention given to hostels as alternatives to nursing homes, and appropriate incentives for elderly people to remain in their own homes.
Before I embark on specific criticisms of the Labor plan I wish to state that there are some features of this Bill with which the Opposition concurs in principle. I mention the apparent - I emphasise the word ‘apparent’ - increased financial assistance to public hospitals; the proposals to enable visitors to Australia to participate in the scheme on the payment of an appropriate premium; the concept of special medical benefits for unusual or complex procedures; the right of doctors to appeal against the decisions of committees of inquiry; the proposed increase in payments to private hospitals; and the concept, as I have stated, that pensioners and receivers of subsidised health benefits will be integrated into the scheme and become entitled to the same benefits as are enjoyed by all other members of that scheme. However, all these reforms, which when taken in the context of the whole Bill are relatively small and which we acknowledge and approve of in principle, can be introduced with ease into this Parliament as amendments to existing legislation. I am authorised to say on behalf of the Opposition that if this is done, if I can assure the Government that the passage of the reforms will be expedited. In other words, we are saying that these things, which we concede, can be added immediately to the health care system of this country without decimating a scheme that is now running perfectly well and with outstanding success. So again I make the point that the Opposition is not being obstructive or negative in its approach to this legislation; the contrary is the case.
Let me turn to our basic philosophy and practical objection to the thrust of this Bill and, I emphasise, the associated measures - four of which we have not yet seen - which are summarised in the 6 points of the amendment which I have moved. I shall deal with these in very broad terms only. My colleagues on this side of the House who will follow me in this debate will develop them in finer detail. Most importantly, as I said at the outset, we claim that the Labor scheme will lower the quality of medical care for Australian families. For the purpose of making this point I divide medical care’ into its 2 main components - hospitals and medical practitioner treatment. I deal first with the hospitals. In discussing hospitals we must do so in relation to both private and public hospitals. Let us see what the Hayden scheme, if I may use that abbreviation, will do immediately to public hospitals.
This Bill entitles every person to free treatment without means test in the public hospitals of Australia at a public ward or standard ward level. Such admission to those public hospitals is at present restricted to people on low incomes, to pensioners, to casualty cases and to those suffering from diseases, the treatment of which demand special and sophisticated forms of equipment or treatment. For the sake of accuracy I acknowledge that special circumstances obtain in some areas such as Queensland, but the thrust of the argument still holds. These public hospitals already are used to full capacity. This Bill, if passed immediately entitles millions of additional persons immediate access to admission. This simply means that, overnight, the already fully utilised public hospitals will be expected to cope with that enormous additional demand. Those kinds of people - this is the irony of this Bill - whom the Labor Party supposedly champions, who now have preferential treatment for free and immediate admission to a public hospital, will then find themselves competing for public hospital accommodation with every other Australian. If that is justice by the Labor Party to the poor, to the indigent or to the pensioner then I am confounded by that kind of logic. There are 2 reasons why we believe this additional demand will bc heavy. Firstly, it is human nature for a person to conclude: ‘Well, if the Government is compulsorily adding to my taxes in order to provide me and my family with free hospitalisation then I will use it and get my money’s worth.’ That is human nature. That will create an additional immediate demand on public hospitals. I have challenged the Minister time and again to deny that his advisers in Melbourne have asked private hospitals for 900 additional beds - or, to use the Minister’s expression, bed days - the day after his scheme comes into operation. In Melbourne there are roughly 5,000 public hospital beds. That means that the Minister’s advisers- the last time I spoke to the Minister he had not found out whether his advisers had given this figure to the Melbourne private hospitals - expect a 20 per cent additional demand overnight on Melbourne metropolitan public hospitals. Therefore I believe that my first allegation can be concluded on that statement alone.
Secondly, many people will find that they have no option but to go to a public hospital if they are sick because they would not be able to afford the additional heavy financial commitment for private insurance in an intermediate or private hospital bed. The simple arithmetic of the equation is quite devastating. There will just not be enough beds in public hospitals to accommodate the new demand, as I have just proved. The only 3 possible solutions to meeting this demand are firstly, that new public hospitals will have to be constructed. This clearly is impossible and absurd in view of the time scale. So that solution is out. Secondly, waiting times for admission to public hospital beds for ‘non-urgent’ cases will be extended considerably. I am informed that under the United Kingdom scheme people with such ‘non-urgent’ problems have to wait up to 3 years and beyond for the treatment of varicose veins, hernias, ‘non-urgent’ gynaeco.ogical procedures and like complaints. The third possible and probable solution would have an even more disastrous effect: Australia’s magnificently run private hospitals will have to be commandeered, invited, persuaded, induced, seduced - choose your own term - to give up some of the intermediate or private beds and become part public hospitals. When we talk about private hospitals I think it is vital to refer back to the Bill to understand the total ramifications of this course. This is the probable course the Government will have to take. I believe that under the provisions of clause 34 (1) of the Bill a hospital will be forced to go to the Government to have it take over some of its private beds as public beds for reasons which I will explain in a moment. Clause 34 provides that where a religious organisation running a hospital applies for a grant the Minister will consider the application. Clause 34 (3), which I submit the Minister did not make this clear in his second reading speech, provides:
Where the Minister approves an application under sub-section <2), he shall determine the number of beds at the hospital to which the approval relates.
In practice that provision can be quite devastating. A hospital may find that some of its beds are empty. It may then apply through economic circumstances to have, say, 25 per cent of its beds declared public beds. But under this sub-clause the Minister can act in one of two ways. He can determine the number of beds to be declared public; he can say that he will declare them all to be public beds or declare none of them to be public beds. From that point on the private hospital is completely and utterly under the control of the Minister.
If one reads on in clause 34 one sees that the provisions become even more insidious. The beds in that private hospital that become public beds will attract the payment of $16 a day. I mention in passing that there is no provision in the Bill for that amount to be escalated other than by an amendment of the Act of Parliament. So that is set. That will provide little joy to people who run private hospitals, when inflation is running at 13 per cent per annum. Clause 34 (4) states:
There is payable by Australia to an organisation to which this section applies a supplementary daily bed payment-
That sounds all right. It is to make up the difference between the $16 a day and the cost of maintaining a bed. But the sub-clause continues: at a rate fixed by the Minister.
Normally a cautious man would look to see the criteria that the Minister would have to have regard to in fixing that rate. Clause 34(7) states:
In fixing a rate for the purposes of sub-section (4), the Minister shall have regard to the loss of revenue of, and any increased cost to, the organisation-
A private hospital. There is absolutely no guarantee built into this Act that any applications for supplementary daily bed grants will or need be treated with sympathy or with equity. I say that the thrust of clause 34 means in simple language that as soon as a private hospital offers to the Minister a proportion of its bed capacity for use as standard ward beds, that virtually places them under the control of a socialist Minister in Canberra.
The significance of this can be better understood if seen in the light of the present Minister’s intent. If I misquote him I invite him, with your indulgence, Mr Speaker, to correct me forthwith. This Minister, who has the power I have just mentioned, was quoted in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 6 September 1972 as saying: the Labor Party is a Socialist Party and its aim as far as medical care is concerned is for the establishment of public enterprise;
That, too, to me is extremely significant. I invite my friend sitting at the table opposite, the Minister for Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) to correct me if I am wrong, but he was quoted on 23 July 1972 - I think this is a remarkably significant statement - as saying:
Private hospitals and private nursing homes are irrelevant to the Labor Party’s concept of a national health scheme and the vast majority of people could easily be catered for in the public hospital sector.
I understand that at that time the Minister was a member of the Australian Labor Party Health Committee and therefore he made that statement with the authority of that Committee.
The question might fairly be asked: Why would private hospitals be foolish enough to allow themselves to be partly or wholly nationalised in this way? Why should they make an offer of beds to the Minister for Social Security, which offer in itself is an act of selfdestruction? The answer is simply that they will be forced to because they will be confronted with the uneconomic situation of having many empty beds. I say this for 2 reasons. I have mentioned the first one - that many who now use private hospitals will go to public hospitals because their compulsory taxes will entitle them so to do. The second reason is even more significant. Private hospitals will have empty beds because the cost of additional insurance for private hospital treatment to Australian families will necessarily be so heavy that they will simply be unable to afford intermediate or private ward accommodation.
I have received estimates from various funds of what it will cost a family man in addition to the 1.35 per cent supertax he will be forced to pay on his taxable income to insure for his wife, family and himself for intermediate or private bed accommodation in a private hospital. The estimates - it is impossible to get an accurate cost - range from $80 to $125 per annum extra in insurance costs to entitle him and his family to a bed in a private hospital. The private hospitals will therefore be forced to go begging to the Minister with the pathetic plea for the Government to take over part of the hospital.
I was amused to read in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 28 November 1973 of the Minister’s confident prediction that private hospitals would want to enter into agreements with the Government when his scheme began. His sense of humour came to the fore when he said that they would come voluntarily to him. He said: they would not keep beds empty just to stick to the principle of being private.
I cannot help being reminded of the ‘voluntary confessions’ obtained by Father Torquemada and some of his moralist contemporaries, when the Minister talks of the private hospitals voluntarily coming to him to ask him to take beds. This procedure must result in the end of autonomous administration of private hospitals. It must mean that any private hospital which makes an offer to the Minister is playing fly to the spider.
There is, however, another equally if not more serious consequence of private hospitals becoming part or mainly public hospitals. The greater the number of private hospitals which become public the fewer will be the number of patients who will be able to be treated by the doctor of their own choice. The Minister has made a lot of the fact that his scheme will allow people to have a doctor of their own choice. The scheme does not interefere with that right, he says. Let me give an example. The Mercy Hospital in Melbourne - a great private hospital with fine traditions and a magnificent record of service to the community - has 200 beds. If, say, half of those become public beds, does the Minister seriously suggest for a moment and does he seriously ask us to believe that patients in the 100 public beds would be able to be attended by the doctor of their own choice? Does he seriously suggest that a Melbourne man who wants to be treated in the Mercy Hospital and who goes into a public ward - presuming it is half pub- lie and half private- will be able to be treated by the doctor of his own choice? Does the Minister really suggest that a woman in a public ward would be able to have a doctor of her own choice attend her and deliver her baby? Anyone who knows anything about the administration of hospitals would know that that is an absurd proposition and that it just will not work.
I shall speak a little further about how this Bill, and its associated measures will lower the standard of medical care. I now turn away from hospitals to the effect of this legislation on medical practitioners, or doctors. I concede that the effect on them will not be as immediate as the effect on hospitals, which will occur overnight. There are dangers in the Bill, particularly those related to the Government’s expressed intention to introduce socialised medicine. At the one end we have the fixing of fees. I do not disbelieve the Government for a moment when it talks about nationalised medicine and fixing doctors’ fees. Anybody now in this House or listening to the broadcast of these proceedings, who saw the public debate on television a little while ago, in which I thought the Leader of the Opposition absolutely trounced the Prime Minister, will know that the Prime Minister was flushed out with the first question at question time in that confrontation. He was asked by a pressman: ‘What impact, Prime Minister, would it have on the Government’s attitude of fixing doctor’s fees if the prices referendum had a Yes vote on Saturday? Without hesitation the Prime Minister stood and responded without equivocation: It would give us the power to fix doctors’ fees, to make the decisions of the tribunal mandatory on doctors’.
– So they ought to be, too.
– I am very glad to have that kind of interjection, which Hansard will now acknowledge, from the Minister for Services and Property on record. So doctors now, I think, can take little comfort from the Prime Minister and the confirmation by his hatchet man - the Leader of the House - who confirms that that would be a good thing. From the passing of this referendum at the one end doctors’ fees will be fixed, and fixed for ever. At the other end - here I want to be fair to the Minister for Social Security and I do not want to misquote him - I suggest that the whole thrust of the Green Paper, sugared down a little in the White Paper and sugared down a little more in the Bill, is bulk billing.
Did the Deeble report refer to bulk billing as a cornerstone of the plan’?
– Of course it did.
– It did. Has the Government resiled from that eventual ambition? I have heard no denial that it has. I want to be fair on this question. My suspicion is based on past statements of many members of the Government on nationalising doctors and nationalising medicine generally.
However, let me take another case which I think is real, not based on suspicion, and this refers to specialists, particularly surgeons, who now serve both in an honorary capacity and on a fee for service basis in private hospitals and in public hospitals. If the number of private beds in Australia declines - I do not think any honourable member on the Government side will deny that it will; that is the whole purpose of the Government’s Bill - it naturally follows that the ability of specialists - I am talking particularly about surgeons - to service and serve patients in private wards or private beds will decline by the same ratio. Honourable members, are aware that specialists rely for their income on treating patients in private beds. The honorary system or the sessional basis upon which specialists treat people in public hospitals has served Australia very well. They are able to treat public patients on an honorary basis because of the fees they can earn by treating private patients after consultation in their private rooms or in the private or intermediate wards of private or public hospitals.
If the number of private beds declines - and it will - so too will the capacity of those specialists to earn on a fee basis decline. This is the very thing I believe the Labor Party is about. There are only 2 alternatives left - if one can have 2 alternatives - to those specialists. The first is that they must resort purely to a sessional basis working in a public hospital, or work for a salary, both of which results, I believe, would please the Minister for Social Security and his Party immensely.
I turn to the question of the increased total cost of the scheme to the Government and thus to taxpayers. One of the rare flares of humour the Minister has shown has been his statement, which I have heard nobody express belief in or acceptance of that his scheme will be cheaper and cost less than the present Liberal-Country Party scheme. My colleagues who will follow me from this side of the House in the debate will talk about over- utilisation of hospital and medical services through his scheme. I simply state that point. I refer now, in specific terms, to a survey published by Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd. I think the Minister would be gracious enough to concede that that company is one of the most highly respected institutions of its kind in Australia. It has stated categorically that the Minister already has underestimated the cost of his scheme by nearly $300m in the first year and that after the first year the cost will escalate sharply.
The Minister has always been one of all the people on the front bench of that side of the House who is notorious for planting Dorothy Dixers among his friends - I do not blame him for this - to correct mis-statements and misrepresentations that have been made against the Minister or made about his scheme or its figures. I will concede that there have been some misrepresentations. In fact, I have come to his defence in this respect on one or two occasions. But unless I have missed it, this is one allegation, by Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd, about which the Minister has not cared to plant a Dorothy Dixer, has not made a statement about and has not attempted to refute, that is, that his scheme is underestimated by S300m. Why has he not done this? One wonders.
Already since the Green Paper we have seen a 1.35 per cent tax proposed. It was said 0rig.ally that the money to be collected from that tax would be matched $1 for $1 out of Consolidated Revenue. That figure was then raised to $1.25 out of Consolidated Revenue to the $1 raised by tax. In the White Paper - there is no mention of this in the Minister’s second reading speech - the figure has risen to $1.28 out of Consolidated Revenue for the $1 from that tax. That is for the first year of the scheme only. Somewhere else, the Minister, or someone else, has suggested that in the second year the payment will be $1.50 out of Consolidated Revenue to each $1 raised by the 1.35 per cent tax. This is the kind of hidden subsidy that will continue to come from Consolidated Revenue-
– .From the taxpayers.
– . . . that will finally, as my Leader reminds me, have to be met from one source only, that is, the taxpayers of this nation. The increased cost to taxpayers. I have already covered in the additional heavy commitments they will have to make for private insurance coverage. It will be between S70 and $115 to $120 a year. Let us look at the young family man on a middle sized income. Again these are the kinds of people who at the last election the Labor Party was supposed to champion and to appeal for directly. Can he afford to have a 1.35 per cent tax added to his taxes? That man wants his wife when she has a baby to go into a private ward or an intermediate ward. The people have shown this by voting through their cheque books, that is, by opting for intermediate or private ward accommodation. At least 70 per cent of Australians who insure have opted that way. That man wants his wife or his children to have intermediate or private ward accommodation. Can that man afford - on top of that tax and on top of other rising costs caused by inflationary tendencies - to pay another $80 or $120- whatever the figure may be - a year for that privilege? I suspect that that man will be deeply hurt, and most hurt of anybody, under this scheme.
– Especially if his wife is working.
– Especially, as the honourable member for Corangamite interjects - I thank him for his interjection - if his wife is working because each of them will pay a 1.35 per cent tax. That is an intolerable situation for any young family to find itself in.
I return to the fourth point that I made earlier, that is, reduced freedom of choice. I have mentioned that the Government, in its Bill, reduces freedom of choice of a doctor. I dwell briefly on this point. I know that my colleagues will develop this point later in the debate. The scheme reduces or eliminates freedom of choice in the choice of an insurance fund up to standard ward level. The Minister, myself and many members on this side of the House, have had some discussion and argument about how many people are now covered by insurance, by the pensioner medical service or other sorts of health insurance cover. The Minister’s figure is 87 per cent; our figure is 92 per cent plus. But for the sake of argument let us split the difference and say that 90 per cent of people are covered today. The Opposition believes it is more, but let us just say that it is 90 per cent of the population.
The Government says: This is no good. We will disregard the wishes of that 90 per cent of the population and we will force those people to pay insurance into a Government health fund through the taxation mechanism.’ The Government says: To hell with the ex pressed wishes of 90 per cent of the Australian people to be covered voluntarily by a health insurance fund of their own choice. We will force them into this monstrous, monolithic, bureacratic, mind boggling, one single Government insurance fund which, at the last count, will handle the again mind boggling figure of something like 90,000 claims every day of the week.’ Only the mind of a nonsocialist would boggle at that kind of single, monolithic, Government fund handling that volume of work. But the minds of honourable members on this side of the House are appalled at such a prospect.
If the Government had argued that universal health insurance cover is desirable, that the 8 per cent to 10 per cent who are at present not covered by health insurance or other means should be covered in some way, and then set about devising some means of bringing in that 8 per cent to 10 per cent, leaving the 92 per cent to their own voluntary choice, that sort of move would have had my complete support. But the Government has gone the other way with the 92 per cent. It is already looking at the ones who have voluntary health insurance. It will add to their taxes and force most of them and their families into public wards whereas 70 per cent of them already choose to insure for intermediate or private accommodation.
I come to the last point of my amendment - nationalisation. My colleagues will take up other important issues raised in the Bill and its associate Bills, such as the worrying aspect of identity cards; the doubtful provisions of section 131; the deep concern felt by liberals about a Government data bank, its mechanical fallibility and the human fallibility of the persons who have access to it; the fact that 70 per cent of Australians have already voted with their cheque books by opting for private or intermediate ward accommodation; the dangers to the doctor-patient relationship inherent in the Government’s scheme; the massive injustice to Queenslanders on which I believe my friend the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) will expand.
– Ha, hal
– The honourable member for Adelaide is having one of his rare moments of amusement. When my friend the honourable member for Griffith speaks I am sure that the smile will vanish from his face with astonishing alacrity. Let me conclude by referring briefly to the sixth point in my amendment which is the allegation, agreed to unanimously by all honourable members on this side of the House in the Party room, that by design and intent this Bill is the first stage of nationalisation of health and medical care in Australia. The Opposition supports its charge by no less an authority than the Prime Minister himself. At a Fabian lecture on 25 July 1972 he said:
The major act of nationalisation in the traditional sense to be undertaken by a Labor Government in the next term, will be through the establishment of a single health fund, administered by a health insurance commission . . .
What better, more impeccable, higher authority? What greater source, to use already famous words - or should I say the greatest source - could we use to support our fears? He has kept his promise. This Bill certainly does that. But in its design and intent we believe that it goes far beyond the area of the nationalisation of the health funds. This Bill apparently is just part of a sextet, because 4 other Bills are to be introduced next year to complete the Labor jigsaw.
Do we accept the sugar coated ‘innocence’ of this Bill or do we believe the publicly professed intentions of the Australian Labor Party about socialisation and the expressed intentions of honest men such as Cass, Everingham, Gun and Hayden, who have gone on record saying that their aim is socialisation of the public sector of medical care, which is palpably on record as their future intent? We certainly cannot disbelieve them in this area where they stand up and are proud to be socialists. The great health debate has gone on for about a year. The task of the Government - not our task - was to prove that its alternative scheme was better than ours. This it has failed to do. Its task was also to persuade the responsible organisations associated with health care that its alternative was better than ours. This also it has failed to do.
For the record let me state that the Australian Medical Association - the federal and 6 State branches, the National Association of Medical Specialists, the Australian Association of Surgeons, the National Association of General Practitioners, the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia, the National Standing Committee of Private Hospitals, the Association of Medical Superintendents of Australian Hospitals, the Catholic Hospitals of Australia, the Freemasons Hospital, the National Conference of Major Superiors of Catholic Religious Orders, the
National Conference of Junior Chambers of Commerce - I could go on with the list - have failed to be persuaded by Labor’s scheme. Its task was also to persuade the people of Australia that its alternative was better than ours. This also it has failed to do. A gallup poll reported in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 12 September 1973 showed that 54 per cent of Australians preferred the Opposition’s scheme and only 43 per cent supported the Government’s alternative. Therefore, as a responsible Opposition, we will react to this Bill and the associated measures in the only responsible way - by total, vigorous and unequivocal rejection.
-Is the amendment seconded?
Mr Molten I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
Or CASS (Maribyrnong - Minister for the Environment and Conservation) (3.33) - First of all I would like to touch on some of the points made by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). He suggested some positive aspects of the Liberal-Country Party health scheme as if they were something the Government had not thought of before and, what is more, that the Opposition had not thought of before either. For example, he came out with the statement that health care reasonably available is a right. Surely no one has ever denied that. Surely that is what all of us should be aiming for. The problem with the present scheme is that the right is limited by one’s financial capacity in many situations unless of course one happens to be a really indigent type of person or a pensioner.
– Who has ever denied the right? Give us an instance.
-Order! I intend to maintain silence as far as possible. If the honourable member for Cowper interjects again I will name him.
– I believe that recently the honourable member for Hotham indicated that the Government scheme would really only assist the no-hopers. I do not know what sort of definition he applies to them. But leaving aside the no-hopers, he mentioned also that pensioners would be better covered by our scheme and he in turn is proposing the same sort of thing. Of course, the Opposition had 23 years in government to provide for these deficiencies which it is now suddenly prepared to concede do exist. No one stopped the previous Government from doing something about them.
Another point the honourable gentleman made was that he wished to see appropriate deterrents for unnecessary use of hospital and medical services by patients. I want honourable members to think carefully about that. The suggestion is that if health services are available free, for some reason or other people will go along and use them whether they need them or not - simply because they are free. I suppose the line is: ‘Yesterday I could not afford to have my appendix out because it was going to cost me so much, but now that I can have it done for nothing I may as well go and have it done.’ Surely one seeks medical treatment because one feels one needs medical treatment. One does not seek medical treatment solely because one can afford it. I would not even claim that today for the rich who arc better able to afford medical treatment and perhaps get treatment more often than others do. But I do not believe for one moment that the rich get treatment simply because they think they can afford it and therefore they will have it. They obtain treatment because they feel that they need it and fortunately for them they can pay for it. But in many situations these days less well-off members of the community have to think twice; whilst they may feel that they need treatment they have to weigh that against the cost to themselves, and they take the view that with a bit of time perhaps they will get over the problem, anyway.
Then mention was made of the fact that a tribunal would be necessary to ascertain what the level of medical fees should be and, of course, it was not unreasonable to hope that a reasonable number of doctors would adhere to these fees. We were not the ones who discovered that this is a problem; the last Government experienced this self-same problem of finding the medical fees going up in leaps and bounds. It even appointed tribunals and instituted inquiries to seek to find some way to control the ever increasing medical fees. When the common fee was finally agreed upon, rather grudgingly and after difficult negotiations, we then had the galling experience of finding increasing numbers of doctors very quickly departing from the schedule of fees. Even the Liberal Party Government was mumbling about the steps which might have to be taken in order to ensure that doctors would adhere to the schedule of fees.
Then I come to the amendment which, in essence, contains the criticisms of our proposal. The quality of medical care, we are told, will be lowered by our proposal and, as an indication, the first point discussed was hospitals. Of course, we have to concede that at present the average person is, in the main, unable very easily to get into a large public hospital for a variety of reasons, not the least being that he is often means tested out of those hospitals, and that is part of the problem. So in other words, where there are large public hospitals with a capacity to provide specialist medical care, the indication for admission is either that a person is a pensioner, or he is means tested in because he does not have the prescribed income or he is a special case for which no other facilities are available anywhere else. But any other medical indication which ought to reasonable and proper does not count if a person’s income is so high that he cannot be admitted, because he is means tested out of that hospital.
In other words, in my opinion, under the present system there is a wastage of specialist facilities in the large public hospitals because admission is not determined solely on medical indication, and in my view that is the only reason why people should be admitted to our large intensive care hospitals. It should not be based on a person’s capacity to pay or on whether he is so poor that he cannot be sent anywhere else even if the need is a relatively minor one. The indication for providing such expensive sepcialist facilities in large public hospitals is because they are needed for medical reasons, but because that is not what is fulfilled under the present scheme.
We anticipate that when anybody, irrespective of his means, is allowed to be admitted for standard care treatment in a large public hospital, the justification for admission will become medical indication only and nothing else, and that will ensure that the facilities are used to the best advantage for the community. We will not have, as is often the case now, these very expensive facilities - they are expensive because they must be provided for the most complicated medical care, but they are not used for that purpose all the time - being used in fact for patients who could well be treated elsewhere in much lower cost institutions.
We are then told that with the institution of our scheme there will be a sudden demand for 900 extra standard ward beds in the Melbourne area, as if suddenly so many more people will need to be admitted to hospital. That is a dishonest argument. What it really amounts to is that because of the availability of standard ward care, more people will be able to be admitted to such beds - they are excluded now because of the means test - and/ or alternatively they will want to be admitted to standard ward beds, but that will not be because they generate new illnesses; it will be the same illnesses which now would force these people into private beds. So, if 900 more standard ward beds are needed, 900 fewer beds will be needed in private or intermediate wards. Honourable members opposite cannot tell me that simply by passing the legislation, suddenly so many more people will become ill and need admission to hospital. I pointed out earlier that the criteria for admission under our system will not be that a person feels like it but simply - and this is the way it ought to be - because medically he needs it.
We hear a lot about the increase in cost, and we were assured that the Liberal Party’s proposal to cope with the few minor deficiencies, such as providing for pensioners and those not covered by the present scheme would require relatively minor adjustments to the present best scheme in the world. But of course the reality is that this has been costed by the Department of Social Security. On the basis of the present scheme and the way payments are made, the cost to provide these minor adjustments would be the not insignificant sum of $200m to $300m. We are hoping that by readjusting the present scheme and by doing away with the gross wastage of the multitudinous health funds competing with one another, with all their administrative costs, we will encompass these minor adjustments foi much the same expense with which we are faced at the moment, or with a relatively minor increase.
Whenever the cost of the present health scheme is discussed it always strikes me as incongruous how no one takes into account or seems to notice the savings that would result from abolishing or doing away with the need for all these multitudious benefit funds - we are not going to abolish them because if people still wish to use them they are free to do so - which now spend at least 25c of every dollar they collect purely in administration.
It does not mean that our scheme will require increased public service administration because the technique of collection can be wedded into our present collection schemes - the taxation system and the Department of Social Security which already handles much more money in the way of payments to pensioners and so on every week than health funds do, anyway.
The next point made related to the apparent loss of the freedom of choice, and we were assured that under our scheme patients will not have freedom of choice of their doctor if they are admitted to the standard ward of a hospital, such as the Mercy Hospital. Let us try to understand what happens today in such private hospitals. A person does not bowl up to the door of the Mercy Hospital and say: I want to be admitted and I want Dr Bloggs to treat me’. He first has to go to Dr Bloggs. If Dr Bloggs happens to be in the custom of referring patients to the Mercy Hospital and he is accepted as one of the doctors who treats patients there, that person is admitted. But if Dr Bloggs never treats a patient at that hospital or never admits a patient to it, the chances are almost certainly that if he rings up and says: ‘Mrs Jones wants to be admitted. I have never admitted a patient to yow hospital but she wants to go there’, he will be told: ‘Well, sorry doctor, we do not have any beds because we have our regular staff. Under our proposal the same thing will hold. We are simply suggesting that standard ward beds ought to be available in the Mercy Hospital but that to be admitted to that hospital ;t person will have to be referred by a doctor who traditionally works at that hospital. It is the same in a large public hospital.
– Oh I
Br CASS - The honourable member can say ‘Oh’ but the reality once again is that when a person goes to the casualty department of a large public hospital today - where I concede there is no freedom of choice - he is treated by the doctor on duty. This happens under the previous Government’s scheme. It will not change for that type of admission. If you go to the hospital because you are referred to a large public hospital by your own general practitioner, he does not treat you in the large hospital but refers you to a specialist of his choice who he knows is on the staff of that hospital. It will not change with us; it will be exactly the same. You have the same limitations on freedom under the present scheme as you will have under our proposal. It will be no different. In other words, there is no such thing as complete freedom of choice anywhere in Australia now. For admission to large hospitals whether private or public, you have to get into either of them by being recommended through a member of the regular medical staff attending either the private of public hospital. To say that we will introduce some limitation is sheer humbug. To put it in another way, the Opposition does not understand how the present scheme works.
Next, we had the claim that specialists now treat patients in public hospitals in an honorary capacity - a very generous donation to the community. They treat private patients and charge fees. Estimates have been made that some leading consultants working in large public hospitals spend a large proportion of their time attending to their duties in the large public hospitals. They may attend the hospital two or three sessions a week at least; they are on call; they have either to attend outpatient clinics or perform operations and conduct ward rounds in the hospital. When you add to that the time they have to spend travelling - often they work in private capacities far from the large hospital and in private institutions all around the city - you may well find that perhaps at least 30 per cent of their time is spent in treating patients in an honorary capacity. Perhaps they spend as much time again in travelling around the countryside getting from home to the consulting room and to the hospitals. You may well find that they are expected to earn their living in less than half their working week, perhaps 40 per cent. So, of course, they have to charge exorbitant fees.
One could well ask why the rich, those who can afford to pay fees, should be bled so severely financially to enable treatment for the poor to be provided by the specialists in an honorary capacity in the hospitals The reality is that the medical profession has become sick of this. The Australian Medical Association no longer approves honorary services by consultants in large public hospitals. The Association is in favour of either salaried medical service or sessional payments for consultants working in the large public hospitals. We are not proposing anything revolutionary. If my recollection serves me correctly, the Association has been opposed to honorary medical services in large public hospitals for many years.
Then we had the claim that there would be an increase in the cost of the scheme due to over-utilisation. I have touched on this matter before, namely, the horrendous suggestion that if you can have an operation for nothing you will have it, whereas if you have to pay you will not have it. That is true, if there is a medical indication for it, I suppose. Indeed I am sure that is so. In some situations you may need an operation for a hernia but, because it will cost too much money, you will put up with the hernia. But to suggest that you will have an operation simply because it is free is ridiculous. Surely there is always a medical indication for people who seek surgical treatment.
A couple of years ago figures were examined by a Dr Jim Lawson, who was seeking to ascertain some guidelines for forecasting what hospital bed needs might be for surgical treatment in the community. To find out, he analysed the incidence of operations in Australia, the United States of America and Great Britain, and he uncovered some very interesting facts. In Australia, where doctors are paid on a fee for service basis, he found on a sample of over 8 million services - he used all the health fund statistics - that the tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy rate, in this country, mainly for children, was seven per thousand. He found that in the United States of America where they have fairly extensive salaried medical schemes - ironically in God’s own country of free enterprise - they have doctors working on salaries - the operation rate for the same diseases was only four per thousand. He found also in the statistics from the United Kingdom, where doctors are on salary, the operation rate was 3.6 per thousand.
Are we suggesting that Australian children are twice as ill as American or English children? I should think that many people would claim that our children are healthier than in either of the 2 countries, because we have fewer people who are less well-off and living in less adequate conditions. Under fee for service it seems that, despite the claims that doctors on salaries will promote overutilisation, the reality is that you have twice the utilisation with a fee for service system as you have with doctors on salaries. In regard to appendicectomy, the rate was five per thousand in Australia, 1.4 per thousand in America with salaried doctors and in the United Kingdom 2.5 per thousand with salaried doctors. There was an interesting control and it might be said that this was because doctors on salary were lazy and would not do the job. In the case of herniorrhaphy the patient can know that he might need an operation, whereas he depends on the doctor’s judgment in relation to his tonsils or appendix. For herniorrhaphy the rate in Australia, where the patient has to pay a fee for service, is 1.5 per thousand. In the United States of America it is 1.9 per thousand and in the United Kingdom it is two per thousand - not much of a difference, but an increase. In those countries the doctors are on salary. This suggests that where the patient does not have to pay but knows he needs the operation and can afford to have it done because the doctor is on salary, he has it done. Let us not believe the nonsense that a salaried service means an increase in utilisation.
Even the President’s task force in the United States of America found that where salaried medical service holds, the utilisation rate for hospital beds was often 30 per cent less than when doctors were paid on a fee for service basis.
Finally, in case one suspects that the quality may be inferior, they also found on examination of equivalent populations that the perinatal mortality rate was lower in places where the doctors were salaried.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your indulgence in order to make an apology to the honourable member for Calare.
– In view of the special circumstances the indulgence is granted.
– This morning during question time the honourable member for Calare (Mr England) asked me a question that was, as I said at the time, inaudible to me. I now realise, after reading the green copy of the Hansard report which gives a correct account of what the question was about, that I should have asked the honourable gentleman to repeat his question so that I could hear it instead of speculating as to what it was all about. I apologise now so that any of the Press who may see fit to publish what I said this morning will have the decency - and I hope that all of them are decent enough - to publish my apology with the report because it would be unfair to the honourable member if what I said today were published today and an apology were published on some back page tomorrow or the next day. It would have to be today, because we do not meet again until next week. The honourable member asked me whether I was aware of the type of assistance that was practically non-existent in country areas. He was referring to the shortage of female assistance for overworked housewives in country areas. The honourable member for Calare asked:
Will he discuss this matter with his colleague the Minister for Immigration and point out that the most favourable place for a migrant girl to become proficient in the English language and to learn of the Australian way of life is in the shelter of an Australian home.
I deeply regret that I did not hear the question, because the last part of it really gets down to the nub of the whole matter. The honourable gentleman was correct, at question time, in asserting that an Australian home is the best place for a migrant girl to learn the language and, more importantly, that it is also the best place to learn the Australian way of life.
I apologise quite sincerely to the honourable gentleman for having replied in a vein that was fair enough if it represented a reply to what I thought he was talking about. I honestly thought that he had referred to servant girls, although I did not hear the word ‘servant’ - in fact, it was not used - in the same context as the matter had been raised earlier this week when reference was made to bringing, I think, New Guinean girls into Australia to act as servant girls. When it was mentioned earlier in the week it was in the context of a very poorly paid or almost non-paid situation. I thought that that was what he was talking about. The honourable gentleman has not asked me to apologise. I think he could have asked for an apology there and then. But he was big enough and strong enough in his own character not to bother about asking for an apology, and that is all the more reason why I intend to give him one. He deserves an apology, especialy because he is not a member who is given to engaging in unfair criticism of another person. I have never known him to do that. He is and always has been moderate in the presentation of whatever case he presents to the Parliament
Whilst that is true of the honourable gentleman and for that reason I give him this unqualified apology, it is also true that there are some other members of the Parliament who deserve whatever is dished out to them - I am probably one of them - because those who give it or hand it out ought to be prepared to cop it. However, usually, they are the ones who are not prepared to cop it. The honourable member for Calare does not deserve to have it dished out to him. He did not ask for an apology and that gives me all the more reason to tender him an unqualified apology. I hope that the Press will see fit to publish my apology, together with any reference it may see fit to make to my reply.
– The Australian Country Party joins with the Liberal Party in opposing the Bills before the House and supporting the amendment so capably moved by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). As I have only 20 minutes in which to speak, I will not be able to cover all the ramifications of this Bill, but my colleagues from both the Liberal Party and the Country Party will comment in more detail on many points as the debate proceeds. The Bills before the House are two of a number of Bills that are necessary to implement the Australian Labor Party’s health scheme. At least four more such Bills are to come before the House. It is poor government, showing a lack of regard for Parliament, that they are being introduced piecemeal, and in a vague and ill-defined form at that.
The health scheme proposed by the Labor Party is a socialist political philosophy translated into a health scheme. It is quite clear that these Bills will start to implement the following statement, which was made about a year ago by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden):
The Labor Party is a socialist party and its aim as far as medical care is concerned is for the establishment of public enterprise.
Does anyone want it clearer than that? The provisions of the scheme and the obvious future intentions of the Government are completely in line with the socialist philosophy. The aim of this Government is ultimately to control from Canberra, under one huge central administration, all the hospital finance, all the hospital beds and all the doctors throughout Australia - and, of course, the taxing powers to finance this scheme. I do not consider that such an aim is in the best interests of the people as a whole. If I did think it was in their best interests, I would advocate support for the proposals. The proposals are being described as an insurance scheme. However, they are not an insurance scheme at all; they are a taxation scheme.
The 2 Bills before the Parliament are not detailed enough in vital areas, particularly in Part HI and Schedule 2 of the Health Insurance Bill. Some of the major areas lacking in detail are, firstly, the lack of definite guidelines for negotiation of agreements with the State governments in relation to accommodation and finance; secondly, the lack of precise definition of the functions of the Health Insurance Commission; and, thirdly, the lack of definition of doctors’ and patients’ rights and entitlements. The overwhelming evidence available to me and to the Country Party indicates that a wide range of organisations and individual people oppose the health scheme put forward by the Government. In fact, there is relatively little evidence of any organisational or individual support for the scheme, particularly amongst people who have studied it. These include people who are outstanding in the medical and economic fields. The medical people have indicated that thehospital proposals are vague and unrealistic; that they will not maintain the high standard of health care that presently is available in the majority of hospitals, public and private, around Australia.
The economists say that the Government has understated the total cost in the first year and also that the scheme will cost the taxpayers, collectively and individually, more than the existing scheme. It is regrettable that the Minister for Social Security constantly has attempted to refute criticisms of his proposals, whether medical or statistical, by resorting to personalities and misrepresentation. Regrettably, he has conducted a lengthy and consistent campaign of insult and denigration towards organisations and individuals, many of whom could not answer back. Probably, his most extraordinary outburst was his insinuations against Professor Pollard - a most distinguished and highly academically qualified Australian. The Minister for Social Security also has misled the House in many of his answers to questions and/ or has refused to give background statistical criteria to members of this House in order that those criteria could be compared by all concerned with estimates of the costs and ramifications of the health scheme as calculated by independent economists.
The list of people and organisations completely opposed to the whole concept of Labor’s scheme is long and impressive. It comprises State governments, a wide range of medical organisations and highly qualified members of the medical profession, the hospital and medical voluntary insurance funds, the National Working Party of Catholic Hospitals, the private and community hospitals, the private nursing homes, nurses, organisations representing country medical staffs, the boards of management of many public hospitals and many other organisations, including the Freemasons Hospital, Labor’s scheme will destroy the existing scheme which is recognised generally as one of the best and most efficient in the world. It will lower the standards of health care for the majority of Australian families. It will increase the total cost of health care for the majority of taxpayers. It will reduce freedom of choice and the availability of doctors, particularly in the hospital area. It will increase dramatically the cost of health care in Australia to the Government - that is, the taxpayers - particularly as the scheme progresses.
The Minister has refused to give any cost estimates beyond the first year of operation. An independent estimate of the cost structure of the proposals shows that the Government has underestimated the cost of the scheme in the first full year by a very large amount and that the total cost of the scheme in that full year will be $3 82m more than if the present scheme is continued.
– How much?
– It will cost $382m more than if the present scheme is continued. This estimate gives the lie to the Minister’s statement in the White Paper that the cost of Labor’s scheme will be approximately the same as would have been the case under the existing program. After 3 years the Labor program will be costing - this is an independent estimate - up to $2,500m a year or about $800m a year more than the present scheme.
Further disastrous disadvantages of Labor’s scheme will be that it will jeopardise the future of religious, private and country hospitals. It will result in the over-use of the services of doctors’ and hospitals. The Minister has misled the House by constantly stating in his answers that the House would be in a position to debate the ramifications of the whole proposal when the legislation was before the House. However, the true situation is that he is bringing the Bills which are necessary to put the whole scheme into practice into the House in a piecemeal way. The position now is that the Bills relating to the levy on taxable incomes, the levy on workers’ compensation and third party insurance, the Bills setting out the terms and conditions for the voluntary health insurance funds and the Bill relating to privacy and confidentiality of information are not available to the House at all. The Parliament and the public are therefore in no position to assess the full effect of the overall scheme, but enough data is available to show that it just does not compare with our present excellent health program.
There is a strong body of opinion, and it is shared by members of the Country Party and the Liberal Party, that it would be far easier and more practical to continue to make progressive improvements to the present scheme in which there is a co-operative partnership between the Federal and State governments’ voluntary insurance, doctors and the Australian citizen. The main areas which could be considered for change in the present excellent scheme are: The establishment of a standing full time committee to regularly review and fix fees for the 4000-plus medical procedures and services for benefit purposes; the upgrading of services to the pensioners; increased hospital finance; alterations to the subsidised health benefit scheme and an improved method of enrolment of eligible people - although it is maintained by many knowledgeable people that virtually no person in Australia is denied medical and hospital treatment no matter what his financial position may be and no matter whether he is insured or not. I personally have had hardly a complaint about the existing health scheme in the IS years I have been a member of this Parliament, and I know my colleagues in the Country Party have had a similar experience. The present scheme is good. There is absolutely no need to destroy the whole structure.
Other areas which need to be reviewed are some para-medical services. I have questioned many people, people in the category of the man in the street, about Labor’s proposals and the existing scheme. Their reactions are in line with the 1973 gallup poll which showed that 5 out of 6 States strongly opposed Labor’s scheme. In Western Australia 29 per cent supported the scheme. In South Australia the figure was 35 per cent, in Queensland 39 per cent, in New South Wales 41 per cent and in Tasmania 42 per cent. The State in favour Victoria, had 54 per cent in favour of the scheme. So much for the mandate that the Labor Government says it has to bring in this health scheme.
I turn now to country areas. The overall picture for country hospitals if this scheme is introduced is frightening and depressing. I illustrate why by summarising some of the comments conveyed to me by people engaged and experienced in the country hospital field. They indicate that the country people should not have a bar of this scheme. I speak with particular reference to Victoria; members from other States will deal with their States of course as conditions differ from State to State. It is apparent from the Deeble-Scotton report that there is a great deal of ignorance of the very large amount of good work done in country hospitals by the ordinary general practitioner, without specialist assistance and intervention. The White Paper perpetuates a situation that all medical thinking is trying to change in the interests of better patient care, and in country hospitals the new scheme will impose a bad new system which has not arisen to date. Specialist help is already readily available in most Victorian country areas when it is needed.
In the White Paper lip service is paid to the ideal of continuing patient care or freedom of choice in paragraphs 4.19 and 4.22 by the implication that patients will be able to have continuity of attendance by their own doctor, that is, freedom of choice. But the last sentence of paragraph 4.22 shows that patients will have no guarantee whatsoever of freedom of choice because the final decision on which doctor can practice in a hospital and what he does in that hospital rests with the hospital authorities. Therefore there is absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that a patient, including a lady having a baby - the White Paper mentions that specifically in paragraph 4.22 - will have any chance of having continuity of care from his or her own doctor. There is no guarantee at all. Funding of hospitals is planned to be a joint 50-50 CommonwealthState responsibility, but with the Commonwealth in practice eventually exercising overall control because of the financial set-up. The extra cost to country hospitals will be astronomical. The benefits to which a salaried employee is entitled - and the basis will be salaried or sessional, but salaried in particular - are well known. They are regular hours of employment, payment for overtime, extra loading for nights and week ends, and payment while on annual leave of 6 weeks a year. The list is virtually endless. There are many other factors.
Further, it has been estimated that to replace one specialist surgeon who is on call all the time on fee for service in the country areas and to provide the same cover under a salaried scheme 3 or 4 surgeons will be needed to be employed at the hospital, for example the Wangaratta Base Hospital, to cover all the items listed and to provide a 7 day a week 24-hour service. The cost to the country hospitals in that position is frightening and the staff position will be chaotic. In country areas it is foreseen to be impossible to provide sufficient skilled staff to provide a 24-hour 7 days a week service plus some fair method of remuneration for surgeons and physicians who are on call for emergency cases. In fact, the effect of the Labor Party’s scheme being implemented will be to create a tremendous shortage of staff in every area of medical care. The Deeble-Scotton report and the White Paper have given no consideration to that matter at all.
I will talk now of freedom of choice in more detail. The basic assumption in the foreword of the White Paper which needs testing is the statement:
The freedom of people to choose the type of hospital care they want and their right to the ready availability of medical services are fundamental principles of Government policy.
Where is this spelt out in detail in the Bills? Nowhere; there is not a sign of it. From reading this and other sections of the White Paper it would seem that the only freedom of choice with respect to hospital treatment is a choice between treatment as a public ward patient or as a private ward patient.
The main thrust of the Government’s policy is towards hospital patients being treated by practitioners employed on a sessional, salaried or contract basis. Practitioners of course charging fees for service have no guarantee, even in treating private patients, of access to public hospitals. The most serious omissions from the Health Insurance Bill 1973 - which is one of the Bills under discussion - are guarantees of patient choice of medical practitioners, the type of accommodation with respect to treatment as hospital patients and the omission of any such guarantee of choice of medical practitioner from the Heads of Agreement in proposed schedule 2.
The Minister says that his scheme will be cheaper for 3 out of 4 families and 7 out of 10 single people. I question this. I do not think it will be cheaper for any single people.
On the figures supplied to me as at IS August 1973, the estimated cost of health insurance to a man on $70 a week is 62c a week; under the new scheme it will be 88c a week. It costs a man earning $120 a week 52c a week as at 15 August 1973 and under the new scheme his cost is estimated at $151 - 3 times the present cost. This is a single person. So where does the Government get the idea that its scheme will be cheaper for 7 out of 10 single people? People also lose the right to claim the health insurance costs as a tax deduction. Many Commonwealth car drivers tor example, will be worse off. Such a driver now pays $133 for private ward accommodation for himself and family. He earns $8,000 a year taxable income. With a levy of 1.35 per cent on taxable income he will pay $108 a year for public ward accommodation - only $25 less than for a private ward. He will have to pay an estimated extra $130 a year to have the private ward entitlement that he has now, so he will be $105 a year worse off. In addition he will lose the tax deduction which is probably worth $30, so a Commonwealth driver here in Canberra could be $135 a year worse off, and this is only in the first year.
Take a man on $11,000 taxable income, for example, a married journalist. He now pays $133 a year for a private ward. With the 1.35 per cent levy he will be paying $150 a year for a public ward, so he is $17 worse off straight away and only has entitlement to public ward accommodation. Then he will lose the tax deductibility on the $150, that is, $75. So he is $92 worse off. Add to this the $130 it is estimated he has to pay to get back his private ward right and he will be $222 a year worse off. If his wife is working they will be paying a hell of a lot more. So how can the Labor Government maintain that the average man will be better off? I suggest that it is misleading the people.
I raise another matter about costs. Previously a man has been able to have an operation and all the associated procedures at a cost of no more than $5. Two lines in the second reading speech altered this altogether. Each of the 6 procedures could now cost $5.
Is .this scheme going to cost the average person less? Of course it is not. No wonder people are saying that Hayden is a health hazard. In view of the costs I have quoted, let the Minister do what he has refused to do to date and make available to the House the statistics which show that his scheme will be cheaper for 3 out of 4 families and 7 out of 10 single people. To Mr and Mrs Average Australian I say: You have a very good national health scheme at the moment. It is not worth destroying and replacing it with a theoretical scheme which will be of far greater cost to us all, reduce our freedom of choice and put us all under the medical control of a socialist government.
- (Mr Luchetti)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I congratulate the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) on the excellent job he has done in bringing forward this great reform which will be of lasting benefit to all Australians. We are now at the culmination of a long campaign of both publicising the health insurance program and refining it to provide the best possible services in Australia.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to take a point of order. I have taken note, and for the last 15 minutes there has not been one Minister at the table or on the front bench.
-Order! The Minister for Health is in the chamber.
– The Minister is sitting in one of the back benches taking notes. There should be somebody on the front bench.
– Order! There is no substance for the point of order.
– I was saying that this marks the culmination of a long campaign on the part of the Government and its supporters. (Quorum formed). Unfortunately the present time marks the culmination of another campaign, a campaign mounted by certain well organised pressure groups with a vested interest in the present scheme. This minority has been able to mobilise vast amounts of money to run a propaganda campaign to try to win the support of the otherwise uncommitted people in the community. It is a pity that the low income earners and those who will be the main beneficiaries of our proposals cannot run a campaign themselves, but they unfortunately are not politically organised and of course they are in no position to finance an expensive radio and television campaign. It is a sad fact that this happens with any great social reform; the main beneficiaries are poorly organised. Thus the propaganda campaign by default is won by the well organised groups with a vested interest in the status quo. However, I believe that the Minister should take heart in the justice of his cause.
Every great social reform will by definition have a powerful campaign organised against it by vested interests. If this were not so it would not be a great social reform and would have occurred quite naturally long ago. What does sadden me is to see the political opposition in this Parliament not only lining up with these vested interests but also receiving riding instructions from them. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the present debate. Quite clearly the Opposition is not speaking for the Australian public; it is prostituting itself by acting as a front for certain pressure groups. I want to make some remarks about hospital services.
– Chipp is running to his masters. You can see him going to the back of the chamber.
– I agree with the remarks of my friend, the honourable member for Adelaide. It is often said by opponents of the Government’s proposals that private hospitalisation should be available for those who prefer to insure for it, but that for those who cannot afford it public hospital treatment should be available. What I object to about this proposition is that it implies two standards of service. It means private hospital treatment, which is allegedly better treatment, for those who can afford it and the allegedly inferior public hospitals for those who cannot. I think this is utterly iniquitous. It is wrong that the best hospital treatment should be available only for the better off. If private practice, fee for service, is the best type of hospital treatment it should be available to everybody, not just to those who can afford it. In fact, proper public hospital treatment is superior. In any case, it would be unacceptable to have every hospital patient in Australia a private patient. This proposition would mean an enormous cost and would divert expenditure of public money from more important areas of health care. The answer must be to provide adequate public hospital accommodation without charge and without means test for every Australian who wants it, and that should be a funda mental right. That is the objective of the Govvernment’s proposals. These proposals, in addition to providing more public hospital accommodation will enable public hospitals to be upgraded so as to provide the best treatment possible for all Australians.
What this measure will mean will be the ready availability of public hospital accommodation free of charge and free of means test to everybody who wants it. That is precisely what has been provided in Queensland for many years. I am aware of statements that have been made that we would be unable to provide sufficient public hospital accommodation for everybody who wants it. The fact is that it is this present scheme which fails to provide adequate public hospital accommodation. In the past the Commonwealth has provided insufficient funds to have enough public hospital beds. The result has been, particularly in my own State of South Australia, a shortage of public hospital beds. I repeat that this is under the present scheme. Although there is no means test in South Australian public hospitals, most South Australians know that under the present scheme they have no hope of getting a public hospital bed except for emergency illnesses. The result is that most South Australians are forced to take private hospital insurance whether they want it or not and whether they can afford it or not.
The Government’s proposals will change all this. It is fundamental to our proposals that sufficient finance will be provided to the State governments to enable them to provide free public hospital accommodation to everybody who wants it. Those who cannot afford private hospital treatment or have no special wish for private hospital treatment will no longer be forced to take out extra insurance to cover the cost of private hospital treatment. It is worth mentioning here, however, that the low income earners will now find it cheaper to take out that extra private hospital insurance, if they want it, than under the present scheme. Of course, it is obvious that with the relatively low number of public hospitals in South Australia we could not overnight provide all the required accommodation in public hospitals. But this does not stop arrangements being made with non-public hospitals such as the community hospitals and religious hospitals to provide the necessary hospital accommodation, and arrangements are being made to do precisely that. Furthermore, the extra money being provided for public hospitals will enable public hospital facilities not only to be extended but also to be improved. I am aware that many people choose private hospitalisation so they can choose the doctor who treats them. We recognise this wish on the part of many patients and substantial assistance will be provided towards private hospital treatment.
However, on the question of choice of doctor I would like to digress briefly. It is quite obvious in these days when many doctors practice in the one clinic that the choice of doctor by the patient is illusionary. As often as not that choice is made by someone other than the patient. In the case of choice of specialist this decision is rarely made by the patient; it is nearly always made by the referring doctor. But I do not think this matters very much. Let us remember that repatriation patients do not have a choice of specialist when they go into the repatriation hospital. Yet how often has anyone ever heard a repatriation patient complain about this? I certainly never have. I cannot, in my experience as a medical practitioner or a member of Parliament, recall a repatriation patient ever saying that he did not like the repatriation system because there was no choice of specialist in repatriation hospitals. I think perhaps Opposition members could ask the Returned Services League what it would think about making any alteration to the system now operating in repatriation hospitals.
Personally I would strongly rebut the basic premise which is made by many Opposition spokesmen, and even some spokesmen for the medical profession, that the personal doctor-patient relationship is the most important thing in medical practice. This is no longer true. Important it may be, but there are more important considerations. I know that many patients feel they obtain a subjective benefit from a close relationship with their doctor, but there is no objective evidence that this has any significant influence on a patient’s well-being. The aims of the health service are to prevent and to cure illness. I would go so far as to say that many of the traditions in medical practice run quite counter to community health. For example, excessive attention to the doctor-patient relationship has led, I believe, to treatment of problems which may be psycho-social rather than medical, such treatment being by completely inappropriate means by doctors who do not have training in social welfare counselling. As I have said in this House before, one result of this has been excessive recourse to drug therapy, especially the anti-depressive drugs and tranquillisers. What is needed is an integrated health care program by a health team with adequate facilities and adequate recording systems. To put the choice of doctor above these priorities is to turn the clock back.
To return to the measures before the House, we acknowledge nevertheless that some patients like to choose the doctor who will treat them in hospital. One of the measures the Government is taking in this direction is to expand the range of choice for public patients. This will be especially so in midwifery cases. What we propose is that a woman will be able to attend her general practitioner at his surgery during pregnancy and be attended, if she wishes, by the same doctor as a public patient during confinement. In other words, the scheme will provide for full cover for women who want their own general practitioner to attend them in hospital. For those patients who still want private hospital treatment, we will be providing considerable financial assistance in 3 forms - firstly, a daily bed subsidy of $16; secondly, coverage of medical costs; and thirdly, tax deductibility of private insurance charges.
Finally, I would like to mention the great benefits which pensioners will receive from the Government’s proposals. As all pensioners know, their pensioner medical service card entitles them to free treatment from their general practitioner but not from specialists. From now on under the Government’s proposals the pensioner will be eligible to receive treatment not only from the general practitioner but also from a specialist. In other words, if the general practitioner refers pensioners to a specialist for consultation, for management, for a cardiogram or for any other investigation such as an X-ray, a blood test or a urine test, they will be covered in the same way as insured patients are already covered.
Furthermore, there will be great benefits in the provision of hospital services for pensioners. Under the present scheme pensioners are entitled only to free treatment by public hospitals. However, because of the shortage of public hospital beds many pensioners take out extra private hospital insurance because they fear that if they have a non-urgent illness they will never get into a public hospital. Because we propose to provide sufficient public hospital accommodation for those who want it, pensioners will no longer have to take out that private hospital insurance. This again brings up the question of those pensioners who still want treatment from a particular doctor in hospital. If in spite of the extra public hospital accommodation available pensioners still prefer to have private hospital treatment it will be much easier for them from now on. For one thing they will be covered for specialist treatment in private hospital, whereas under the present scheme the pensoiner medical service voucher is only for a visit by a general practitioner.
The next important feature of this service is that pensioners who are now eligible for fringe benefits will not only get all the extended benefits I have mentioned but they will also get them without having to contribute anything at all. Let me summarise the benefits of the new pensioner medical service. Pensioners will be covered for treatment by a general practitioner or a private specialist. They will be eligible for public hospital treatment which will in the future be freely available. They will be eligible for specialist or general practitioner treatment in a private hospital, again without having to make any health insurance contribution whatsover. Therefore, if a pensioner wants to take insurance to provide full private hospital cover he will only need to insure himself for about $15 a day. As pensioners will have to contribute nothing in order to obtain all the other benefits, this small amount of insurance will be their only outlay. In money terms this would mean that a single pensioner would receive all the rights of public hospital treatment and specialist treatment for nothing and he would receive all the rights of private treatment in hospital and outside for an insurance contribution of about 65c a week. I have much pleasure in supporting the legislation.
– The Opposition parties recognise the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the people of Australia have available, by right, high quality health services readily accessible to all. The services so maintained should ensure freedom of choice, social equity and cost efficiency, whilst primarily retaining and enhancing the quality of health care so provided. These principles we believe to be fundamental. Yet their application and achievement are effectively denied by this Government’s present legislation. The Bill before the House must be clearly denounced as unworkable, destructive, non- efficient, socially unjust and an encouragement to the erosion of people’s privacy.
The proposals of the White Paper and the legislation have been analysed and rejected by representative working parties of professional groups responsibly involved in the implementation of the legislation. Doctors, nursing sisters, public hospital administrators, the National Standing Committee of Private Hospitals and charitable and religious hospitals have all brought forward fundamental criticisms which have been substantially ignored by this Government. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and his Department have had the benefit of the opinions of all these parties throughout the extraordinarily limited time which has been available for public debate. It would seem that, in particular, the Minister’s attitude has been one of a fixed mind determined not to be confused by the facts.
The Opposition recognises that the existing scheme in Australia clearly requires certain alterations to meet our objectives with respect to health care. Any changes to the existing scheme should be concerned primarily to make material improvements in the quality of health care, its coverage and its cost and in the simplification of its administration. In foreshadowing the approach which we would adopt in government, we must emphasise that the present scheme is basically sound. It is not, as the Government has deliberatively misrepresented, beset by basic or fundamental deficiencies. Our attitude is in marked contrast to the nature of the legislation which is subject to debate at this time.
We reject this legislation, and we do so for the following reasons: Firstly, it will destroy the existing health scheme which is recognised as one of the best and most efficient in the world. Secondly, it will result in a lowering of the standard of health care for Australian families. Thirdly, it will increase total costs for the Government. Fourthly, it will increase costs for the majority of taxpayers, who could maintain their present quality of health care only by additional heavy commitments of private insurance. Fifthly, it will reduce freedom of choice.
Not only will this legislation destroy the existing health scheme, but, paradoxically, it also will disadvantage those groups in the community which it aims to assist - the elderly, the poor and the migrant. In those countries in which nationalised health services have been introduced there has been an instant needless utilisation of free services. This was documented in Britain and more recently in Canada. Any similar increase in the utilisation of Australian health services, such as is anticipated by the Government’s advisers, would seriously upset the balance of our current system. Public hospital services now provide good care for larger numbers of indigent, disabled and socially deprived persons as well as servicing requirements for accident cases and highly specialised medical problems. The migrant community also relies heavily on these public hospitals where interpreter services are provided. Suddenly to force these persons to compete for their right inevitably will lead to overcrowding, long delays and missed diagnoses, with the problems of sorting out the acutely ill from those with minor ailments. In other words, the quality of health care will be reduced directly and inevitably, to the marked disadvantage of the very persons for whom the Government has undertaken to care.
The significant increase in the utilisation of existing medical services will be true insofar as the general practitioner is concerned and equally true in terms of hospital services. For example, public ward treatment in most public hospitals is limited by a means test, with the exception of accident cases, patients under care in areas of ultraspecialities and pensioners. At a time when public hospitals are already over utilised because of the increasing demand for beds by such specialities as cardiology and neurosurgery, and when the trend is toward greater demand for intermediate and private ward care, the Government’s scheme will result in large numbers of patients rightly believing that they are entitled to public ward accommodation.
As my colleague, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), has made so clear in this debate, the simple fact is that as many as 1,000 beds in private hospitals in Melbourne alone will need to be made available on Government subsidy to cope with the planned work load of patients seeking standard ward care. This is assuming that every bed in every public hospital in metropolitan Melbourne is used for hospital patients. There will be no beds to give the choice promised to public or private patients in public hospitals and, as mentioned, the very problems the scheme is designed to solve will be accentuated, in fact, to the marked disadvantage of needy persons in the Australian community. In short, private hospitals will deteriorate into virtual nursing homes and the whole character of dedication and spirit of service of these magnificent charitable, religious and philanthropic bodies, which have raised private hospital services to the standard they now enjoy, will be effectively destroyed. In addition to the very serious consequences for Australian private hospitals, the scheme will place added cost burdens on both the Government and the individual. The undetermined cost of the scheme will be that incurred from Commonwealth revenue. The Deeble report set this at $1.25 for every $1 levy contribution. It is now set at $1.28 for the first year and estimated to increase to $1.50 in future years. A scheme which causes over utilisation of service logically leads to increased total costs to be met ultimately by tax revenue.
The Minister has sought to claim that this scheme will be less expensive for 75 per cent of Australian families. That claim takes into account only the 1.35 per cent tax levy. Seventy per cent of all Australians now choose intermediate or private ward accommodation in hospitals. Those individuals, in order to maintain their present standard of care and to continue to have the right to choose their own doctor in hospital, will have to undertake additional health insurance commitments. As with the provision of any essential service to the community, the quantity and quality of health services are determined by social, political and economic factors. Generally, taxation revenue plays a large and flexible part in meeting the cost of an essential service and all such services compete for the available funds. If relatively more of a particular servise is required, then either less of another service must be provided or taxation revenue must be increased.
The subsidy from Consolidated Revenue is tied to the levy on taxable incomes for the purpose of preserving the integrity of the Health Insurance Fund. Such a system involves additional implications. Whereas inflation, giving rise to increases in taxable incomes, yields a more than proportionate increase in taxation revenue due to the progressive nature of the taxation scale, where a levy is involved it will yield only a proportional increase in revenue from the levy and the rate of levy will have to be increased to finance improvements in health care services. The likely trend in health care is for an increasing quantity and quality of service, at least over the medium term. This will involve increasing costs and, with the proposed system of raising revenue for the Health Insurance Fund, the financing of health care will be determined to a lesser extent by priorities for the use of taxation revenue - which itself would be expanding faster than the rate of inflation of taxable incomes - and more by the capacity of the Government to impose whatever explicit levy is necessary on the taxable incomes of individuals.
The proposed revenue system therefore introduces the following important implications where a higher standard of health care is being sought by the community: First, the resulting need to increase the rate of levy could meet community resistance and this will tend to control unnecessary increases in demand, but it may go beyond cost control and depress the quantity and quality of the health care that the community expects at a level lower than the community should be receiving; and, secondly, if the community does not understand that necessary improvements in health care will result in the rate of levy being increased, doctors, hospitals and others engaged in health care may face unfair criticism of profiteering. A permanently fixed relationship between the main revenue sources of the health insurance program means that an increase in health care costs in real terms will cause an increase in the rate of levy and in the tied Commonwealth subsidy. All parties should appreciate the likely trends in the rate of levy as a result of qualitative improvements in health care and increased utilisation of health care services. The nature of the revenue system will inhibit the trend to improved health care. This is not consistent with the purpose of the health insurance fund which is to assure the community of the Commonwealth’s ‘commitment to meeting its share of the rising costs of health services’.
The Minister for Social Security has also sought to mislead the public about the extent of health insurance cover. Contrary to the Minister’s statements, it is reliably estimated that over 92 per cent of the population is covered: 79 per cent is covered by private insurance, 10 per cent is covered by pensioner medical services and about a further 3 per cent is covered by subsidised health benefits. To assert that this scheme will provide 100 per cent insurance cover simply runs counter to international experience with similar schemes. For example, the estimated coverage in the United Kingdom is between 94 per cent and 96 per cent. The Government’s scheme would, in fact, remove the freedom of the 92 per cent of Australians who are insured, of their own volition, and compel them by the tax mechanism to insure with the Government fund. And this, of course, only entitles them to services up to standard ward care. The Opposition Parties believe in the concept of maximum cover, but we cannot support a scheme which destroys the freedom of choice of 92 per cent of Australians to achieve an additional coverage of less than 4 per cent.
This legislation presents a very real threat to the individual privacy of every Australian. Clause 130 of the Health Insurance Bill seeks to provide certain protections, but sub-clause (3) of that clause provides substantial opportunity for the waiver of such protections and clause 131 actually allows the Minister to delegate these powers of waiver to any officer of the Department of Social Security. The Opposition believes that this legislation, therefore, in no way provides the type of safeguards which the Minister has alleged in this House. The Minister, on a number of occasions, has sought to claim that a scheme involving a centralised government fund is necessarily more efficient than a series of diversified private funds. The fact is that existing funds are highly efficient and administratively sound.
– The Nimmo report says so.
– As my colleague the honourable member for Hotham points out, the Nimmo Committee has adverted to that fact in the following terms:
The Committee found no support at all for the often expressed view that the number of different organisations adds to the cost of the scheme. We examined the operations of a number of friendly societies and closed funds and found that their service to contributors was extremely good and that they had been the most successful organisations in keeping management expenses within proper limits.
The evidence available simply demonstrates that it is impossible for a government department to provide a cheaper and more efficient service than a private insurance firm, lt must be remembered that with a unitary system such as is proposed by the Government there is no freedom of choice as now exists between funds.
It must be emphasised in this debate that the Opposition’s approach to health care in Australia is not one of negativism. I have stated that, although the existing health scheme is a good scheme, as clearly outlined by the Opposition’s spokesman on health, the honourable member for Hotham, and although the scheme is basically sound, we recognise the need to implement progressive reforms to achieve improvements in the quality of health care, its coverage, its cost and its administrative elements. We have already developed a series of guidelines. The first is that health care, reasonably available, is a right. The second is the maximum insurance coverage for basic health care. The third is the maintenance of independent health insurance funds for all areas of insurance, including paramedical services, so as to allow people a free choice of health insurance funds. The fourth is the use of appropriate deterrents to the abuse of the health scheme, either by patients or medical practitioners, provided that the deterrent does not make the health scheme unduly complicated and that people needing health care are not unreasonably deterred from seeking it. The fifth is the integration of the pensioner medical scheme and the subsidised health benefits scheme into the present national health service to ensure that all the benefits of that scheme accrue to pensioners and other low income sections of the Australian community.
Our sixth guideline is the annual determination of medical fees by an independent tribunal. We accept that these scheduled fees are not binding on all medical practitioners but, if any health scheme is to succeed, the scheduled fees must be adhered to by a substantial majority of medical practitioners. This tribunal should consist of a representative of government, consumers and the medical profession, with an independent chairman. The seventh is the retention of private hospitals, although we are not necessarily satisfied with the present standards of all of them. The eighth is the continued existence of private profit-making nursing homes run by religious organisations, philanthropic and community organisations. We would like here to see appropriate control of admissions, rehabilitations and discharge policies. The ninth is the pursuit of a co-ordinated decentralised delivery system of domiciliary care and lay hospitals, in order to keep people who do not need to be there out of nursing homes. Finally, increased attention given to hostels, ai alternatives to nursing homes, and appropriate incentives for elderly people to remain in their homes. The Opposition Parties, quite apart from our views on the substance of the legislation itself, strongly object to the manner in which this debate has been handled by the present Government. Contrary to the established precedent of this national Parliament, the Government refused to allow a debate to proceed on the White Paper tabled by the Minister.
– It was a waste of time.
– It was a waste of time. The Health Insurance Bill, arising from the White Paper, was introduced on 29 November - exactly one week ago. It is, of course, a matter of very serious concern that the Government has allowed only one week for a detailed examination of this legislation. It is symptomatic of the philosophy which has been adopted in this House. Before I conclude my remarks and because my colleague the honourable member for Hotham is in the chamber, I place on record my personal appreciation of what I believe to be a masterly presentation in this House of the joint views of the Opposition Parties. I support the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Hotham. This legislation deserves the decisive rejection of this House.
– Many criticisms have been made of the proposed national health insurance scheme. They have been made in a sweeping and unfounded fashion. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has said that he proved some of his points. But his proofs have been based on words and not on facts. Let us compare what the facts are about what will happen under a scheme such as that which is projected by simply looking at what is happening under such schemes and not at what some working party or some professional group suggests would happen. Much has been made of the fact that various professional organisations have opposed the national health insurance scheme. We on this side of the House have been informed that we do not know anything about that because we are not professional people. The only professional people who have spoken in this debate came from this side of the House. I submit that they have been as active in those discussions as any of the professional organisations opposed to the scheme.
One of the major points that seems to exercise the minds of members of the Opposition is that the scheme will cost more. In their arguments, in their misguided zeal to prove this, they have drawn on examples from overseas - from the United Kingdom, Canada and various other places - but they have neglected to look in their own backyard. We already have in Queensland most of the features they condemn - a State which is run by the new National Country Party of Australia, the National Party of Australia or the Country Party, depending on what the current name may be. That Party came to power in that State many parliaments ago with a new platform and a new policy, one which it had until that time completely rejected and bitterly opposed. It had criticised any preceding Labor governments which had persisted with that policy since World War II. I refer to the policy of free hospital beds at the point of service to all who want them free - without charge and without means test.
That policy is Australian Labor Party policy - that there should be available to those who want them hospital beds without charge at the point of service and without means test. Every State in Australia had this policy shortly after World War II when there was a Labor Government in Canberra. Shortly after the government in Canberra changed colour the States, with the exception of Queensland, one by one decided that it did not pay them, that it cost more. Whom did it cost more? Certainly not the patient. That public hospital system cost the State more per head of population and it still is costing Queensland more. However, it is costing Queensland less per public hospital bed. This is not altogether a good thing because no allowance is made to Queensland for the extra commitment by that State alone among the Australian States. It carries the burden that in other States is carried in part by public patients who pay for beds and in part by other patients who go into intermediate and private wards because they are not eligible for public care.
In part the burden in the other States is borne by this Government subsidising the costs of medical and hospital fees for patients who voluntarily insure themselves. In all these ways the Queensland Government has shouldered an extra burden. But it was not that extra burden which caused the other States to terminate their system of so-called free hospitals. What ensured that they imposed a charge on public patients subject to means test was a decision of the Liberal-Country Party Government in Canberra which said: ‘We will pay the States 6s a day for every bed, but if you can induce those patients in those beds to insure themselves voluntarily against the costs of medical care we will give the State £1 a day’. So Queensland was faced with a situation where less than half the population voluntarily insured themselves for hospital and medical care. Most of the occupants of public beds were not insured. Most of the public beds in Queensland received 6s a day from the Commonwealth while the great majority of beds in the other States were receiving £1 a day. This was an extra burden imposed on Queensland as a penalty for its political decision to maintain a free hospital system. The Government changed, and the Country Party-Liberal Party Government in Queensland that has been there ever since has not considered it to be politically expedient, or has not considered it good policy, or has not considered it to be good for patients to terminate that free hospital system. Honourable members may take their pick about the motive, but the fact is that at election after election the Government has promised that it will not terminate Queensland’s free hospital system.
Why do honourable members opposite not make some comparisons with Queensland? Why do they have to go to Canada or the United Kingdom? Why do they have to go to the blanket percentages for the whole of Australia “every time they try to analyse what all these things will cost? One of the speakers on the Opposition side pointed out that it would cost a lot more because at one hospital in his electorate it would require 3 surgeons under the Hayden scheme to replace the one surgeon at that hospital. This is an example of the sort of logic I am talking about which is worked out on words and not on facts. There has been no great influx of surgeons into Queensland to take up paid hospital appointments. It may attract them a little to be told that if they go to Queensland they will not have to do honorary work, that if they are appointed to the local hospital as a consultant they will be paid for their work there by a part time salary or by a sessional payment. It may attract some there.
No doubt this was one of the factors that induced Queensland to adopt or retain the scheme. The medical school was small in those days when compared with medical schools in the southern States. That can no longer be used as an argument. People are not flocking to Queensland to take these appointments. But they get the operations done. I have not heard of the long queues in Queensland that there are in Melbourne and
Sydney. I know there is a shortage of beds in Brisbane. I know that there is an urgent need for more hospital beds, particularly in the deprived western suburbs, but exactly the same applies to Sydney and Melbourne. In fact, when I moved from a private general practice in the suburbs of Sydney - in those same western suburbs - to Rockhampton, one of the factors that persuaded me was that I knew, having been a junior resident in the hospital there, that when I got to Rockhampton I could always get a bed in any of 4 hospitals - private, public or intermediate. I could always get a bed except at the height of an epidemic when I might have to wait 24 hours.
In Sydney the story was very different, and it is no better today under the system of charging for public beds. The doctor rings up. Perhaps he spends half an hour on the telephone before he gets a bed. When I was there I very often spent that amount of time trying to get a bed for an urgent case such as an acute appendix. I ended up telephoning an officer who was on duty 24 hours a day for the State of New South Wales to find beds for doctors who could not find them. He kept a list of where .the empty beds were all around Sydney. I think that 2 out of 3 times the patient was sent to Prince Henry Hospital, as it was then, or to the Royal North Shore Hospital, about an hour’s trip by ambulance from where I was. As a rule, none of the adjoining hospitals had empty beds. The position is still the same today. I heard recently of one patient having to go to Gosford from Sydney to have an acute appendix operation. This argument that it will cost more because there will have to be more surgeons ignores the plain fact that it does not require more surgeons in the Queensland system, and there is no earthly reason why that should be the case in any other State. The surgeons in Queensland are on call for just as long for their public patients as for their private patients, and so they will be under the proposed scheme.
People do not go from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. clocking on and off and not answering their telephones just because they are receiving salaries or sessional payments. For many years people in the Public Service, like quarantine officers, have had to give a 24-hour service. They have had to get up in the middle of night to go on ships. They are on salaries: they do not get fees for service. Yet we are asked to believe that immediately the method of pay ment of a doctor is changed and one does not rely on his human charity to work for nothing for those who are deprived financially, he loses his dedication and becomes cynical and mercenary. My experience is the reverse - that the man who is cynical and mercenary is the man who is crying the loudest - in the Society of General Practitioners in particular - about his civil rights to charge what he likes and saying that medical care is not a right, it is a luxury, and that those who want it must pay for it. That is the sort of talk we are getting from people who are championing fee for service at all costs and saying that at the moment a doctor is paid a salary he becomes cynical and mercenary, that he does not give value for money, that he is not devoted to his patients, and that that valuable personal relationship is lost.
Every one of those doctors has worked as a full time salaried doctor. Every one of them, if he is in private practice now, has worked as a resident salaried doctor in a hospital. Yet he is asking people to believe that he was cynical and mercenary then and he suddenly became dedicated and devoted when he went into the market place to sell his goods at the price that he insists on having the untrammelled right to set - without any kind of arbitration or judgment being made on the prices he charges. He demands the definite right to charge what he wants, and he also wants 2 bob the other way. He wants the system to continue whereby two-thirds of his income is now met by the taxpayers - by the general public purse.
Already the taxpayers pay more than $2 in every $3 earned by doctors in the private sector of medicine, and I am not talking about the public sessional payment positions or salaried positions that doctors may hold - and, incidentally, there has been a large increase in the percentage of doctors on salaries over the last 30 years, the ratio having increased from one in 7 to 2 in 5. The public sector of medicine is growing whatever government is in power and whatever system is operating. That has happened under the system which we are told by the Opposition is basically sound. The taxpayer’s contribution to the private sector of medicine has grown to $2 in every S3 expended in that section, and it. will continue to grow. We have been told by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the cost of our scheme will escalate faster than the growth in taxed income, and that means also faster than the health insurance levy, and that therefore the 1.3S per cent levy will have to rise or more will have to be contributed out of general tax revenue.
– I will bet it is the latter.
Or EVERINGHAM - The honourable member for Hotham suggests that it will be the latter. I think he may well be right because that is exactly what has been happening to the voluntary scheme; more and more has been contributed out of general tax revenue, not by increasing premiums. I think that the amount paid out of the special fund last year was $40m, and it is growing very rapidly. This special fund is used to make up to the private insurance funds the money lost in the bad risk cases, and there are more and more of them. They include people with pre-existing ailments, people with chronic ailments, people who need a long stay in hospitals and so on, and the funds are getting very efficient at ferreting them out. One of the things that the funds do is to send a questionnaire to the patient for his authority to get medical details from the doctor, and the doctor is asked such questions as: ‘Has this patient ever had high blood pressure?’ This question may be asked on the occasion of a single attendance.
Usually the funds wait until a bit of a bill is run up, but I have had the experience of being asked to fill in one of these forms after seeing a patient on a single attendance at which that patient suffered from a heart condition. I was asked had she previously had high blood pressure. Looking back over the records of my predecessor I found that the patient had given to my predecessor the history that 12 months previously a certain doctor had treated her for high blood pressure. I duly recorded this, and her claim was turned down, not because I was treating her for high blood pressure but because the particular heart condition - cardiac asthma - is recognised medically to be associated with high blood pressure and because of this, actuarially speaking, the patient was a bad risk. She could not be covered because she was more than ordinarily prone to this disease, and so, of course, a claim was made on the special fund.
The Opposition’s proposals for an alternative scheme sound very fine, and I will deal with some Of them briefly. One proposition is that health care is a right that is readily available. It is all very well to have guidelines on these things and to have working parties working on them. But we had working parties working on them for many years while we were in Opposition, without the benefit of the expert assistance that is available to Ministers. That assistance was available to honourable members opposite when they were on this side of the House. They had plenty of time to have working parties on these things, as we did, and they could have come up with the solutions much more quickly than we did. We believe that we have met the first point of their plan - that health care is a right that is readily available. We have put forward a scheme whereby that can happen. The Opposition has not spelt out what it is. It has said that it is a guideline. It is good to have guidelines and to be able to agree on them, but let us get down to tin tacks, and that is what we aim to do.
Secondly, the Opposition wants a review of the present scheme, but that has already been done very thoroughly. Thirdly, it wants integration of the pensioner and subsidised health benefit schemes with our insurance scheme. The Opposition is just a little late on that because we have put that up, and this is part of our proposals which the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) and others have acclaimed as one of the good features of our scheme - more than I can say, unfortunately, for the Federal President of the Australian Medical Association who informed us at a meeting of the Caucus Welfare Committee in Canberra some months ago that he could see no good thing in the scheme and there was no point in discussing it.
– In what scheme?
– The Government’s national health insurance scheme. He said he could see no good points in the report of the Deeble committee, even though that proposal was contained in the report and it was AMA policy. He was a very difficult man with whom to discuss any one point to which he objected. He said: ‘I object to the lot’. A number of us spent much time in trying to get him to be specific. The Opposition’s fourth proposal is that the scheme must be available to the maximum number of people. No scheme that the Opposition or any of its professional advisers or objecting professional groups have come up with has ever suggested a way to cover the maximum number of people. We have. There is one way to cover the maximum number of people and that is a universal scheme, and nobody except this Government has put it up.
– Britain has not got it.
– Again, the Opposition brings in Britain. May I remind honourable members opposite that Queensland is much closer, and everybody is in the scheme there.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Berinson)The Minister’s time has expired.
– It is a strange thing that the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) who has just spoken should complain about the Opposition’s using the example of Britain or Canada or any other country. The reason why it is not the slightest bit strange for us to use the example of Britain is that the Labor alternative health scheme is based on the British and Canadian health schemes. It is not something that has grown out of indigenous Australian experience, practice and reform. If honourable members opposite want an authority for that, I refer to a discussion I had with Dr Deeble when I put to him the question: ‘Would you say that it was a fair characterisation of the Labor scheme to describe it as an amalgam of the British and Canadian health schemes?’ He said: Yes. I would regard that as a fair characterisation’. So, let us have no more of the Minister for Health or anyone else saying that we are drawing red herrings across the path because we are talking about what has happened in Britain to the kind of scheme the Government wants to introduce in this country.
With every day a new delight opens up. We had the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) at the Press conference - at which, as the Opposition spokesman said, the Prime Minister was trounced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) in the debate on the prices and incomes referendum - making it absolutely plain for the first time that he will completely control doctors’ fees if he gets the power he seeks in the referendum. Is it not interesting? He will control doctors’ fees, but he is not willing to say that he will control the wages and salaries of the rest of the Australian community. That is one of the things that make his whole approach in the referendum such a farce. He is not willing to say that he will control any incomes but doctors’ fees - the fees of the hated doctors. One thing I have deplored about the way in which the Labor Government and some of its friends have conducted the debate is the way in which they have involved themselves in hate-mongering against so many people in our community. I admit that they have had to put up with too much in the way of unfair tactics from time to time from some people, but that does not excuse them of the lack of decency with which some of them became involved in the House.
I also note another wonder of which we heard today. It is extraordinary how these things come out only bit by bit. The Minister for Health foresees the Australian health pattern as it emerges as leading to the situation where Australians will be treated by private practitioners in only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of cases. He has said that we will go in the direction of Britain and the Soviet Union in that area. An alternative scheme is being put up by the Labor Party. There is in Australia a scheme that has been reformed significantly over a number of years. It is a scheme which has had imperfections but which as a result of the reforms it has undergone during recent years, is widely regarded as one of the very best in the world.
During a recent trip to the United Kingdom I described in detail to many people involved in health care there the scheme that is practised in Australian health care now, and the response I received was: ‘You would not dream of moving from that kind of health care to the system we are trying to practise in this country, would you?’ I said: ‘No, we would not, but tragically the Labor Government is trying to force this scheme on to the Australian community’. One of the saddest features of the British health scheme - this is a great warning to anyone in Australia who talks of a Government takeover or a great extension of Government financing in the health system - is that if the Government becomes deeply involved in this area other people will move out of financing health care.
In the United Kingdom less is expended on health care than is expended in Australia in total. In the United Kingdom the total private and government final consumption expenditure on health represents 4 per cent of the gross domestic product. Australia expends 5.7 per cent of the gross domestic product on health. So, we as a country expend far more now, before we move to the kind of proposals that are enshrined in the Labor Government’s scheme.
– And achieve far more for it.
– Quite. The Australian Labor Party’s alternative scheme forces everyone into one Government fund by means of a compulsory tax levy. It lures and seduces the private hospitals into the Government’s hands, with immense consequences to patients and doctors. It strikes at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship through the lure of bulk billing and free treatment. It is not, on the face of it, inexorably free treatment, but the lure of free treatment undoubtedly is there. What patient, when faced with the possibility of seeking utterly free treatment, will not fall for the lure which in the short term is attractive but which in the long term could easily cost him dearly?
The Australian Labor Party’s alternative scheme provides for a massive shift from the private sector to the public sector. In all, this is so strangely old fashioned in that it represents what I describe as the mechanistic thinking of the fag end of the socialist era. Why members of the Labor Party would seek to keep this fag end alight is almost beyond belief. Why they would socialise when the community cries out for individualisation is almost beyond belief. Why they would bureaucratise when people rightly say that we should humanise is almost beyond belief. Why they would monopolise in this area of intimate human relations when they cry out against it in the economic field is almost beyond belief. Why they would take away choice in this area when they rightly talk about the right of choice in the market place is almost beyond belief.
Why, when the doctor-patient relationship is suffering under modern circumstances or losing something, do they suggest that we take away even that which it presently has? Why do they say that we should take away some of the few final threads that bind the patient and the doctor in what we describe as the doctorpatient relationship? Why when people in our community today - a modern bureaucratic society - feel increasingly powerless to make decisions that affect their own lives and when people feel distant from the decision making in society, they would take away decision making in this area is almost beyond belief.
I suggest: Why not extend the right of choice to the final few who cannot exercise the right of choice rather than take it away from all in the interests of the few? Why not extend choice, private decision making and private involvement instead of taking that away from everyone in the interests of the final few who are still not covered by the present health scheme? This is a question of the power of the patient to affect his own health care. The power and the rights of the patient are at stake in the face of the alternative Labor health scheme. If the patient is in a personal relationship and takes out a contract for health care with someone he can see and to whom he pays fees - even if it is only a little - he can see what he is receiving and he has a stake in what he is to receive. When some of the individual’s resources are involved or invested in his own health care by his own choice, people are made more human and are that much better and happier people, because they are involved in these important and intimate areas of human care and relationships.
The concept of free medicine and free care can only take away the power of the patient to determine the quality and nature of his care. If we move to free care, as this scheme would have us do, we move to a situation where people inevitably become numbers on lists. People are numbers on lists in the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, one is on the doctor’s list. This is the sort of thing that would have to happen here. One would be a number on a list. The patient’s treatment would be egg-timed. The timer would be turned and out he would go. The tragedy is that people who are low down on the waiting lists and who could be waiting 2 years to 3 years to get into hospital turn to private practitioners. They take their ills to the private practitioner and they can obtain instant treatment if they are prepared to pay for it. Many of them, having paid heavily through the government scheme, of course, cannot then afford to take out further private insurance. They have not been able to afford insurance and the blow, coming as it does in the face of illness, is a heavy blow. So driving everyone more into the hands of the Government will ultimately mean that a few people who can afford it are going to do better than others. We say that the choice should be extended to all and that everyone should be given the same opportunity of private relationship and private choice.
Another most interesting feature of the sort of system that the Government is advancing for our consideration is the practice of queue jumping. Those people who have a special relationship with someone in a Government department can jump a doctor’s queue by weeks or days and can jump a hospital queue by years. This is a practice which surely we would all deplore. In a prosperous community like Australia, where we have pockets of poverty but where the overwhelming majority of people are becoming more affluent, we must empower consumers to make their own decisions. In the technical area, of course, the consumer of health care is not able to know precisely the details of the specialist or technical treatment that he is receiving, and here his relationship with his family doctor is important because the family doctor is, if you like, his health broker who acts for him in the market place of health. In the non-technical area of health care - in the service aspects of care such as the choice of timing, of location, of convenience, of comfort and of attention to individual preference, things which may well have decidely important therapeutic value - the patient can learn to exercise the sovereignty of the consumer.
As I say, rising incomes are empowering more and more Australians to make decisions, are widening their resources and involving them in what we call the expectation of rising standards where they can demand better quality and more responsive personal services. The Government of course will always have to take action in areas of what we call public health. Not for a moment am I suggesting that the Government should pull out of these sorts of areas. Much of the sort of further reforms that the Liberal and Country Parties will suggest will be involved in the area of environmental and preventive services. But the Government itself - any government - need not produce, organise, manage and provide personal medical services as a virtual monopoly.
I have talked of the notion of price and of free medicine. Price is no longer the problem in Australia that it was 10 years ago. There are very few Australians now who are denied the care they need because of price. Overseas research has shown that there is very little difference these days in a place like the United States between the medical care received by the low income earner and that received by the high income earner. I suspect that this is the case in Australia. We would need to be shown that the health care which low and medium to low income earners are receiving is deplorable by contrast with the care which middle and upper-middle income earners are receiving before we would be prepared to consider some of the issues which the Government is advancing in this debate.
A further point I want to make is in the area of cost. The Australian on an average, ordinary income, whose wife works, will immediately pay more to get the type and quality of health care which presently he and his family are receiving in this country. If we take as an example the individual receiving the average taxable income which next year will be somewhere around $100 a week, and compare what he would have been paying under the present system with what he would have to pay under the Government’s scheme, the compulsory tax levy .of 1.35 per cent, and, of course, the standard taxation rate which he faces in his normal tax burden, and add to that a private insurance contribution to provide him with, say, the intermediate standard ward care that he has grown used to, we would find that he would be paying at least $30 and probably a good deal more extra per annum just to receive next year what he is presently receiving. I stress that the example I have given is the family right in the middle of the spectrum in Australia. The Minister has made a great deal of an argument, without providing facts, that 3 out of 4 Australian families” would pay less under his system, but that is to say that they would pay less for what he is offering, which is standard ward treatment in a public hospital and, perhaps, in a private hospital. We say that the important point to make is that people should be able to go on receiving what they are presently receiving. They will not be able to do that without a further, costly private insurance contribution.
As I have said, the whole theme of the Government’s alternative proposal is to forget what has been done over so many years in the reform of the health care system in Australia, is to foist on Australia a philosophy which, as I have described, is part of the fag end of an old socialist era, is to be immediately more costly for the average family in Australia and is in the long term to lead to a rundown in total community resources devoted to health. I say finally that governments should facilitate rather than frustrate personal sensitivity in sickness as in health.
Mr- SNEDDEN (Bruce - Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the right honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been informed that a Labor Party referendum advertisement being broadcast on commercial radio stations in Tasmania misrepresents me as a member of the Liberal Party in government last year and before that. The particular part which contains the misrepresenttaion is being spoken in these words:
Remember the Liberal Party Government only tackled inflation by deliberately creating mass unemployment.
I am informed that there are separate advertisements authorised by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) and the honourable members for Braddon (Mr Davies), Wilmot (Mr Duthie), Franklin (Mr Sherry) and Denison (Mr Coates) in their respective electorates. The allegation is false and while the advertisements continue to be read the mischief of the misrepresentation will be worsened. In addition, it may be that it is illegal as a contravention of section 48, sub-section 1, paragraph B of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act, which prohibits publication or distribution of untrue or incorrect statements intended or likely to mislead any elector in his vote at a referendum.
– It is a privilege to speak in this debate, which I believe is one of the great debates of the current session of Parliament. I am convinced that the people of Australia need the standard of health services that only this legislation can provide. I was greatly surprised earlier this afternoon at the remarks of thehonourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). I thought that he would have been prepared to argue the case on its merits. However, he spent a great deal of time name calling. He referred to the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) as a hatchet man and then went on - quite incorrectly - to use phrases such as socialised medicine, nationalising doctors, nationalised medicine and the socialist Minister in Canberra. The honourable member for Hotham’s facade of reasonableness was stripped away once and for all.
We have just heard a speech from the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) in which he made reference to the debate at the National Press Club luncheon between the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). I watched the debate on television and, allowing for my natural bias in this matter, I would say that the Prime Minister won hands down. But in any case, in reality what the Prime Minister said was that if the people decided next Saturday to give the Australian Government power to legislate with regard to incomes this Government would implement the decision of the Medical Fees Tribunal. It is well known to the people of Australia that many people who earn money by way of salary or wage have their incomes regulated. I would think that one of the very good arguments that would persuade the people of Australia to vote ‘Yes, Yes’ on Saturday would be the knowledge that, if we had this sort of control, there would be regulation of doctors fees, medical fees generally, legal fees and other things. I believe that in the sort of society to which honourable members on both sides of the House purport to want to belong, this is the sort of thing we all wish to see happen.
What are the results of the present health scheme which has been so lauded by speakers from the other side of the House? I wish to refer to one example that came to my attention recently in my electorate of Diamond Valley. I shall quote from a letter which I shall be happy to show to any honourable member. The letter states:
Dear Mr McKenzie,
I enclose a copy of a letter, sent recently to The Age but not printed, which I feel may be of interest to you as a piece of contrete evidence of the state of health services in your electorate.
The old lady who signed the letter - whichI drafted - Is due to come out of hospital to-day, after eight weeks. We sent a covering note to The Age requesting that the name of her home suburb should not appear as this would enable readers to identify the clinic concerned and perhaps render her liable to legal action. However, she stated that she would be prepared to verify, all her information if any authority wanted to investigate the case, and this promise still stands. Possibly The Age preferred to avoid printing such a specific allegation.
The letter which was enclosed states:
I feel I ought to bring to public attention the following performance of ‘the best health service in the world’.
I am a pensioner in my sixties, a widow. A sore on my foot recently erupted, leaving me in pain and unable to move. A friend rang up the local clinic, and was told by the receptionist (who first ascertained that I was a pensioner) that a doctor would attend me by a certain hour. When the hour came and no doctor had appeared, my friend rang the clinic again to be told that my ailment was not serious enough to warrant a home visit, and that I should take a Disprin and rest my foot. My friend’s protests were unavailing, and as my condition was obviously serious another clinic, further away from where I live, was contacted. A doctor came (without inquiring if I was a pensioner), and diagnosed gangrene.
I am now in hospital recovering from the amputation of a toe. I would like to thank the doctor who travelled some distance to see me and certainly saved me from the loss of a limb, or worse. The behaviour of the local clinic speaks for itself.
I am pleased to say that very few members of the medical profession would regard pensioners in that way. I do not wish to attack members of the medical profession by reading out that letter but I think it does indicate that all is not well with the present health scheme.
The Opposition has revealed 2 main things in its attempt to pretend that it has a policy on health insurance. It has demonstrated that it is so bankrupt of ideas that its only recourse is to accept the role of mouthpiece for the Australian Medical Association, the General Practitioners Society and the big business private health funds. Moreover it has shown that the only ideas that appeal to it in the provision of health care stem from what can best be described as an ‘animal farm* philosophy - in other words, the concept that while we pretend that everybody is equal, we make sure that some are more equal than others. Let it be noted that this same philosophy as expressed by George Orwell in ‘Animal Farm’ is there for all to observe behind the Opposition’s machinations on education, no matter how desperately its spokesmen squeal out their chorus of ‘double-think’ in an attempt to camouflage their philosophy.
We hear much from the Opposition about voluntary health insurance. Of course, in reality, it is not voluntary at all. At the moment if anybody wants the benefit paid by the Government he must join a health fund. What is voluntary about that? In their attempts to conceal the social inequity of their outmoded and so-called voluntary system of health insurance, the Opposition spokesmen have claimed that improvements in the provision of subsidised health benefits and the inclusion of pensioners within the insurance system will put everything to rights. What a pious hope. What a coincidence that these simplistic sounding remedies are exactly the same as have been prescribed by the AMA and the managers of the big health funds in their efforts to preserve a system which is geared so much in their favour and so much against the ordinary citizen.
In this context it is worth recalling the words of the AMA statement on the Govern ment’s White Paper. The AMA commended the Opposition parties for their opposition to the Government’s program and then, with typical arrogance, delivered its instructions. The Australian Medical Association’, it said, believes that this opposition should continue to be expressed when legislation is introduced’. Meekly, and in due course, we now have the Opposition spokesmen mouthing the AMA catalogue of self-interest. What a truly demeaning position for an Opposition to find itself in - to be merely the echo of a reactionary group which has opposed any advance in social equity within the health insurance system. This comes from those people who for years claimed that members on this side of the House were influenced by outside bodies. How shallow those assertions sound now. The AMA, in attempting to camouflage its elitist instincts, has circulated in its so-called appraisal of the health insurance program an argument more remarkable for its dialectic gymnastics than for any truth or relevance.
I am pleased to say that very many doctors reject the specious arguments of their professional association and recognise that the scheme proposed by the Government will benefit patients, doctors and the Australian community. The AMA claims that the rich man and the poor man are equal under the present health insurance scheme.
– That is not right.
– Of course it is not right. It just so happens that the rich man is left with more money after paying for his essential outgoings. The AMA has, by the way, circulated this remarkable example of verbal sophistry and sourced it to an official of the Commonwealth Bank Officers’ Association, despite the fact that that Association has completely disowned the statement. No amount of word play can hide the fact that under the present health insurance scheme the rich man, because of the value of his taxation deductions, pays comparatively less for his health insurance coverage than does the poor man. The facts are that the price of so-called voluntary health insurance is different to different people and that fat cats in all ranks of life get more for their money than thin ones.
Mr Deputy Speaker, we can hear honourable members opposite screaming out their interruptions because they cannot take the facts. The Opposition apparently sees that this is politically embarrassing and there”” accepts the AMA idea that the way to conceal the injustice of the whole system is to create a whole class of charity patients by subsidising low income people and pensioners into the present health insurance scheme. We heard the honourable member for Hotham talk about the poor and the indigent. This kind of social classification belongs to the 18th century. The Opposition should be ashamed to present such ideas in this day and age.
– That is very generous.
– Yes. It is more like the 12th century.
– It is mediaeval.
– Well, evil anyway. Australia does not want a health insurance system which divides people into classes. We are going to see to it that everyone is covered automatically and that everybody contributes according to his or her ability. As I mentioned before, the Opposition spokesmen pretend that their scheme is voluntary and find abhorrent the idea of everybody in the community contributing towards an equitable and efficient health insurance program. Let us be quite clear that the present scheme is not voluntary. Health insurance coverage for ordinary Australians is not a matter of choice; it is an economic necessity and, as a social utility, it should be financed in just the same way as is education or defence. We do not hear members of the Opposition claiming that people should be free to pay or not to pay that part of their taxes which supports the armed Services or education institutions although of course we know how they like to juggle the education allocations. Our proposal is that, through extra taxation and revenue payments equal to the amounts at present flowing through the inefficient private health insurance system, we will run a program which offers everybody access to high standard medical and hospital treatment.
If the Opposition wants to apply the philosophy which they claim lies behind their voluntary* health insurance scheme then they will also have to allow people a choice about whether they pay any taxes at all. By claiming that a person should be free to contribute or not to contribute to the health care costs of the community, the Opposition is once again revealing its real feelings about health. It is quite plain that it simply does not believe health care services are a right which should be enjoyed by everybody and that instead it wants to ensure that health services should be marketed as a commodity and be available according to the financial resources of each person and family. The Government rejects that, I reject it, and most of the people in this country reject it. In short the Opposition continues to see health services as a privilege to be bought and sold.
This is what is behind its opposition, and that of the AMA, to the concept that provision should exist in any health insurance program for medical services to be free at the point of delivery. This prospect causes the Opposition, again mouthing the arguments of the AMA, to predict over utilisation and abuse of such a system. I wonder whether honourable members saw that marvellous cartoon by Pickering in the ‘Canberra Times’, which I think summed up the feelings of a lot of people. Members of the Opposition have no evidence that such abuse would happen, only their apparent belief that all patients are potential malingerers and all doctors potential cheats. I reject both those concepts.
Having no evidence, they attempt to malign our program by comparing it with socialised schemes overseas which they allege are abused and over-costly for taxpayers. So let us look at these socialised schemes. In Britain, which of course has a different scheme from ours and which, if you like to express the term, is much more socialist, such radical socialists as Sir Winston Churchill, Mr Harold MacMillan, Sir Alex Douglas-Home and Mr Heath have in recent years presided over a health scheme which has been maliciously slandered here in Australia. The ‘Lancet’, probably the most respected medical journal in the world, said recently of the British scheme:
No country, literally no country, can afford more than one health service system. This truth will be concealed for as long as possible by insurance companies and other enterpreneurs; but it cannot be hidden forever. In countries where medical expenses are still met from personal purses with or without an element of private insurance, any long or complicated illness may spell financial ruin for families which, until the illness, were not poor. This reality, if nothing else, will sooner or later drive other countries to follow the example of the National Health Act of 1946 - Britain’s most important single item of social legislation in a century.
The Australian universal health insurance program will not be a national health service in the same sense as the British scheme, since Australian doctors will still collect .a fee for every service they perform and will not work for the Government. But, like the British national health service and the Canadian insurance scheme, the Australian universal health insurance program will ensure that everybody in the community will receive health care as a basic right rather than as a purchased privilege.
The Opposition spokesmen who seek to denigrate our proposals by pointing to Canada’s Medicare scheme should here and now take note of the facts that the Deputy Minister for Health in Canada, Dr M. Le Clair, and the Director-General of Health Insurance, Dr R. A. Armstrong, have recently sent in writing to Australia outright denials of statements made by medical pressure groups and spokesmen claiming that the Canadian system of universal health insurance is too costly and is being over-used. Many Canadian doctors reject the claims that are being made. The facts are that in Canada the costs of medical care are rising more slowly than they are under Australia’s present ramshackle health insurance scheme and that the Canadian system is not being over-used even though it has made medical and hospital care equally accessible to everybody. On this latter point a comprehensive, expert study has shown that what are classified by doctors as unreasonable calls for medical treatment have risen by a factor of less than one in one hundred patients under Medicare. So much for that argument. At the same time Medicare has allowed people who would otherwise have been financially deterred from seeking medical care at the right time to go to their doctors early in the course of their illness. By receiving treatment at the right time, they then avoid the illness becoming complicated and therefore requiring more of their doctors’ time and skill, and naturally more money, to treat. These are the facts and Opposition members who persist in making claims about abuse of the Canadian system stand in the same danger of having this deceit explode in their faces as did the AMA when it received a letter from the President of the Nova Scotia Medical Association rebuking it for its misrepresentations of the Canadian scheme.
The reason why our program has been the subject of such malicious misrepresentations must, I think, by now be apparent to the public at large. There can be no real question that our equitably based program, with its guarantees of the right choice, of quality and of personal privacy, will be a very great improvement on the present system. I point out to the House that I asked a question on this very subject this morning in the House and I was told how much privacy people have now. The falsity of most of the criticisms of it and the ferocity with which they have been pursued reveal the self-interest of those behind them and their determination that the privileges of the few should be maintained at the expense of the rights of the majority. Well, the game is up. The public has seen through the smokescreen that has been thrown up and this Government will not let its objectives be frustrated by cliques of socially selfish people. I ask the House to carry these Bills. I believe that the Australian public wants them; the Australian public needs them.
– The Bills we are considering are a perfect example of how an incoming Government should not go about complex legislation. I do not mean so much the formal procedure, although it would have been better if the Government had dared to have a debate on the White Paper on the Australian health insurance program before it prepared the Bills we are considering. But the real error lies further back. When in Opposition, the Australian Labor Party, desperately looking for a health program of its own with which to try to counter the very successful national health scheme of the Liberal-Country Party Government, became aware of some research work by 2 economists, Doctors Scotton and Deeble. Without proper consideration the Labor Party grasped their scheme, loudly trumpeted its supposed advantages - and now it is stuck with it.
– It made a mess of the arithmetic.
– Yes. Its great defect is that it is an economists’, almost an accountants’, scheme and does not tackle the basic requirement of an alternative health scheme - how to improve the standard of health care in Australia. I do not want to give the impression, despite the remarks of the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie), that I believe that health care is solely a matter for the medical profession. The United States of America, where the pattern of health care has been almost entirely dictated by the medical profession, is a salutary example of the danger of that course. What a sensible government does, what the Liberal-Country Party Government did, is to balance the views and interests of all those involved in health care and in particular the interests of the patients. And this is what this Government, in this Bill, has conspicuously failed to do.
The health scheme this Bill seeks to supersede has been outstandingly successful. It is not perfect - no purely human institution ever has been or ever will be - but it has been progressively improved, and the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has outlined the form in which the Opposition would like to see the next stage of improvement. Now all this is to be cast away. And for what? It is to be cast away for an accountants’ scheme, for a political gimmick, that will do little to improve the standard of health care and a great deal to harm it! What this House should do is to examine critically all the changes proposed in this Bill, and to identify the areas where it makes improvements - and these are remarkably few. Even where there are alleged improvements, such as the increased grants to hospitals or the bringing of pensioners into full membership of the health scheme, this House should satisfy itself that these improvements would not be better achieved by simple amendments to the existing National Health Act.
So, let us examine the improvements claimed by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and his supporters. The Minister frequently has trumpeted claims that his scheme will improve coverage, and that one million people are not covered under the present scheme. I heard an interjection to that effect a few minutes ago. There are a number of points to be made about this. Firstly, the Minister is attempting to confuse in the public mind the question of health cover with the question of insurance cover. All Australians are now covered for health care. No Australian is refused reasonable health care because of lack of means or lack of insurance. Secondly, who are these people who are not insured under the present health scheme? The Minister certainly does not know; he does not even seem to know their total numbers. The figures he quoted in his White Paper are misleading, for - although the Minister denied it - the substantial number covered under the Repatriation Act were excluded.
I think it would be fair to say that about 92 per cent of the community are now insured. Of the 8 per cent that are not, some, of course, are very wealthy people who choose, in effect, to carry their own insurance. Forcing these people to join the health scheme, bearing in mind that 60 per cent of benefits they will receive will come from Consolidated Revenue, is of very doubtful social advantage. Others who are not now insured are transients and itinerants who will be at least as difficult to pick up under the Government’s tax scheme as under the present scheme. It is worth noting that something like 3 million people who could be in the work force do not render tax returns, and that the Deeble report admits that only 80 per cent of the community would be covered initially under the Labor scheme. Even in Britain, which has had a tax financed health scheme for a quarter of a century, nearly 5 per cent of the community still are not covered. In fact, the Government’s claim of wider coverage is both false and misleading.
The second claim trumpeted by the Minister - with snide comments on the number of private funds - is that it would be more efficient. The 1969 Nimmo Committee had this to say on this subject:
The Committee found no support at all for the often expressed view that the number of different organisations adds to the cost of the scheme. We examined the operations of a large number of friendly societies and closed funds and found that their service to contributors was extremely good and that they had been the most successful organisations in keeping management expenses within proper limits.
From all experience here and overseas, it will be very surprising - almost unbelievable - if a government department in fact provides cheaper and more efficient service than a private insurance firm. Further, the friendly societies and small union or industry based funds provide for their members personal and prompt service which a government department certainly could not match. Worst of all, of course, health insurance would be largely socialised, and freedom of choice would be eliminated. So the second claim of the Minister - that of increased efficiency - is clearly invalid.
The third advantage loudly trumpeted by the Minister is that it will be more equitable, because the contributions, instead of being a flat rate which is tax-deductible, will be a proportion of taxable income. Whether this is more equitable or not depends on how one views the principles of progressive income tax. But, however one views these principles, one must bear in mind that 60 per cent of the cost of health benefits will be paid by Consolidated Revenue towards which the higher income earners pay a disproportionate contribution, I draw this to the attention of the honourable member for Diamond Valley - and even the Minister cuts out the progressive health levy - the super tax - at taxable incomes of a little over $11,000 per year, although this of course is only in the first year. The $150 limit may well be lifted sharply in future years. So, the third claim of the Minister - that of increased equity - is debatable, to say the least.
The fourth advantage claimed by the Minster is that his new scheme will be no more expensive than the present scheme - and he produces calculations to prove it. Knowing the history of gross costing errors by the Minister and his staff in the past - I am sure honourable members will remember the recent embarrassing confessions before the Medical Fees Tribunal - and faced with this past, it is inevitable that the House will want to look very closely at his new calculations. And they are an interesting study! An economic and market research firm, Philip Shrapnel and Co. Ltd, recently carried out a detailed costing of the present and proposed health insurance schemes. It concluded that the Minister has underestimated costs by nearly $300m in the first year, that it would cost $380m more than the existing scheme in the first year, and that costs under the Hayden scheme will escalate sharply.
How did the Government come to make such a gross costing error? It seems that it forgot that pensioners were being brought fully into its scheme, and merely projected the present discounted costs of pensioner services, and also failed to allow for the inevitable sharp increase in pensioner visits to specialists. A mere error of $300m a year! What crass ineptitude! But how typical of this Government. I have been through the arguments that have been advanced in favour of the Hayden health scheme. None is valid. None gives a reason for dismantling the present highly successful national health scheme, with the inevitable chaos during the changeover. But this is not the worst. As well as having no real advantages, the Hayden health scheme has many very serious disadvantages. I should now like to examine these.
The first is the change in the method of payment of medical expenses and the clear preference of the Minister and his advisers for bulk billing. Bulk billing does have administrative advantages, but we are discussing a health scheme, not an accountants’ scheme - and the effects of bulk billing are likely to be serious. It changes the whole nature of the scheme away from a reimbursement scheme, where the patient has a responsibility for his own medical expenses for which he is then substantially reimbursed. This not only provides a check on overutilisation - either by doctors or by patients - but also ensures the vital function of patient audit, that is, a check by the patient that the medical service has actually been performed. Without these checks our utilisation of health resources will be much less efficient.
The Hayden health scheme also will change markedly the balance between public or standard beds and intermediate or private beds. How great this shift in balance will be depends on how many people will be prepared to take out private insurance to cover the cost of intermediate or private ward care - likely to cost something like $125 a year - as well as paying a super tax of 1.35 per cent of their taxable income for standard ward care. I do not think many people will do this.
Mr McKenzie They will not need cover.
– What will happen then? It is quite certain that there will be a substantial shift in bed use, and this will have serious consequences. There inevitably will be a shortage of standard ward beds for many years, and poorer people, who in some States - for example, Victoria - have had special rights to beds in public hospitals, will now have to compete for these beds with richer elements in the community. So much for the Labor Party’s special consideration for the disadvantaged.
In the case of the private hospitals, many of which are of outstanding quality, they will have to change their whole nature by setting up standard wards. This in turn will mean much greater Government control, and the destruction of much that has made these private hospitals great. A statement by the Board of the Freemasons Hospital sums the problem up well. It said:
There appears to be no practicable way in which a hospital of the size of the Freemasons Hospital can combine public and private beds. The overhead and administrative problems involved, when dealing with a mixture of patient classifications in a total of about 140 patients, become out of proportion to the possible benefits.
Accordingly, it is submitted that the White Paper scheme in its present form is impracticable to operate, so far as it relates to the Freemasons Hospital, and likely in the ultimate event to result in endangering the continued existence of this hospital.
I add that this hospital is one of the finest in Australia. How great the danger of destruction of the private hospitals in can be seen from the Bill. Clause 34 (2) permits private hospitals to apply to the Minister for permission to open standard wards, and this they will most certainly have to do under the Hayden scheme. Clause 34 (3) provides that the Minister will determine how many beds should be taken over - the whole lot if he so decides - and clause 34 (4) provides that the Minister will decide how much the private hospital will be paid for taking in free standard ward patients. The Minister decides; the Minister determines; the Minister decides. What a perfect program for the takeover of private hospitals by the Federal Government - for the socialisation of private hospitals. But we should not be surprised at this. The Minister has been quite frank about it. In the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 6 September 1972 he said:
The Labor Party is a socialist party and its aim as far as medical care is concerned is for the establishment of public enterprise.
Then there is the likely decline in the standard, and increase in the costs, of hospital care which will be caused by the change in the balance of hospital bed usage, coupled with change in the method of payment of the present honorary staff in public hospitals. At the moment, the honorary service in public hospitals is financed by the private sector. If this private sector is sharply reduced, and the specialist staff in public hospitals is simultaneously put on sessional payments or salary, the effect on the standard of medical care will be very serious. The specialists will become in effect salaried workers, with all the defects that occur when doctors are salaried. The results will be, of course, a lowering of the standard of care. Patients will be upset by unnecessary delays and waiting lists for hospital beds will lengthen. This may seem a gloomy prediction, but it is amply justified by all experience of such hospital care.
These are, to me, decisive reasons why this House should not contemplate accepting this ill-thought-out Labor health scheme. But I do not want to give the impression that there are no good points in the Labor health scheme. I approve of the bringing of pensioners fully into the health scheme, and I approve of the increase in the daily bed rate subsidy to hospitals. But both these could, and should, easily be incorporated into the existing health scheme. Incidentally, the increase in the bed subsidy is not as great as the Minister suggests. He correctly quotes the present rate as $2 a day for insured non-pensioner patients, but the special account payments increased the average daily benefit per bed for nonpensioner patients as at 30 June this year from $2 to $5.33 a day.
The elimination of the special account payments by the present Bill would have another unfortunate consequence. Under the existing health scheme members of a fund may be transferred to the special account, where the Government pays their benefits because of a pre-existing complaint, or chronic illness, or hospital stays in excess of a specific period - about 84 days - in any one year. Now the special account is to go, and long-term or chronic patients, who have insured themselves for private or intermediate ward accommodation, will be thrown out of this accommodation after about 3 months. This is iniquitous.
All the uproar and all the divisiveness, which have been caused by this ill-considered health scheme have diverted attention from real areas of health need. The Bill does nothing, for instance, to improve the standard of nursing homes or their admission, rehabilitation or discharge policies. It does nothing to solve the problem of families who are faced with crippling bills for elderly relatives in nursing homes which charge more than the standard fees. It does nothing to improve certainty in medical charges. It reduces the availability of benefits for para-medical services from many health funds. It is high time we stopped wasting our effort on this illconsidered, counter-productive, ramshackle and wasteful Labor health scheme, and got down to the real task which this Government is evading - how to improve the standard of health care of the Australian people.
– I am told that the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) has a fine naval record. It is obvious that he is still at sea as far as the legislation contained in these Bills is concerned. Still, that is understandable when one looks at the words of the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) as reported in the Brisbane Courier-Mail’ of today. He referred to those people not covered under the present scheme. The report states:
Only pensioners, migrants, the indolent, no-hopers and alcoholics would benefit from the Government’s health scheme’, the Liberal welfare spokesman (Mr Chipp) said yesterday.
In 1969 and again in 1972 the Australian Labor Party canvassed throughout the nation the principles of the health insurance program embodied in the 2 Bills now before this House.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I ask your guidance. This is the second member of the Labor Party who has quoted a newspaper report which this morning after question time I said had misrepresented me.
– Order! I am aware of what you are going to say. Unfortunately the Standing Orders of the House do not provide the Chair with the right to instruct honourable members on how they may make their speeches. If an honourable member is misrepresented, at the appropriate time he may make a personal explanation.
– I know your limitations, Mr Deputy Speaker, and therefore I ask you to appeal to the honourable member’s decency.
– Order! I do not think that I can ask the honourable member to alter his speech. Ii the honourable member for Hotham feels that he has been misrepresented he may make a personal explanation when the honourable member for Shortland has finished his speech. There is nothing the Chair can do about what has been said. We all object at some time to what other people say.
– 1 can only refer to the information provided in this report and I read it to the House directly from today’s ‘Courier-Mail’ . I was saying that in 1969 and 1972 the Australian Labor Party had canvassed the principles of the health insurance program embodied in the 2 Bills now before this House and we received majority support from the electors - indeed a clear mandate to implement this scheme and the provisions it will give to the people. It is based on 2 major principles, firstly, complete health coverage for all persons - freedom from fear of illness for all Australians; secondly, Australians will share the cost of the scheme based on their capacity to pay. But those with vested interests opposite - the representatives of the privileged - seek to obstruct this Government in the enactment of this democratic legislation. But their actions as protectors of privilege and in perpetuation of privilege is completely in character. The people are witnessing outside this chamber the antics of the Opposition in another place, where it seeks to thwart Government legislation and give benefit to the wealthy privileged school at the expense of the poorer schools of this nation. So, as I said, that is completely in character with Opposition members’ attitude and their actions in both Houses of protecting privilege.
These champions of the vested interests of the establishment have indulged in a continual recitation of blatant untruths and a long campaign of deception, of protection of privilege and of misrepresentation and fear, in defence of a patched up, propped up scheme that bears heaviest on those least able to pay and leaves over one million Australians without proper medical coverage. I was most interested to listen to the remarks of the former Minister for Repatriation, the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), who is not now in the chamber, when he criticised salaried medical staff. This is the man who was a Minister for Repatriation - a Department which in the main has salaried medical staff. The repatriation scheme has been in operation for almost SO years and I have yet to hear complaints from the Returned Services League throughout this land or complaints from my constituents about the quality of medical care provided by the repatriation system.
Sitting suspended Umm 6.15 to 3 p.m.
– We heard earlier in this debate what we can only regard as criticism of and inferences against salaried medical staffs. These were cast by the honourable member for Indi who was the Minister for Repatriation in the former Government. This Government has the greatest respect and regard for the quality of the services provided by the salaried staffs of our repatriation hospitals. It is unfair that salaried medical staff should be used by the Opposition and by its backers as a means of trying to attack the health scheme of this Government. We have heard no stories or complaints about an abuse of our repatriation services. We have not had any figures put before us or before the Australian people to demonstrate a sudden upsurge in the use of repatriation medical services because repatriation staff are salaried staff. It is unfortunate that, during such an important debate, not one member of the Liberal Party is present in the House this evening. This is most unfortunate because the Australian people have been led to believe that in the view of the Liberal Party this is a major piece of legislation. But not one member of the Liberal Party is present in the House (Quorum formed).
I am indebted to the forceful party in the Opposition the Australian Country Party - which deemed it to be its responsibility to draw attention to the state of the House. It is unfortunate that there are still only 2 members of the Liberal Party present for the discussion on this important piece of legislation. I compliment the members of the Australian Country Party who are present in the House this evening. I challenge the Opposition to declare itself in relation to the Australian repatriation service. Do members of the Opposition have confidence in the medical staff of the repatriation service or do they regard them as providing a second rate service to ex-servicemen? Certainly the Returned Soldiers League organisations have not complained about the usage of the repatriation services. If members of the Opposition, and those of the Liberal Party in particular, feel that the standard of the repatriation service is less than desirable they ought to speak out and say so.
We have heard much talk in this debate about freedom of choice. What freedom of choice do we have now? If a person needs a specialist, what choice does he have now? He has none. We know that. A patient must pay his fee before he can get in to see a general practitioner. He cannot always get in to see the practitioner he wishes to see; he takes the one who is on duty. That practitioner will refer the patient to a specialist, when a specialist’s services are required, whom he thinks is the best. He does not give the patient a series of names of specialists to see. The patient cannot make his own selection. The general practitioner makes the selection for him.
I mention next this wonderful quality of doctor-patient relationship. I quote briefly from a letter that I received recently from a lady who attended a doctor. She said:
When I recently needed medical attention I rang his surgery and was told by a recorded message to call the telephone exchange. The telephone exchange had no suggestions as to how to contact -Dr X.
I have subsequently been told by a friend that Dr X has left Canberra.
The letter continues:
Surely a brief, roneoed sheet to patients stating that he was going away wouldn’t have hurt too much. This would have given his patients some time to look around for another doctor before being placed in the position of needing one.
Secondly, there has been a lot of comment on privacy and patient records. Dr X has, in his possession, or has put somewhere three years of my medical records - is it too much to ask that he let me know where they are or what he has done with them?
That is the quality of the special doctor-patient relationship which exists at present.
As to the criticism of the White Paper on the universal health insurance program, let us examine what that august journal the ‘Can- berra Times’ said in its editorial of 9 November. It states:
The scheme, as modified in the White Paper, does guarantee freedom of private practice to the medical profession (though it seeks to devise in co-operation with the Australian medical profession a formula that would guarantee observance of scheduled fees by doctors) and it leaves the patient full freedom to be treated by the doctor of his choice even in the public wards of hospitals. The White Paper gives- encouraging assurances that the confidentiality of records will be protected; the danger that the privacy of patients will suffer will be no greater under the universal scheme than it is under the present scheme of records kept by private insurance organisations.
What does the Melbourne ‘Age’, another august journal of our nation, have to say on the White Paper? Its editorial on the ‘Hayden syndrome’ states:
There is no doubt about it: this is a case of acute medico paranoia, otherwise known as the Hayden syndrome. All the symptoms are present - fear verging on hysteria, a tendency to babble irrationally and the breakout of a rash of noisome advertising. We are talking about the Australian Medical Association, for so long an august body accustomed to accepting with dignity the respect of the public. In particular, we are talking about the AMA’s reaction to the Government’s proposed health scheme.
That is the conclusive proof of Hayden’s syndrome: say ‘proposed health scheme’ to the AMA and back comes a Pavlovian shout of ‘nationalised medicine’. It is an absurd claim and the AMA’s campaign to sow fear in the minds of the public is an exercise in distortion, if not straight-out dishonesty. If by nationalised medicine’ the AMA means that the Government will force doctors to join a salaried service then it is mistaken. Doctors will be free to practice privately as at present, and they will continue to charge fee for service, as at present. If it means that the Government will interfere with the patientdoctor relationship (or what remains of it in these days of group practice and locums and answering services) then it is mistaken again.
Let us put aside the fanciful claims made by the Australian Medical Association and the General Practitioners Association about the so-called freedom of choice to select a doctor that supposedly exists today and let us look at the facts.
In the Newcastle area if a person is ill and is able to go along to the general practitioner’s surgery or the group practice surgery to seek medical attention, this is what happens: If the doctor the patient wishes to see - that is the doctor of his choice - happens to be on duty invariably that person is told that an immediate appointment is out of the question. He is asked to come back later that day or later in the week or that he can go to the casualty section of one of the public hospitals. If the doctor the person wishes to see is off duty or out on rounds, that person can see one of the doctors who is on duty at the surgery but he may not be the doctor of that person’s choice. That person must see whoever happens to be on duty and, then again, at some later time - that is, later that day, on another day or perhaps next week. Furthermore, anyone unfortunate enough to fall ill at the weekend is in a worse position. Not only is there no choice of a person’s private doctor but he would be fortunate indeed if he could get any doctor from a group practice. The chances are that when a person rings his doctor’s phone number he will be given the number of an answering service, and when he calls that number he will be referred to a locum or a locum service. So much for the choice of doctor. It is just not true. It does not exist, and the people of this country know that it does not exist.
I know of no doctor’s surgery in the Newcastle area where a person can immediately see the general practitioner of his choice. I repeat that he is told that he can see the doctor who happens to be on duty and at a time to be arranged. Then, having made an appointment, when he arrives for the consultation in many surgeries he is requested to pay the consultation fee before the doctor will see him, no matter how ill he happens to be. In one surgery in my electorate recently a sick aged pensioner waited almost 3i hours, in a waiting room packed with approximately 40 patients, to see the doctor. I do not have to tell honourable members what a distressing experience that is for a sick person, but it is worse still if the person is not a pensioner patient and payment is requested in advance before he can see the doctor. There is no doubt in my mind that these kinds of procedures cause great discomfort and concern to those people who are ill and have to seek the service of a doctor.
It would be idle to ignore the fact that the campaign of fear and confusion conducted against our sick and aged persons by the opponents of this Government has succeeded in hurting and frightening some of them. A case brought to my notice recently concerned 2 members of the one family - one of whom is an aged person and both of whom have been receiving prolonged treatment from a specialist. Someone convinced these people that under the Government’s health program they would no longer be able to see the specialist who had cared for them throughout their illnesses. It was an absolute untruth and it has caused those sick persons unnecessary distress and worry. It was a cruel and despicable act on the part of those responsible.
On top of this, nowadays patients in doctors’ waiting rooms are subjected to a display of garish and amateurish posters and propaganda designed to create fear and confusion in the minds of people seeking ease from their illnesses. They are a captive audience for what amounts to visual intimidation. A visit to the doctor’s surgery these days can be described only as an experience that most patients would much rather avoid - one that accentuates their worry and preys on their vulnerability, particularly if they are aged or short of money. It is a social tragedy and a disgrace that the Opposition parties - the Liberal and Country Parties - seek to perpetuate this sick system of health care. No matter how they and their supporters in the medical profession and the undemocratic health insurance funds try to conjure up” a picture of a special doctor-patient relationship, the people of Australia know from their own experience that it is a sham and a fantasy, and that it does not exist.
Yet, when the Australian Labor Government seeks to introduce a health care system which is based on the capacity of the income earner to pay and which will bring complete freedom of fear from illness and improved quality of . medical care, the Liberal and Country Parties act to obstruct it. Their actions can be described only as irresponsible and mercenary. Make no mistake, they are not fooling anyone with their campaign of fear and intimidation because, as I repeat, Australians know the poor quality of treatment and service they receive under the hotch-potch health system that was developed over a generation of Liberal-Country Party administration. Remember that it took Sir Earle Page 20 years to sell it to his own Party before he was able to bring it into this place.
Not all general practitioners are willing participants in the campaign that has been conducted against this Government. Some of them are sick to death of what has been a disgraceful campaign of misrepresentation of this Government’s proposals. I pay tribute to those general practitioners who are dedicated, hard working sincere men - men to be admired for the long hours they give to patient care at the expense of their own private lives. I have some of these doctors in my electorate. They are men who have seen a diversion of a large part of their practice to their more fortunate colleagues, the specialists, under the present patched up scheme. I have sympathy for these doctors. They believe in their profession, but they are captives of the Australian Medical Association and its selfish attitudes. This Government’s health proposals will bring justice and relief to these men, and I believe that they deserve it. The vicious campaign of fear, confusion and misrepresentation waged by the Australian Medical Association and the General Practitioners Society has misled doctors as well as patients. I hope that these doctors will now strike out, stand up for honesty and truth and join in the development of the proposals outlined in these Bills.
Finally, what has been the result of the malicious, vindictive, selfish campaign of untruths, misrepresentations and denigration that has been waged by the Australian Medical Association, the General Practitioners Society, the undemocratic health insurance funds, the vested interests and their puppets in this place against this Government’s health proposals, against salaried medical staff, against the Prime Minister .(Mr Whitlam) and even against the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden)? The result has been to sweep away forever the credibility, the trust and the respect that the community once reposed in the medical profession. Members of the medical profession themselves are the major casualties. Never again will the community trust them. But this Government, with the clear mandate given to it by the Australian people last December, will carry on with its responsibility to bring universal health care to all Australians and to remove from our society forever the fear of illness.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I was misrepresented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) when he/ came into the House before dinner and, without informing me, accused me and the other Tasmanian members of authorising an advertisement which contained an untrue statement. I did authorise an advertisement, which read as follows:
In Saturday’s referendum on prices and incomes, vote Yes. Yonr Yes vote will help in the fight against inflation.
Remember the Liberal Party Government only tackled inflation by deliberately creating massive unemployment.
Labor will not do this. Thus, the Australian Government needs your help to fight inflation in a fair and balanced way.
So vote Yes on Saturday.
The accusation is false because the statement in the advertisement is true. In August 1971 the unemployment figures were about 61,000. The Snedden Budget of August 1971 then created unemployment in a calculated way. In November 1971 the figure was about 85,000; in December 1971 it was up to about 120,000-
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not allowed to go into the details now. He may state only where he has been misrepresented.
– I am trying to show that the statement was made in good faith and was based on fact. May I just quote a couple of paragraphs from the ‘Australian’ newspaper?
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The honourable member obviously is debating the question. He has gone beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Denison to explain where he has been misrepresented.
– I want to prove this point by quoting a couple of paragraphs from the Australian* of 22 January 1972, referring to a statement by the then Federal Treasurer, the present Leader of the Opposition.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to make a full debate of the question. I think that he has made his point of explanation. He is not allowed to go any further.
– I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Order! The honourable gentleman may not debate what happened in the past. The only thing he is concerned about is where he was misrepresented. ‘If one wanted to make analogies with what has been said, one could go on for half an hour. That is not the point. The point is that the honourable gentleman must make his personal explanation.
– I have proof of the fact that it was a true statement, which it is necessary to present to show that the statement by the
Leader of the Opposition was untrue. I would just like to quote a couple of paragraphs from-
– Order! The honourable gentleman is not in order.
– I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– That is up to the Opposition. Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– The Bills before the House surely must hasten the day of reckoning for their supporters. The hastening will be accentuated by the growing impetus of opposition to what is not a health scheme but a political philosophy with scant regard for the quality of the health care of our 13 million people. The propositions of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) are the result of a very stubborn and selfopinionated customer, based on political and amateurish financing. We submit that this grandiose scheme of nationalisation is not necessary. All that is necessary is the polishing of the present scheme in the areas of pensioner care, subsidised health benefits and paramedical procedures. We submit that the Minister can still retire from the scene with some grace, rather than allow this worst thing to befall us. This is one of the most celebrated frauds, among a host of frauds, perpetrated on the Australian people by the Labor Government. During the course of this debate the Country Party and our colleagues, the members of the Liberal Party, will bring to this national forum a glimmer of sense. We are sick of the various parcels of gossip from the Minister in his Press statements and television appearances, we are tired of his masquerades as one claiming to be the mainstay of people in trouble, and we aim to expose the festering sore of absolute control that he is endeavouring to impose. We charge him with either not knowing the facts or deliberately misrepresenting the position. This is deceptive and treacherous legislation, and there is no doubt about that. When the Opposition in this chamber and in the other place - a place of great responsibility and integrity - are finished with these debates, the Minister’s scheme will be shattered. No doubt this has brought a tinge of surprise to those who sit opposite; they can be assured that this tinge will give way to signs of mass hysteria when the superstructure of artificiality collapses because it has no sound foundation.
In Opposition the Minister uttered platitudes about his health proposals; he had a cut and dried concept. We now find that never before in the history of this Parliament, or of any other parliament in the world, have we ever had such hotch-botch legislation. We have a whole range of Bills - and more to come in the autumn session - and even then finality will not be reached. Never before has so much been said to convey so little. One is reminded of the demagogues of old.
Any discussion on health must consider the following 5 areas: Firstly, the individual and his family responsibilities - I know that the Labor Government denies anyone individuality; it thinks people are mere cogs in a machine; secondly, the medical profession in its widest application; thirdly, hospitals - public, private, religious and charitable; fourthly, government responsibility; and fifthly, health insurance schemes. It is appropriate to dissect the present Bill and detail how it affects the above areas and how it fails to make a meaningful contribution to the improved quality of health care compared to the present free enterprise system. My particular area of responsibility in this debate is to relate the above items to the position in Queensland. At the present time every Queenslander has the right to exercise freedom of choice as to doctor, hospital and voluntary health insurance.
– The best State of all.
– That is right.
– I thank my colleagues, the honourable member for Fisher and the honourable member for Maranoa, for their words of wisdom. It is the best State of all. Every Queenslander can, and does obtain, top quality medical attention in public hospitals and outpatients departments in almost every area of the State, from the gulf in the north to Wallangarra in the south.
– Absolutely free.
– Yes, it is absolutely free, as my colleague the honourable member for Fisher says. Waiting time for surgery and hospital beds is at an absolute minimum. Those who so desire can go to the doctor of their own choice or be admitted to private or intermediate accommodation, and they can insure with benefit funds to meet the cost of these services. The essence of this is that the individual is free to exercise his choice; there is no compulsion, and he is covered in any emergency to meet any exigencies at no cost. There is no means test. This is a free system, a good system, a system which has the highest bed ratio in Australia - 7.3 beds per 1,000 population. It incurs the lowest cost per occupied bed.
Any costing proposals must be current. It is difficult to obtain information or statistics relating to incomes in Australia, and any attempts to rectify this deficiency was thwarted by the removal of questions on incomes in the 1971 census of population. So it is virtually impossible even to estimate the effect in monetary terms of the proposals in the White Paper. On 22 November last I asked the Minister to table in this House the documents and calculations on which he based his assertions that health insurance under his proposals will be cheaper for 3 out of 4 families and 7 out of 10 single persons. He refused, and Australia wonders why. Is he not honest enough to expose his calculations to official scrutiny? Until he does we can only assume - and rightly so - that his exercise is wrong, and he knows it. Is he so recreant to the trust placed in ‘him that he will not admit his errors of calculations? If he had nothing to fear, he would make the calculations available. The Minister deliberately misrepresents the position in Queensland. The proposals will not be cheaper for anyone in Queensland, but a lot dearer for everyone. The total taxable income of individuals in Queensland for the income year 1970-71 was $2,057.7m and the taxable income of individuals whose incomes were less than $1,000 per annum amounted to $41. 447m, leaving a difference of $2,016.253m.
Page 64 of the White Paper on health insurance shows that the proposed rate for 1974-75 is 1.35 per cent of individual taxable income. The first qualification to this proposal is to exempt those whose taxable income is $1,040 or less per annum. The nearest I can get to the number in this group, from taxation statistics, is the 62,743 taxpayers in Queensland whose incomes are less than $1,000 per annum. Leaving these people out of the calculations and taking 1.35 per cent of the remainderthat is 1.35 per cent of $2,016.253m - the amount raised from Queensland through this iniquitous proposal of the Labor administration would be about $27.2m. The Minister will rip like a thief and a burglar in excess of $27m from Queenslanders to give them a service not as good as that which they have now. To obtain the equivalent of the position as it is now, they will also have to cover themselves through voluntary insurance for the difference between $112 a week and the cost of intermediate and private hospital accommodation. The Labor Government’s proposals will increase the cost of medical and hospital care to Queenslanders.
To summarise, it will cost the individual in Queensland more, he will not have his freedom of choice, and he can look forward to long watts for consultations, surgery and hospitalisation. The best judge of the necessary medical attention is the patient’s doctor - best of all the family doctor. He is part of the Australian scene. There is a delicate personal relationship between doctor and patient. The medical profession’s duty is to do its best for the patient. That is not a matter of economics, it is a matter of medicine. The Hayden scheme is the thin edge of the socialist nationalisation wedge, despite the Minister’s repeated and rather hysterical protests of constitutional impossibility. The Minister intends to do this by socialism by stealth. Firstly, he intends to control doctors’ fees by bulk billing becoming established practice. Once he achieves this he will dictate the refunds. He strives to make health public by destroying the very special relationship between doctor and patient by sending accounts. Giving details of the conditions treated to people other than the patient is an infringement of professional secrecy and ethics. What the patient does with his account is his own concern and only he is free to divulge details to other parties.
We want more doctors, particularly in country areas. There is a drift away from general practice. No wonder it will be accentuated under the proposals in this Bill. Bulk billing is a disadvantage to general practioners, who lose 15 per cent. The specialist, however, often loses only 2i per cent, for example, $5 out of a specialist’s fee of $200. These Bills seek to control the medical profession both through fees and through control by hospital administrators as far as hospitals are concerned. They seek to do away with private practice and institute a system of salaried staff or sessional service. The Government completely ignores the fact that doctors work long hours and are a credit to the oath of service. If they are to be reduced to a salaried service, the quality of health care will suffer. We will reach the situation as in other countries where one has to wait months and years for even minor operations. We are already 3,000 general practitioners short in Australia. The system we have is good and the quality of health care is excellent. Under the Labor proposals people will be denied freedom of choice of doctor in a public hospital. The Minister, of course, again is not very specific when he refers to sessional payments for doctors. Does he include the following, which are accepted by all unions as part of the recompense: superannuation, sick leave, holiday leave, sabbatical leave and after hours work?
Medical care should be based on complete freedom of choice for the patient in all matters pertaining to and at all levels of medical, hospital, and paramedical care. The patient should also be free to decide how he pays for it. He has accepted the present system in Queensland, and the vote achieved by the Labor Government in Queensland at the last Federal election, when one of the election issues was health, indicated that the people of Queensland will not have a bar of this scheme. The honourable member for Maranoa said: ‘Let them call a double dissolution and we will see how clear it is next time’.
The best that can be said about the Minister as far as hospitals are concerned is that he runs true to his trackwork - utterances based on a system designed to mislead the public. I refer to page 42 of the White Paper and the estimated contributions to operating costs by the Australian Government and State Governments and to answers he gave to questions I asked about Queensland hospitals on 12 and 14 November. The Minister stated that Queensland will get $35m more than it would have got under the previous scheme out of a total of an extra $80m contribution from the Commonwealth. What a red herring of a statement! The Minister has used a cheap political trick, that is, dishonest practice to endeavour to hoodwink the public of Queensland. He knows he cannot sell his socialist scheme in Queensland.
The Minister endeavours to make capital out of Queensland’s share of the extra Commonwealth contribution. An analysis of page 42 will show that the Commonwealth Government will contribute an extra $290m for public hospitals out of which Queensland .will obtain a paltry S3 Om extra which will result, when allowances are made for fees received, in a saving of $35m to the Queensland Government. I submit that the White Paper should be corrected and the word ‘gains’ at the top of the last column on page 42 should be savings’. Other States will get a massive injection of Commonwealth funds, but Queensland on a per capita basis should be getting $66m instead of $55m out of the total Commonwealth allocation to the States of $460m.
– The Brisbane line again.
– Yes. Queensland is being penalised on account of its efficiency by Slim. Queensland’s Government last year contributed $71,312,958 out of a total health vote for running the State’s hospital system. Commonwealth payments met the balance of the total expenditure on hospitals of $108m. State hospital rates for private and intermediate wards are the lowest in Australia - $19 private and $16 intermediate a day all inclusive. This enables many people to take advantage of privately operated hospitals and still gain full benefit return from insurance.
The proposals are criticised because they have as their aim the standardisation of hospital care without endeavouring to improve the standards. Encouragement is given to standard accommodation rather than to improving the quality of hospital care in private and intermediate wards. This must have a disastrous effect on the quality of health care. We must set our sights at the highest possible level consistent with economic responsibility. Again, as far as private, religious and charitable hospitals are concerned, the Minister is using the practice of communistic ideology in subtly destroying them, by making them dependent on a centralised government department and then sapping their financial bloodstream. These proposals will lead, as inevitably as night follows day, to a clogging of the system of hospital beds by people who will be visiting hospitals just to get their money’s worth under the Hayden scheme.
The public hospital system initially will be swamped by people who,- being forced to pay an extra tax, will drop medical and hospital insurance and use a free system. Planning cannot anticipate what this will be, or provide any rapid counter to accommodate the obvious increased usage the present structured system will face. These radical measures are not being introduced with any finesse; the broad concepts are being implemented, but there is no sign of grass-roots planning. Will the States be able to recruit sufficient staff for the added influx? Australia and the world at large face a critical shortage of doctors and nurses and these are not easily recruited. Instead of working 18 hours a day, as they do at present, and as do members of the Country Party, they will work only 8 hours. It will be chaos.
Hayden’s scheme will become bogged down with a dispirited corps of doctors who are trained to be independent in their practice management, but who will be denied that independence under these proposals. They will be up in arms to be forced to work under the control of hospital administrators, who in many instances will not be medical people but mere economists. But this is what the Government seeks to achieve to create chaos as a principal weapon to gain control. Private beds will be empty, public beds unable to cope, and the private, religious and charitable groups will be forced to become public and offer a lower standard of hospital care. This is what we object to, to deliberate aims to remove the dual system. Once the private hospitals make an approach to be recognised as having public beds the Minister has complete control. He controls the purse strings so he can dictate policy.
These hospitals will lose their identity, the owners will become mere trustees, will lose control and we will have impersonalised medicine completely removing from the scene dedicated people such as nuns, cultured women and others who work without reward to express their personality. The end result will be one system - and it will not be the best; it will be the worst. Try as he might to camouflage his intentions the Minister seeks to destroy private enterprise as far as hospitals are concerned. We are concerned for these hospitals - the co-operative hospitals, the religious and charitable ones. We acknowledge their great contribution to healing; they must continue. Can they do this in face of this relentless monster of socialisation which seeks to destroy them?
The Minister has not spelt out whether the $16 a day is to be increased in the face of rapid inflation fanned by the flame of complete irresponsibility of his Government? This is not developed in the White Paper. We want to be assured that this is a payment to the individual in moral and distributive justice, as part of his payment to social security. It must move in line with increases in costs. Queenslanders are aware of what you are up to in regard to hospitalisation in our State. We will not tolerate your nominal dangling of political plums. Coercion is foreign to trust, and it is objectionable to us.
The fourth item I would like to develop is government responsibility. We submit, from the Country Party, that the benefits need to be extended in the pensioner, low income and unemployed areas. There is a need to develop contributions in optical and physiotherapy benefits. But this can best be done by updating the present scheme rather than the complete upheaval designed by the Minister. Mr Speaker you may rest assured that the Prime Minister is the last person in Australia about whom I wish to speak, but comparing his contribution to medical care with that of his driver, you must remember that the Prime Minister pays much more income tax than his driver does and we even admit that he might just work a little harder.
We accuse the Minister of complete distortion of facts. He is trying to hoodwink the Australian people into a policy of help that completely denies freedom of choice and freedom of the individual. We of the Country Party are not willing to stand idly by while he tries to force through this uniform grandiose scheme on us. The scheme will be impossible to alter in the future. We will be unable to unscramble the egg.
– Order! I remind the honourable member that his time has expired. The first time after I call order, no more remarks are to be included in Hansard.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do.
– Oh, not again.
– The Country Party kites and crows are flying high tonight. I claim to have been grossly misrepresented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden). The right honourable gentleman earlier today complained about the content of a radio advertisement. This content in fact was based on facts provided and statements uttered by the Leader of the Opposition and therefore was unchallengeable. This was yet another excursion into fantasy by the right honourable gentleman.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I would suggest that the honourable member is compounding the lie.
– He is just repeating the very thing to which the Leader of the Opposition objected.
– Do you want to read it.
– Order! The honourable member for Kennedy has been here long enough to know that he cannot use such language in this House. There are other ways of expressing matters.
– In speaking to this Bill I shall endeavour to be objective in my approach. I hope that I do not introduce emotional matter into the contribution I make. I certainly do not intend to launch an attack upon members of the medical profession, the majority of whom are dedicated men and women for whom I have the highest regard. It is unfortunate that, in some areas, some medical practitioners have become party to distorting the Labor Government’s health scheme. I noticed this evening that the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) flogged the old line that under our scheme people will not have the freedom of choice of doctors. The honourable member should know that this is incorrect. If he does not know that much about our scheme, I would suggest that he has another look at the White Paper and acquaint himself with Labor’s program. The new health insurance program has important ramifications for people throughout Australia and in some ways has some unique implications for Queensland.
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. As soon as the honourable member for Lilley has finished his speech, the honourable member for Darling
Downs may make a personal explanation. If I were to allow personal explanations during a speech it would rob the member who is speaking of his time.
– I thought perhaps when the honourable member rose that he may have been going to draw the attention of the House to the fact that since this debate commenced at 8 p.m. there have been at the most 2 members of the Liberal Opposition in this chamber. Returning to the submission that I am making, these implications will mean in effect a much wider choice of private medical care. (Quorum formed). Even that effort brought in only about two more Liberal members; that is how interested they are in this important debate. I was saying that these implications will mean in effect a much wider choice of private medical care and a considerable upgrading of the Queensland public and private hospital systems.
The Australian Government’s health insurance program has been the subject of intense debate which has featured attempts to mislead and confuse and to blur the essential features of the plan. The philosophical base of the program is that all Australians, irrespective of their means, should have access to a high standard of health care. This care should be available on the basis of medical need and not on the financial capacity of the individual to buy health services. The freedom of people to choose the type of hospital care they want and their right to the ready availability of medical services are fundamental principles of Government policy. The program provides for the establishment of the Health Insurance Commission which will provide insurance cover for all Australians, both for medical services and for hospital treatment. The program also provides Australian Government support for both public and private hospitals.
Queensland, of course, is in a different situation from most other States because already it operates a public hospital system which provides both in-patient and out-patient services free of charge.
– Who brought that in?
– This of course was introduced by an Australian Labor Party government, and it was introduced in the teeth of opposition from the Conservatives in the State House of Queensland. When I listened this afternoon to some of the comments of honourable members opposite I thought that they might have been re-echoing some of the opposition that the then Conservatives put forward to Labor’s plan at that time. It is significant that the system in Queensland was introduced in 1946 by an Australian Labor government as part of a national program which received full co-operation through reciprocal legislation in all States. This early system was restricted to in-patient services in all States except Queensland, which extended the program to cover out-patient services. Some years later the Commonwealth withdrew from the scheme, and Queensland decided to continue to provide both free in-patient and free out-patient facilities.
– Those benefits were provided by a Labor government, were they not?
– Yes, and it was the Menzies Government which instigated the Commonwealth’s withdrawal from the scheme. Unfortunately this enlightened and humane attitude towards the rights of citizens to free public ward care has been available only at a cost to the Queensland Government and Queensland people.
When the Liberal-Country Party Government withdrew from the full system it penalised Queensland for providing free hospital care. It subtracted a sum from Queensland equivalent to the income Queensland would have received if it had charged for those services. Queensland’s share from the Grants Commission has been subsequently reduced in a discriminatory fashion by an amount approximately equivalent to the finance that would be raised if charges were applied for free hospital services. This is the reason why Queensland stands to make up for this neglect and Commonwealth bias. The $35m extra we will receive will go a long way towards making up for years of financial stringency and tight budgeting in Queensland state hospitals.
I was somewhat alarmed this afternoon to hear the honourable member for Darling Downs refer to the additional $35m to be injected into the Queensland scheme as being almost nothing. This hopefully will lead to an end to the need for charity in our state hospital system. In 1972-73 the Golden Casket distributed $3.2m to hospitals out of a total hospital expenditure of $100m. I mention this because many people have the wrong idea that the hospitals in Queensland are fully financed through the medium of the Golden Casket. It is the State’s responsibility - not the responsi bility of charity - to provide for hospital care. Under State Labor governments Queensland’s free hospital scheme was soundly conducted and something to be proud of. However, because of the maladministration of the scheme by Country-Liberal Party governments in Queensland the standard of Queensland’s hospitals has declined, and most of us who are from Queensland know it.
– The honourable member for Griffith says ‘rubbish’. I will quote the remarks of one of his colleagues from the Queensland Parliament - a Liberal - and the honourable member can tell him it is rubbish if he chooses to do so. The centralised bureaucratic administration and the lack of funds from the State and the Commonwealth have combined with a deliberate State policy to make Queensland’s free system look as unattractive as possible.
This last aim is succeeding, because of the first two faults. There was a powerful investigation of the sorry plight of our hospitals, outlined in a hard hitting series in the local edition of the ‘Australian’ newspaper by Jim Briggushaw. He showed that maladministration had reduced Queensland’s free hospital system to a total wreck, according to many doctors working under the system. The heavy hand of hospital controllers and the lack of independence have led to high staff resignations and staff going south. It has been claimed that delays have been caused in the treatment of people with minor illnesses to encourage them to go to a private doctor rather than to use the public hospitals’ casualty and outpatients departments. In fact here the ‘free’ system of hospital care for some becomes very expensive because of money lost through people being off work for a longer time.
The dead hand of Queensland bureaucracy works in all areas. Doctors have to fight for every piece of equipment they need, even when it is lifesaving equipment. Often it takes 5 years to plan for and obtain equipment through the complex committee systems which govern every aspect of hospital life, down to the number of swabs allocated to each ward. Then, when the application has run the gauntlet of the hospital boards, it can be vetoed by the Queensland ‘Department of Health. This is no fault of the people who staff the hospitals, the nurses and the other medical people. They are doing a sterling job under very adverse conditions due to the maladministration of the
Queensland hospital system under conservative governments.
What’s wrong with our hospital system in Queensland is money - ‘the lack of it. Only vast transfusions of cash can save it. In case honourable members think this is just a biased remark I can quote an impeccable source - a Liberal member of Parliament, and a doctor to boot. Dr Arthur Crawford, the member for Wavell, said 3 years ago that Queensland needed an additional $30m to make its health expenditure comparable with that spent in the southern States. Strangely enough this is the very amount - in fact it is more now due to cost increases - that Queensland is promised under the Australian Government’s health insurance program. As I said, Queensland will receive $35m out of an extra $80m offered to the States for hospital services.
This perhaps explains the strange silence of Mr Tooth, our Health Minister, and Premier Bjelke-Petersen who would have been expected to oppose the so-called socialist plan of the centralist Government in Canberra. They do not oppose it because they know that the plan is a godsend for our hospitals. Mr Tooth does not know what he will do without this massive and much needed financial injection. I suggest that Queenslanders, when this money is made available from the Federal Labor Government, must be vigilant. They must agitate to ensure that the extra cash does go into our hospital system. Unfortunately already there are disturbing signs that this might not happen. The ‘Courier-Mail’ as we know appears to have a close working relationship with the present State Government. In fact its previous medical roundsman, Peter McColl, now works for the Health Minister, Mr Tooth. The latest medical reporter wrote on 7 November that the Australian Government’s bed subsidy proposals meant more than $20m to our hospitals. In referring to the amount that will be made available the Courier-Mail’ was not charitable enough to express the full amount. The correspondent wrote:
But it is unlikely that this money would be injected straight into public hospital budgets. Probably it would be shuffled into State Treasury bookkeeping and hospitals will continue to receive about the same amount as they do at present.
This is disturbing news, given the grim picture I have painted of conditions in our hospitals. We must press the Government to use the financial bonanza it receives to improve the conditions and facilities, the number of staff and by their action, the morale of our hospital workers. They deserve it and so do the people of Queensland.
It is also interesting to note that the Queensland Branch of the Australian Medical Association has supported the principles of the Queensland scheme and at the same time has attacked these principles in our national program.
– Because it would be the end of the Queensland scheme.
– If that is a legal opinion I will not accept it. There are certain people in the honourable member’s profession about whom it is said that they hang their mistakes about 6 feet above the ground. I would not take any advice from the honourable member. It is true to say that the hospital side of our program provides for the improvement and extension of the Queensland scheme to the rest of Australia. This fact has led some Queenslanders to believe that they will now have to pay, through the universal levy, for something which they had previously been able to obtain free.
– Hear, hear!
– Hear, hear!
– That shows that the honourable members have not read the proposal we are putting forward.
– You are a con man.
– It is therefore important to stress to Queenslanders that there are some very real and tangible benefits for them under the Australian health insurance program.
– Order! The honourable member for Griffith will withdraw that epithet. If there is any further such occurrence I will not ask for apologies; I will immediately name the honourable member.
– He is not a con man. I withdraw the remark.
– I was referring to the benefits to Queenslanders. The first of these is that the program will give Queenslanders a much wider freedom of choice in doctors’ services available to them. This will result from the fact that everybody will be insured for medical benefits. At present only about half of Queensland’s population is covered by private medical insurance. Every Queenslander will be able, when the program is introduced, to have access to the same medical services and a complete choice of family doctor. irrespective of the misleading and incorrect statements that are made by honourable members opposite. Furthermore, the family doctor will be paid for his services to these patients in the same way as he is with patients who are now privately insured. He will not be asked to provide his services, skills and treatment as a charity.
As I have pointed out already, the second important implication of the Australian health insurance program for the people of Queensland is that it will lead to a very significant upgrading of hospital staffing and facilities. Under the present scheme, which is the scheme that was operating under the previous Government, the Australian Government would pay in 1974-75 some $20m towards the cost of operating public hospitals. The Queensland Government would pay about $90m. Under the Australian Government’s proposal, Federal contribution would be raised by $35m to $55m. If members of the Opposition who come from Queensland believe that this kind of additional finance should not be made available to their home State, I submit they are not worthy to represent that State.
This massive injection of funds into the public hospital system must inevitably lead to substantial improvements in the services and facilities available to the people of Queensland. In Queensland, as in other States, the public hospital system is supported by a private hospital system which includes some large establishments providing a full range of medical services. Some of the big religious and charitable hospitals, notably the Mater Misericordiae public hospital, treat patients for nothing on the same basis as the Government-run public hospitals. The private sector also includes establishments which, while called private hospitals, would more accurately be described as nursing homes or geriatric homes. Some of these are run by religious, charitable and community organisations, and some are run by private enterprise for profit.
The White Paper on the Australian health insurance program deals in some detail with the support that the Government will provide for private hospitals. The White Paper makes clear the fact that the substantial financial assistance to be provided to private hospitals and their patients will not involve interference in management of the hospitals. Hospital benefits for patients in private hospitals will be equal to the daily bed payments to be made directly to public hospitals from the health insurance fund. The basic rate of benefit for patients in private hospitals in 1974-75 will be $16 a day. The patients in private hospitals may be charged for all medical services, including diagnostic services, on a fee for service basis. These charges will attract medical benefits under the program.
It is important to note that at present the Australian Government benefit now paid to patients in private hospitals is $2 a day. This compares with $16 a day under the new program. Fees for private patients in public hospitals, as distinct from public patients in private hospitals, will be $15 a day in intermediate wards and $22 a day in private wards. The Government intends to ensure that private insurance tables to cover these fees are available for patients in both public and private hospitals in Queensland. Together with the $16 a day under the health insurance program, these tables will provide cover for fees of $31 per day and $38 per day respectively. These arrangements will provide substantial cover for the average fees of private hospitals throughout Queensland in 1974-75. The White Paper states:
If the present system were to continue, patients seeking coverage for private hospital treatment would be required to take insurance cover for at least $14 per day more than that proposed under the new program. After allowing for the effect of tax deductions, this cost would be greater for most people than the combined cost of community rated contributions for the additional private hospital charge above the bedday subsidy and the 1.3S per cent levy under the new program.
The Australian Government has recognised the important role played by religious, charitable and community run hospitals. This role is especially important because such hospitals provide an opportunity for freedom of choice by patients and for the expression of high vocational motivations by those who work in and for them-
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I assure the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) that I have read the White Paper on the Australian health insurance program on numerous occasions. I wonder whether this was a wise move, in view of the fact that today honourable members received in the mail a letter indicating and admitting that there are errors in the White Paper-
– Order! I am concerned about where the honourable gentleman was misrepresented by the honourable member for Lilley.
– I was misrepresented insofar as the honourable member said that I had not read the White Paper. I am assuring the House that I have read it on numerous occasions, although I doubt the wisdom of reading it, because it is admitted publicly that it contains errors-
-Order! The honourable gentleman is debating the subject matter of the White Paper. He is out of order.
– Before I sit down, with your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I wish to make one quick point.
-Order! The honourable member may only state where he has been misrepresented.
– On behalf of the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party, I ask whether the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) will withdraw the advertisements appearing in the Press, offering the White Paper for sale, until it is corrected-
– Order! The honourable gentleman is out of order.
– The only thing I would say in relation to the contribution made by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) tonight is that I will leave him to go back and explain to his constituents and to Queenslanders generally why the Government which he supports is introducing a proposal to require Queenslanders to pay 1.35 per cent of their taxable income for services which will be no better or no greater than those they receive as of right at present for precisely nothing and, indeed, services which will be worse, because those services, despite the extra money - -some extra money may flow to them - that will be made available, as has been explained on this side of the House, will have to be shared by a much larger number of people. But that is his problem, not mine. Before saying something on this Bill, I extend my congratulations to the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), who led for the Opposition in this debate this afternoon in a speech whose constructiveness, clarity and forcefulness I have seldom heard equalled in this House. I believe that in the quality of that speech he has made a great contribution to the cause of something which many Australians hold dear.
People all around Australia are saying today and have been saying for many weeks now: Why, why, why?’ Why is the Government trying to throw out a health scheme which the overwhelming majority of them have found perfectly satisfactory, which has given them good quality health care at reasonable cost, with freedom of choice of doctor, hospital and health insurance fund, and with speed and compassion, and in which they have genuine confidence? However much the Government may protest to the contrary, however much it may twist and distort figures and however much it may emphasise individual cases and incidents and attempt to make people believe that black is white and white is black, this has been the experience of the overwhelming majority of- Australians. This is why the Government is worried; this is why it has been backtracking and backing down; this is why the scheme contained in this Bill is a tattered, disreputable remnant of the scheme it started out with. The Government has begun to realise that the Australian people, most of whom have found the existing scheme completely satisfactory, have risen up in anger as they have come to understand more clearly the implications of the Government’s intentions.
The Ministry for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has said that these attitudes have been based on a campaign of misrepresentation. I throw that back in the Minister’s teeth. If we are to talk about misrepresentation, which is a polite word for lying, let me say that this Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) have, in relation to health, engaged in a campaign of misrepresentation which, in intensity and duration, equals any similar exercise in Australian political history.
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman not to reflect upon the personality of another honourable member, irrespective of whether he be the Minister or any other member of the House.
– For 5 years the Government has lied and lied and lied.
– Order! I think the honourable gentleman would be aware that it is most unparliamentary to use such language across the chamber. There are always other ways of expressing an opinion.
– I will have more to say about that in a moment. It is because the Government has become conscious of the fact that the Australian people have seen through its barrage of propaganda that it has been frightened into throwing the public a bone in the form of the so-called White Paper. The Minister has represented the White Paper as proof of his readiness to listen to public opinion, to be flexible and to compromise - a triumph for open government. The theme of the White Paper is that people can get all the advantages of the present scheme and more besides - or rather, that is the impression it is designed to convey. I have no hesitation in saying that it is a dishonest document. It is deliberately designed to mislead. To the extent that it gives specific undertakings that have been translated into this legislation - for example, the apparent climb-down on bulk billing - it undermines the very objectives which we were told so often it was essential to achieve if Australia was to have an efficient health scheme.
Has the Minister forgotten how often he has railed against the administrative costs of the present health funds and used these administrative costs as the justification for wiping out the funds and establishing one great big monolithic, bureaucratic, government run fund? Has he forgotten that he has given bulk billing as the major means of saving administrative costs? Of course, he was right - although I might mention in passing that exactly the same savings in administrative costs could be achieved by introducing bulk billing in the context of the existing health funds. My point here is not to debate the merits or otherwise of bulk billing - my colleagues have done that admirably - but to emphasise that administrative savings were to be one of the great achievements of the Labor scheme; that bulk billing was to be the principal means of achieving it. Yet virtually all the measures designed to make bulk billing a widespread practice have temporarily, anyway, been abandoned. The Government has backed down on one of the elements which it told us made its scheme incomparably better than the present one; this basic principle has evaporated. No wonder the electorate distrusts the Government.
There are other climb-downs in the same category in the White Paper. That is, the Government does something specific, translates it into the legislation to allay criticism, and at the same time abandons basic principles which were supposed to be of such fundamental importance that they justified the introduction of an entirely new and radical scheme. With these we know where we are. But there is another category of statements in the White Paper which is far more dangerous because the statements do not appear in the legislation. They cannot appear in it because they are only vague expressions of intention or belief that particular things which have worried people will work out in the way those worried people would like them to work out.
I will explain what I mean, Sir, in this way: Despite the soothing words in the White Paper, there is no guarantee either in it or in the legislation that there will be sufficient standard ward beds for the people who want them when they want them; there is absolutely no guarantee that their doctor will be able to follow them into hospital even if they happen to be attached to the visiting staff; there is absolutely no guarantee that private hospitals will remain in existence still less the subsidised community hospitals in my own State; there is absolutely no guarantee that large numbers of able specialists will not be forced out of private practice into salaried public service by economic deprivation; and there is absolutely no assurance that in the absence of Government support for the special account in particular and other forms of Commonwealth assistance in general, insurance cover for private hospital treatment will not be prohibitively expensive as to be out of the range of all but a very wealthy few.
I could go on with this list, but the items on it all have one thing in common - ‘the White Paper makes reassuring noises about all of them which do not mean a damn thing. Given the record of this Minister and this Government over the last 12 months, the Australian people would be extremely unwise to listen to or to heed reassuring noises of any description. Still less is this so if we consider the record of the present Prime Minister, the present Minister for Social Security and honourable members opposite in general over the last 5 years. I said a moment ago that they have misrepresented and misrepresented and misrepresented the situation in order to establish their scheme as a significant initiative in the public mind. Their tactics were clear: In order to clear the way for acceptance of their scheme they would denigrate the existing scheme and everybody associated with it, including myself as Minister for part of the lime - that was probably the only part of the denigration that was justified; the health funds and the people associated with them; the doctors; the private hosiptall; the profit making nursing homes; the State governments - you name them. If they were associated with our scheme, the present scheme, they came under the most vicious attack. Truth, objectivity and the personal reputations of large numbers of people were the casualties.
I have constantly asked myself why all this was necessary if Labor’s own scheme was as good as honourable members opposite said it was. Looking back I think I understand. The original scheme was not the Whitlam-Hayden scheme - it was conceived by 2 young economists, Deeble and Scotton. Not unnaturally, being economists, the financial aspects dominated their thinking. It was only by constructing a scheme that was virtually entirely tax financed that, as they saw it, you could control health costs that were burgeoning everywhere in the world. That is how the United Kingdom has been able to keep expenditure on health below 5 per cent of the gross national product. This was undoubtedly their model, although it was of course adapted to Australian conditions and Labor Party political prejudices. Everything else followed, particularly the large degree of uniformity, government control and dragging everybody and everything down to the lowest level which the Australian people have found so objectionable. In other words it was nationalisation in fact, if not in name.
Deeble and Scotton sold this scheme to the ALP lock, stock and barrel. It emerged as ALP policy without a change of a dot on an T or a cross on a ‘t’. Deeble and Scotton did not have to work very hard to sell it. It appealed to the Labor Party’s opportunist instincts. The voluntary health scheme was going through a bad patch. There was some public dissatisfaction with the benefits it provided while the Government was waiting for the Nimmo Committee to complete its work and the next great step forward could be taken. What better environment could there be into which to launch this deceptively simple, superficially appealing and apparently cheaper scheme? It appealed not only to their opportunist instincts but also to their socialist instincts. We must remember that it was essentially the British scheme. It was entirely or almost entirely, tax financed, but it was wrapped in tinsel to disguise its socialist origins. It made some headway in the public mind, not on its merits, because the realities were hidden from the public gaze, but on the constant reiteration by the present Prime Minister that the then current difficulties of the voluntary health scheme were inherent in the scheme itself.
I do not have to remind the House how the 1970 reforms, following on the acceptance by the then Government of most of the Nimmo Committee recommendations, gave the complete lie to that assertion. We were able to produce the present arrangements which so many Australians have found so sensitively attuned to their health care needs without abandoning the basic principles of voluntary health insurance. Almost overnight the main arguments on which the Labor Party based its proposition for a substitute scheme disappeared. Faced with this position - with the ground cut from under their feet - the present Prime Minister and the present Minister for Social Security decided to bluff it out - to misrepresent and misrepresent and misrepresent everything about the defects of the present scheme and the elements of their own scheme.
Let me give the House one example of each type of misrepresentation. Firstly, there are the health funds. I defy the Minister to deny that he and the Prime Minister quite deliberately set out to denigrate the health funds and that he set out to create in the public mind that the funds were profit making institutions operating for their own benefit, that the large number of closed and friendly society funds were a source of extravagance and inefficiency and that they squandered money on excessive promotion and selfindulgence. I defy them to deny that at the time they said these things they knew them to be untrue. Let me take another example, this time from their own scheme. They have asserted constantly that it does not mean the nationalisation of medicine. Yet they know - indeed they have boasted - that under their scheme many more patients will enter the public wards of public hospitals. There will be 900 more beds in Victoria alone.
They have told us that the occupants of these beds will be treated by salaried or sessionally paid doctors, not on a fee for service basis. They know that most specialists in private practice depend on the fees they are paid for services rendered to patients in intermediate or private wards and in private hospitals for the major part of their income.
They know that the more people cease to be private and become public patients, the more specialists will be forced by economic necessity to become salaried doctors. If this is not nationalisation, I do not know what it is. They have said again and again that their scheme does not mean nationalisation. They know that to be untrue.
I want to conclude by quoting what I said in a speech that I made a few years ago. I said:
We want a health insurance scheme in which the citizen is always treated as an individual human being and not just as a cog in a medical care machine. We want a scheme in which his feelings, his convenience, even his idiosyncracies, are respected, in which he always remains a person and not just an illness or a cipher on a computer card. We also want a system which encourages a degree of self reliance and which does not encourage the individual to rely entirely on the machinery of some monolithic government agency for care and sympathy - qualities which any bureaucracy, however well motivated its personnel, is ill equipped to provide.
It is because the present scheme provides that and this one provides the very opposite that I oppose it with every force in my power.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) said that if this scheme was not nationalised medicine he did not know what nationalisation was. He does not know what nationalisation is. I cannot think of any program which has been so wilfully misunderstood and so maliciously misrepresented as the health insurance scheme which is described in the White Paper and which is to be implemented by the Bills now before the House. The new program has decisive advantages over the present scheme and I shall outline some of them. But before I do so, I feel bound to correct a widespread misapprehension about the program which has been fostered by our opponents.
Spokesmen for the Australian Medical Association and private insurance funds have endeavoured to portray the Government’s health insurance policy as a socialistic program to replace an existing private industry called ‘voluntary insurance’. In the first place, the new program could not be described as socialised medicine but merely represents the attempt of the Labor Government to update this aspect of our social security in line with the standards of the second half of the 20th century. Just about every developed country in the world - and some developing countries, too - have adopted comprehensive, universal health insurance as part of their social security systems. Once the new program is introduced in Australia, only a handful of countries such as the United States of America and South Africa will remain as bastions of so-called voluntary insurance.
In Western Europe and Canada, universal health insurance is settled policy. Despite the misinformation with which we have all been bombarded, honourable members should know that these programs work and are popular. Let the Opposition contact their conservative counterparts in the parliaments of Great Britain, Canada and the Scandinavian countries. I doubt whether they would find a single member of any of them who would advocate the substitution of voluntary insurance for their present public schemes. Most of them would laugh at any such suggestion. Nor has the right-wing Government of Queensland any intention of terminating the free public hospital system in that State. So do not let us hear any more about the revolutionary nature of a program which is middle of the road by the standards of all but the most reactionary.
Let us look more closely for a moment at the present scheme which is neither voluntary nor is it insurance. It is a public program that has been farmed out to a group of private organisations. For the average man, contributions are not voluntary, but are simply another tax which he has to pay in order to qualify for the subsidies which are paid directly out of Australian Government revenue and to which he has contributed as a taxpayer- He cannot receive the benefits unless he is a member of a private fund. More than half the benefits the medical funds pay out are Government subsidies. The private funds take no underwriting risks, and their contribution and benefit rates are established by the Government. They are neither free nor enterprising. They are no more than agents for the collection and payment - at a handsome rate of commission - of public money. This is a function which can be performed far more efficiently and at less cost by public authorities. So do not let us have any more of the fiction that the new program will replace some sort of private competitive industry which provides value to its consumers.
I read with amazement the statement of the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) that he would go to the barricades in defence of the right of people to choose between insurance organisations. I have always been concerned with the defence of individual freedom but the right to choose between the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia is the most insignificant freedom I have ever heard of and the honourable member’s preparedness to fight for it must be the most ludicrous campaign since Don Quixote tilted at windmills. It is a completely false competition. In the long period of consideration of its health insurance policy, the Government has endeavoured to meet the legitimate objections and problems which participants in the health care system brought forward. The result is a moderate and rational program which substitutes efficient and equitable insurance machinery for a scheme which was only saved from collapse in 1970 by massive subsidies. The honourable member for Barker referred to the result of the Nimmo committee report but he did not refer to the huge cost to the taxpayer for that patching up.
The position of the Opposition, and its allies in the AMA, the private funds, the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the private hospitals is that there is nothing wrong with the present scheme which a further reckless infusion of public money would not fix. The view of the Labor Government is that no amount of patching up of the present scheme could produce the benefits offered by the new program. Let me outline four major advantages of the new program. The first and most obvious advantage is that it will bring about universality of coverage. This is an objective which a scheme of this kind does automatically without any problem whatsoever and something that a voluntary insurance scheme cannot do at all. There are, in fact, well over one million people not covered by the present voluntary insurance scheme and we know at which end of the needs spectrum those one million people are. But we cannot expect the Opposition to be concerned about them. That is the so-called ‘achievement’ of the voluntary insurance program. There is consequently no argument about the fact that universal coverage will be a major improvement which only a public program of the kind we are putting forward can bring about.
The remedy proposed by our opponents is to extend the subsidised health benefits plan to bring in all the pensioners and low income earners. One would have thought that, if any aspect of the present scheme has been proved to be a complete disaster, it would be the subsidised health benefits plan, which covers about one person in twenty of those who are eligible for it. Under the subsidised health benefits plan, people with financial handicaps, some of whom have been deprived all their lives and who are often not very good at managing their own affairs, have to attend, fill out forms and go back and forth from department to insurance fund to produce evidence in order to get the same sorts of subsidies, in many cases, that a rich person gets automatically in the form of income tax concessions. The application of this scheme to pensioners would greatly increase government subsidies, doctors’ incomes and the volume of money in the hands of the private funds. However, it will not, even at great promotional expense, bring about the universal coverage which the Government’s program will achieve automatically. This has been proved by past attempts to promote the scheme. Honourable member’s may call it compulsory if they like, but I prefer to call it automatic.
The second big advantage of the new program is that the money that it raises will be collected in a far more equitable manner. It is absolutely indefensible that a public scheme should be financed in such a way that the richer a person is the lower his contribution will be. That as the way the present health insurance scheme works because of the great importance of tax deductions. This amounts to a great subsidy paid by lower income earners to those who are better off, a transfer of income in the wrong direction. The alternative, which , is being adopted in this program, is to relate contributions to a capacity to pay. We are using taxable income as the best measure we have of people’s capacity to pay. It is a straightforward one and one in which the collection costs and the marginal inequities are as small as it is possible to make them. One thing that just cannot be done under the present scheme is to bring about a fair and consistent relationship between people’s means and the contributions they pay. Under the new program we can not only make a general rule which is equitable, but we can also provide for further exemptions for low income families and other special groups, which leave everyone protected but which do not add significantly to administrative costs. The present scheme fails absymally in all of these objectives.
The third advantage, but by no means the most important, is that this program has the capacity to produce very substantial administrative economies. I suppose they could be put at a minimum of $10m to $20m a year. The final figure depends on what sort of cooperation we have from doctors and how many economies we can produce in the accounting systems of hospitals. But about $10m a year, which is the present cost of collecting contributions, would be saved straightaway. Now SI Om a year is perhaps not such a tremendous sum in these days of billion dollar public expenditure programs but it is a sum that can be very usefully applied elsewhere even within the health care system. With SI Om a year over a 10-year program we could bring into existence some hundreds of community health centres, which would be a much more efficient way to use money than keeping primitive accounting systems going in voluntary insurance funds, and paying commissions for collecting contributions. These 3 arguments - the universality, the equity and the savingsadd up to a strong case for a public program. But an additional justification in the long term is that the new program will promote the development of a better health care system. Providing good health care means not only spending money - the present scheme does that in large measure - but also spending money and using resources in a rational and planned way.
The increases in subsidies in the last few years under the voluntary insurance scheme have intensified the biases towards particular services. We all know that some health services are saleable and profitable and others are not. But profitability and access to financial resources by no means coincide with needs. For example, since 1970 we have had a great upsurge in cosmetic surgery. There are benefits under the existing program for the provision of hair transplants, and there has been a great proliferation of private surgical hospitals all over the country. At the same time there are unmet needs for basic care. While the present scheme pays large subsidies for services which really have a minimal relationship to medical need it provides nothing for health centres in low income areas, which could bring primary care to people who are badly served by the present scheme.
It is not the task of a health insurance program to say what the shape of the health care system should be. This is the function of people whose expertise is in health care administration and planning. The Australian Government has appointed a Hospitals and Health Services Commission headed by Dr Sidney Sax to advise it on the way the health care system ought to develop in a rational way in the future. This Commission has already made an interim report in which it has plumped for the development of regional and community-based programs of a comprehensive character. There is only one way to decide what services ought to be provided or where the extra dollars ought to be spent and that is to look at communities and regions and measure the needs of their populations. When the money that people pay for health insurance is collected through a levy on the whole community into a common pot, it can be allocated in accordance with observed needs. To keep the existing system would make that just so much more difficult.
What we are aiming to do through the health insurance program and the Hospitals and Health Services Commission is to steer the evolution of the whole health care system in a different direction. When our program is implemented in July 1974 things will be so little different because of transitional arrangements that people will wonder what all the fuss was about. But the mechanism of the program will have changed the biases in the money flows, and our health care system in Australia will be very different in 1980 or 1985 from what it would have been if the present scheme were to continue. In this respect I must emphasise the evolutionary nature of the program. Improvements cannot be achieved all at once but it is most important that the system evolve in a direction which improves the quality and accessibility of care for consumers. It is the consumers of health care that one hears so little about from the Opposition. It is the vested interests we hear about. I believe that the evolution will also be good for those who produce health services, even though they pretend not to agree that this is so.
When one looks at the advantages the new program offers, and makes real comparisons with the present scheme, one can only wonder why the Opposition has chosen to make the introduction of the new program a major partisan issue, on which it is prepared, in the words of the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) to go to the barricades to deny the Government’s mandate. It is not just a matter of one saying we have a mandate and so we are going to do this; the fact is that we have commitments to the people who put us into power to do what we said we would do and there can be no backing down from that. The only answer one can give is that the Opposition - as in the case of its attitude on the States Grants (Schools) Bill - is acting as the defender of the vested interests of privilege. It has come out as the unashamed mouthpiece of the Australian Medical Association, the large health insurance funds and the small group of rich private hospitals, particularly in Melbourne, whose contributions to the shortage of beds in that city is to threaten to close their hospitals down.
The honourable member for Hotham, the great self-professed small ‘1’ liberal, is now acting as unashamed spokesman for the most reactionary political elements in the country. And on the side of the consumer, the Opposition, as in the case of education, wants to prevent the transfer of iniquitous subsidies from the well-to-do to those whose financial capacities are less and whose needs are greater. They are appealing, in the crudest terms, to the greed and self-interest of people who, under the present scheme, not only enjoy prvileged access to health care but also receive such large subsidies through the tax system that they pay less for it than people on lower incomes pay for public treatment. But, on the basis of its position on the States Grants (Schools) Bill, I suppose we should not expect the Opposition to show any great concern for the needy and the strugglers in our society. The Australian people should know the true reason why the Opposition is trying to prevent the enactment of the health insurance program. It claims to be lighting for such principles as freedom of choice and quality of care, but both these principles are incorporated, and indeed extended, in the Government’s program. The Opposition’s real objectives in health insurance are the protection of vested interests and subsidies to the rich, as they have been over the 23 years up to last December.
– After being threatened for months with the introduction of a national health scheme we now have before us 2 Bills, namely, the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973 and the Health Insurance Bill 1973, which we are considering in a cognate debate. Both are machinery measures for the Utopia of Hayden and they precede several other Bills which we are told will arrive during the Autumn session. If ever we have seen a piecemeal approach *o such a complete change of medical, hospital and health services we have seen it with the introduction of portion of the scheme in the form of these 2 Bills. The rest will come in the autumn and then, of course, will follow the winter when the trees will be bare of their leaves but the trunks and limbs will be there for all to see. This is a shallow piece of socialist legislation designed to build a monolithic monster which will cost the taxpayers of this nation considerably more than the present scheme and not give them the service that they have been accustomed to getting from the present scheme.
I congratulate the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) on his magnificent contribution to the debate in support of the amendment so capably and concisely explained by the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp). The list of people and organisations completely opposed to the whole concept of Labor’s scheme is long and impressive, comprising State governments, a wide range of medical organisations and highly qualified doctors, the hospital and medical voluntary insurances funds, the national working party of the Catholic hospitals, the private and community hospitals, the private nursing homes, nurses, organisations representing country medical staffs, and the boards of management of many public hospitals. This information was amongst overwhelming evidence made available to the Country Party committee that carried out a very deep study of these matters. Those of us who have been associated with hospitals and insurance funds know only too well that administrative costs are best controlled and kept to a minimum by the participation of the community as members of boards of management or directors of contributory funds. They are the medium through which the rest of the community is encouraged to take an interest in the institution in its locality. This creates a very human service which in turn creates a sense of shared ownership in the rest of the community. This scheme will render all to a computer number.
Having had 15 years experience as an executive member of the Board of Management of the West Gippsland Base Hospital, I believe that I am competent to assess some of the frailties of this Hayden scheme. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has not mentioned what effect this plan will have on the capital expenditure for the necessary expansion of hospitals. Another point to be considered is: What provision has been made to cover the payments to the hospital for repatriation patients, workers’ compensation cases, wards of State, and so on, and what time would elapse before payments would be made? We all believe that there should be adequate and equal opportunity for all people but it will not be found in the promulgation of this socialist legislation.
The Country Party carried out, as did the Liberal Party, a very deep and comprehensive study of what was being advocated by the Minister for Social Security. We could never really get the true story of what this professed socialist proposed to put to this Parliament. Eventually he did us the courtesy of presenting a White Paper to the Parliament. It was aptly named because it told a number of white lies. I got sick of reading the slanted and misleading explanations. In fact, I found difficulty in assessing its true content. It was inaccurate and presumptuous, a figment of the imagination. It could rightly be termed ‘Hayden’s Utopia’. Our committee, led by the member for Indi and comprising the member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), the member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe), the member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), the member for Wimmera (Mr King), the member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), and me, realised at the outset that the pro-Hayden Press would paint the Opposition as being merely obstructive and negative, so we set about doing a constructive evaluation. As a committee, we found very little support - and certainly of little consequence - for a national health scheme as an alternative to the present successful scheme. When updated by the proposed amendment, which members on this side of the House are supporting, the present scheme will be without doubt the best in the world.
The Country Party is firmly opposed to the proposed national health scheme as an alternative scheme. We support an extension of the existing scheme to cover areas of weakness. The 3 main areas of weakness are pensioners, low income groups, and para-medical services. We would support a proposal of temporary insurance for those who are unavoidably uninsured, justified on welfare grounds. If we strengthen the existing scheme in this way and come to an agreement with doctors on cost predictability, the Australian system of health care will be the best in the world. I believe that doctors should now be prepared, particularly in view of the successful outcome of the recent tribunal hearing, to consider seriously the establishment of a fairly and properly structured standing tribunal to keep the enormous list of over 4,000 medical services under permanent review, for the purpose of setting benefit levels. The recent decision handed down by the Medical Fees Tribunal broadly supports the fee levels of the doctors and indicates that there has been unfair and untruthful maligning of the profession by people inside and outside the Parliament who have a vested interest in inflicting on Australia the depressing hand of a socialist society.
I oppose Labor’s scheme on several other grounds. Country Party opinion is that in country areas the workload of doctors will become unbearable and that country people will have less chance of their own doctor treating them in the local hospital. This is because the doctor will be employed by the hospital and not by the patient. Only doctors receiving salary from the hospital will be given access to that particular hospital. With more centralisation in Canberra, the local hospital board which to date has run the hospital efficiently will have less influence on the management and development of the local hospital. I have already explained to the House the benefits of having a local community board of management, with the interests of the local people, who contribute to make the hospital something of purpose in their area.
The present position with regard to hospital and medical insurance is that only 3.6 per cent of the population have no formal hospital cover, and 6.3 per cent have no medical cover. Mr Hayden’s scheme will be able to cover significantly less people for many years. According to the Deeble report, it is expected that 20 per cent will not be covered. The fact that a levy is paid does not mean a social security card will be automatically issued. Several groups, including families in which the wife works, will pay more for a service that will not be as good as the present scheme. At present, 80 per cent of people insured for hospital cover opt for intermediate ward or private ward accommodation. The Minister is providing public ward accommodation.
I agree with the honourable member for Indi that it is difficult to see how this scheme will bc cheaper for seven out of 10 single people. I do not think it will be cheaper for any single people. For example, if a man earns $120 a week gross the present rate is 52c, whereas the new levy will be $1.15. If he earns $70 a week gross, the present levy is 62c, with the new levy being 88c. So how can it be cheaper for seven out of 10 single people? How can it be cheaper for families? In the case of a married couple with 2 children with only the husband working, if the gross weekly income is $120, under the present scheme the rate is 52c, whereas under the new scheme it will be $1.52. Working married couples with no children who earn $120 a week contribute under the present scheme $1.08, with the rate for the new scheme being $2.20. The position of a working married couple with 2 children would be somewhat similar, with the new contribution of $2.08 comparing with the present contribution of $1.08. For preferred accommodation for a married couple with 2 children, with only the husband working and receiving $120 a week, at present the contribution is $1.44 and the new contribution will be $2. How dare the Minister stand up and deny the truth in this respect.
I think that we have demonstrated quite capably this evening that this scheme ought not be considered but ought to be thrown out. The Country Party committee, in the same way as the Nimmo Committee in 1969, found that there was no support at all for the often expressed view that the number of different organisations adds to the cost of the scheme. We examined the operations of a large number of friendly societies and closed funds and found that their service to contributors was extremely good and that they had been most successful organisations in keeping management expenses within proper limits. Have honourable members ever seen a bureaucratic body-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! If the honourable member for Indi wishes to conduct a debate in this chamber, I would suggest that he get to his feet and do so in the proper manner. If he does not remain silent - and since he has been in the chamber-
– What about the other fellows?
-Order! Honourable members on the Government side will remain silent also. The honourable member for McMillan is entitled to be heard without this chatter of argument across the chamber. I call the honourable member for McMillan.
– Just as well you included the Government.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Indi.
– I repeat what Dr Cass, the honourable member for Maribyrnong, said as reported in the ‘Sunday Telegraph’ of 23 July 1972. He said:
Private hospitals and private nursing homes are irrelevant to the Labor Party’s concept of a national health scheme and the vast majority of people could easily be catered for in the public hospital sector.
That is a pretty fair indication of how the Minister for the Environment and Conservation approaches the subject. It would be intolerable if a Labor Government were to use the alibi of the Constitution to excuse failure to achieve its socialist objectives - doubly intolerable, of course, because it is just not true that it need do so.
Charging medical treatment on the Government will not make it cheaper. Governments produce nothing themselves, except Public Service salaries. We want a health insurance scheme in which the citizen is always treated as an individual human being. I am quoting the remarks of Dr A. J. Forbes, former Minister for Health, which I understand he has quoted this evening. He said on 21 December 1972 - it bears repeating:
We want a health insurance scheme in which the citizen is always treated as an individual human being and not just as a cog in the medical care machine. We want a scheme in which his feelings, his convenience, even his idiosyncracies, are respected, in which he always remains a person and not just an illness or a cipher on a computer card. We also want a system which encourages a degree of self-reliance and which does not encourage the individual to rely entirely on the machinery of some monolithic government agency for care and sympathy - qualities which any bureaucracy, however well motivated its personnel, is ill-equipped to provide.
To support that argument let me quote the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) as reported in Hansard of 13 October 1971 at page 2260. He said:
Here we are talking about creating another bureaucracy.
There is no doubt as to the Labor Party’s intentions. I again quote the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden. In the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 6 September 1972 he is reported as saying:
The Labor Party is a socialist party and its aim as far as medical care is concerned is for the establishment of public enterprise.
What happens now under the socialist scheme? Costs will soar because health care becomes virtually free for all at the point of consumption, and responsibility for containing costs is removed from both patients and doctors.
What is Mr Hayden proposing in the area of ancillary services? At present many medical benefit fund contributors receive limited benefits for ancillary services, such as attention from physiotherapists in private practice. These limited benefits are provided without additional contributions. As proposed by the Bill such benefits will be lost. But by our amendment we propose to extend the range of ancillary care. The Minister seems incapable of learning from overseas experience. The Canadian scheme has been likened by Ontario’s Health Minister, Dr R. Potter to a Frankenstein creation, out of control. The politicians have been warned in time. Now it is up to them to reform the monster before it bankrupts the economy and destroys itself. ls this what we want for Australia? The English scheme is presently being restructured in an effort to cut the administration costs which inevitably hang like a millstone around the neck of a nationalised scheme.
My experience of hospital administration convinces me that this scheme is unworkable. It will kill the initiative and the incentive of those who provide preferred hospital accommodation. My concern is shared by most hospitals. I shall quote an example from one hospital only. The Board of the Freemasons Hospital of Victoria stated:
According to the White Paper the Government has endorsed the idea of a dual public-private hospital system. Such a system will only continue if families are able to pay for extra private insurance. We consider many families will be prevented by the scheme from doing this, especially when both husband and wife are working and both pay the 1.35 per cent levy. Such families will seek admissions to public hospitals, which will adversely affect the concept of a dual system and also impose unnecessary burdens on accommodation available in public hospitals. Further, there seems no practical way in which a hospital the size of the Freemasons Hospital can continue public and private beds. Accordingly, it is submitted that the White Paper scheme in its present form is impracticable to operate so far as it relates to the Freemasons Hospital and likely to result in endangering the continued existence of this hospital.
That would be one example only of the situation facing many private hospitals in the community. I submit that this legislation is not worthy of this Parliament.
– It is interesting to note the boycott, particularly by members of the Liberal Party, of this debate this evening. 1 do not suppose any Party at any time has had the opportunity to peruse and to-
– They thought you were going to talk about turtles. That is why they stayed away.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)I made sure that the previous speaker in this debate was heard in silence, despite the interruptions of his colleagues. I would suggest to honourable gentlemen that they remain silent as this standard of order has been maintained during the speeches of honourable members who have spoken in this debate. (Quorum formed)
– It is interesting to note that in response to the call for a quorum one additional Liberal member came into the House making a total of 3 members from that Party in the House at the moment to participate in the debate on this vital Bill which the Liberals have consistently demanded the right to debate, lt is now worth noting that one of them has just walked out. The Liberals have demanded the right to debate this vital Bill yet they are not present in the chamber when the Bill is being debated. This shows the shallowness and hypocrisy of the Opposition in relation to this matter.
One needs to be a member of this House for only a short time to understand that the Liberals know nothing about the subject of health and to realise that they have done no research on it. For instance, the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley), who is trying to interject at the moment, made a statement about the Gross National Product of various countries. In view of the fact that he has had 6 months in which to do his research he could have at least got his figures right The honourable member in presenting his case said that 4 per cent of the GNP of Great Britain is being spent on the health services of that country. Yet, the Statistician’s figures show, of course, that the true figure is 4.8 per cent If the honourable member continues to try to interject and wishes to dispute that fact I will incorporate in Hansard a table showing that the honourable member has made an error in his assumption.
– And I will also table a document.
– The honourable member can do so if he gets permission. However, I seek leave to incorporate the table in Hansard to have on record the fact that the honourable member did make a mistake.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– It is interesting to note what various speakers have said in this debate. The honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) made a great song and dance about a woman who, under the proposed scheme, went to hospital to have a baby. He exhibited how much he knows about the White Paper and the Bill that is before the House at the moment. Apparently he is not aware that a woman who has elected to have her general practitioner attend to her during the prenatal period of her confinement can have the services of her own general practitioner when she is a public patient in hospital. Obviously the honourable member during this 6 months period did not have a look at this aspect of the health scheme. The Opposition has taken little opportunity to study this matter.
It is interesting to note some of the philosophies of member’s opposite. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp), who led for the Opposition in this debate, made a number for points which I think require some comment. Firstly, he said that the Opposition accepted that the schedule of fees was not binding on all medical practitioners. But if any health scheme is to succeed the schedule of fees must be adhered to by a substantial majority of medical practitioners. Let us examine the record of the medical profession up to date? If we take the worst example of their record - that is, home visits by general practitioners - we find in my home State of New South Wales that in the quarter completed June 1972, 32 per cent of general practitioners were prepared to keep to the schedule of fees; for the quarter completed September 1972 the figure was 32 per cent; for the quarter completed December 1972, the figure was 31 per cent; and for the quarter completed March 1973, the figure was 29 per cent.
Let us also consider the performances of specialists and all other medical practitioners in the three major States on the basis of the whole schedule of fees. Only 58 per cent of medical practitioners and specialists in New South Wales adhered to the schedule of fees in the June 1972 quarter. In the following three quarters the figures were 65 per cent, 70 per cent and 71 per cent. It is interesting to note that in Victoria and Queensland they have started to go bad again. The percentages for June, September and December in Victoria were 69, 70 and 71. Then in the first quarter of this year the figure went back to 70 per cent. In Queensland it has gone from 73 per cent down to 72 per cent. So one can see that the Liberal Party, in keeping its existing scheme going and in trying to fortify the out of date and unrealistic scheme that exists at present, is making a number of assumptions that are totally incorrect. The fact is that the majority of doctors, as shown from the statistical records that have been supplied, are not keeping to the schedule of fees at all. If the Liberal Party is hanging its hat on these figures, obviously the scheme it is proposing as an alternative would not succeed right from the start.
I want to comment on the remarks of the honourable member for Chisholm about public wards. The first thing he said was that the public wards will be inundated with patients. One would suspect that not even he would think that suddenly everybody is going to get sick because a new health scheme is brought in. As far as the general practitioner is concerned there is absolutely no difference between the existing scheme and the scheme that the Government proposes. A person will elect to go to the doctor to whom he normally goes. It is interesting to note that most of the opposition that has come through this Parliament has concerned the right of a person to select his own doctor.
How free is this choice at present? I do not blame the general practitioners. I think it is an archaic type of arrangement that a general practitioner should be on call for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At present the position is that he engages some other service to look after his practice during his out of hours time. So the likelihood is that a person will not be able to get the doctor of his choice during the 10 hours possibly that he is not available during the day and during the weekend period. In fact, he wil not even know who the doctor will be, because these doctors are engaged on a salary basis by various agencies. When a person telephones for the doctor he gets a message telling him the number to call, and some doctor he has never seen before in his life, about whom he knows nothing at all, comes to attend him during the period he is sick if it happens to be out of hours for most doctors in most States. As I say, I do not blame the doctors for this. But it makes hollow the argument that we must have the doctor of our choice; it is almost impossible to get the doctor of our choice.
The Government’s scheme does not alter the existing scheme in that if a person is referred to a specialist for consultation he can still go to the specialist of his choice. But it is very interesting to note that, in the discussions that the committee had with the various medical organisations - this has been stated freely by a number of people who have written papers and letters on this subject - it was revealed that about 80 per cent of people who go to a general practitioner accept the advice of that practitioner as to the specialist that they will attend. So again that makes hollow the argument about selection of the doctor of one’s choice. The position of a patient going to a hospital has not yet been fully determined. These are matters that will have to be discussed both with the State governments and with the boards of the various hospitals as to how the -medical staff in those particular hospitals will be structured.
Let me just make some criticism of the existing scheme. If there is a deficiency in the existing scheme it is that the majority of the money is going into the private sector of medical care and there is an absolute lack of money in the public sector. One can see this because the former Minister for Health in the previous Government will freely admit that over a period of time he was inundated with requests from the States for some special consideration in relation to hospitals where there were grave deficiencies. The Government has allocated some $4m in the coming year to the hospital complex at Westmead in Sydney. In my own electorate, which has a modern hospital because it is a new area, there is a bed ratio of 2.2 per thousand of population, which is one of the lowest ratios in Australia. In other words, we are gravely deficient of public beds in our area. That is common in many of the fast growing areas of New South Wales. If one goes to some of the country areas in which previously there were fairly large populations one will find a great abundance of beds. Recently one of the parliamentary committees visited a country town in New South Wales in which there were 29 maternity beds and only one of them was occupied. Taking the overall figure for New South Wales, the bed population ratio looks reasonable, but comparing the distribution of those beds with the population the position is entirely different.
This week I handed certain reports to the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) and asked him whether he would look at the position in my electorate in order to ascertain whether something could be done in next year’s allocation about making available some special grants to try to overcome the critical problem that is developing there in the public hospital sector. That is where the money has been taken away from. The same situation exists in Queensland. The people of Queensland are looking anxiously to the $30m that they are to get for the upgrading of their public hospitals. Because Queensland has expended its money over a period of years on health care, to the detriment of the buildings, it has been able to provide for its people. Labor’s scheme proposes to make available to people money where it should be applied and where it is not being applied at present.
The Opposition must be terribly disconcerted by the success of the medical centres that have been established in Canberra by the Minister for Health, who is now sitting at the table. All sorts of dire predictions were made as to what would happen when this proposition was first put forward. It was said that no doctors would apply for any of the jobs. Of course the opposite has been the case. A number of specialists have consulted with us and said: ‘If you can offer me a position at a salary which is commensurate with my experience and capabilities and you can offer me superannuation, annual leave, sabbatical leave and the other things to which I would normally be entitled, I will be delighted to work on a salary. I would be delighted to be able to apply myself full time to the health care of the people’. The health centres that have been established in Canberra have been an outstanding success. They have provided doctors with the opportunity of getting on with the job of providing medical care to the people of Canberra. They have also provided social workers to take away from the doctors the unnecessary task that most general practitioners have to face up to in their practice of dealing not only with the medical problems of their patients but also the social and other problems that exist. Of course, the Government has not had any shortage of people wanting to work in these centres. There has been a great response from people who want to devote themselves full time to the medical care of people. I am quite convinced that this will be the same with the Government’s scheme.
As I have said, the arrangements that will have to be made with the States are still open to negotiation, but I am quite sure that a majority of the States will be able to negotiate with the medical people who are currently operating in their districts to serve in their hospitals in a full time or sessional capacity. I am quite sure that we will be able to provide to the people who go to those hospitals the very best medical care, which is what the people are interested in. They are not interested in the personality of the doctor. They are interested in getting the very best of medical care that can be made available to them. It will be made available through this scheme.
The Opposition’s token opposition in the debate tonight has shown the shallowness of its proposals. The Opposition knows full well that this is a scheme which the people of Australia want, that a great number of medical people are in favour of it and that the only opposition is coming from those sectional interests who have some pecuniary position to defend.
– It being 15 minutes past 10 o’clock, in accordance with the order of the House I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– May I make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker?
– Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Cook (Mr Thorburn) accused me of using inaccurate figures. I simply want to state what I have done. I requested the Parliamentary Library Research Service to give me the most recent figures available showing comparative expenditure in the United Kingdom and Australia and they were the figures from which I quoted. They were figures in Australia’s case for 1970-71, and in the case of the United Kingdom for 1970. They are quite plain. Even the figures which the honourable member provided, which must be for a year other than the year to which I referred, still show the United Kingdom figure well below the Australian figure.
– I am sorry indeed that the honourable Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) is not in the House. I gave him notice that I intended to raise a matter which concerned him. Perhaps he will be in the House before I have concluded by remarks. It is not very often that I bring into this House a particular matter affecting a constituent of mine but I think that I should put the record straight and say exactly what it concerns. It concerns the Minister for Immigration quite vitally. At the beginning of May of this year a certain person in my constituency to whom I refer as Mr X - the name and the papers are known to the Minister - came to me. He was an immigrant; he was a refugee from a Communist controlled economy. He was qualified as a pharmaceutical chemist but was unable for some technical reason to have his qualifications recognised so that he could practice as such in Australia and indeed in New South Wales. It was important for certain reasons that he should have some support.
I am glad the Minister is now here. Perhaps I will start again. A certain person to whom I shall refer as Mr X came to me. The name is known to the Minister and the file is in the Minister’s hands but I do not want to mention the personal affairs of a constitutent by name. He was a qualified pharmaceutical chemist but he was unable to have his qualifications recognised as such in New South Wales and he was asking for the Minister’s help in certain ways. I wrote to the Minister on 9 May asking could he please give me some advice as to how best I could assist Mr X to qualify. On 16 May the Minister very promptly replied to me by telegram, as follows:
Have received your representation on behalf of Mr X concerning employment. Am inquiring personally. Will advise.
That was a most proper telegram and I was grateful to receive it, and I passed it on to my constituent. But unhappily nothing happened. In June I wrote to the Minister as follows:
You will recall . . . telegraphing me on 16 May I wonder if you would get one of your officers to look at this matter urgently for me as I understand the closure date for … examination is in July and Mr X is anxious to have clarity before then.
I believe the Minister may well have been abroad on one of his trips and had not returned to Australia. I received a telegram from the Acting Minister as follows:
Have received your representation on behalf of Mr X. Will write shortly. Douglas McClelland, Acting Minister for Immigration.
– When was that?
– That was dated 22 June. It was a most proper telegram, of course, but nothing had been happening. Nothing happened at all, except that I got a letter dated, I think, 4 July saying that they hoped to do something about it; but it was one of these wipe-off, indefinite letters that the Department writes from time to time. My constitutent Mr X was vastly displeased at this, but I heard nothing further until I received representations from him. He came in to see me personally. He said: ‘Look! I have written to the Minister by registered letter and the Minister has refused to receive the letter’. This seemed to me to be utterly incredible. He said: ‘I have done it twice. I have put the registered letter in another letter, and here it is. It came back to me from the Minister for Immigration, Mr Grassby, Parliament House, Canberra, marked “ Refused by addressee “ by the post office in Parliament House’.
So I went down and I interviewed the officer in charge of the post office here. I said to him: What is this all about? This is incredible. Surely no Minister would do this - and do it twice. Incredible’. He said: This is so’. I said: Perhaps the Minister’s staff has done this’. He said: ‘I can’t remember the actual circumstances but I am quite certain that we would not have just marked the letter like that - to be returned to the sender - without some indication that the Minister refused to receive it’. I have the actual letter in my hand.
– Not a registered letter?
– A registered letter to the Minister marked ‘Refused by addressee - R.T.S.’. I have not opened it. I am told that it includes the advice that 2 letters - not one - addressed to the Minister have been refused receipt. I am glad that the Minister is in the House because I propose to take the opportunity to deliver the letter to him personally now; and I hope that he will not refuse to receive it. The whole matter is utterly and completely incredible to me; but here is the actual evidence, with the endorsement of the postal clerk in the Parliament House post office. I have been to that post office and been told by the staff that they would not have done this simply because the Minister’s staff had told them that the Minister was not available. As I have said, I regard this whole matter as utterly and completely incredible. But here is the perfect proof of it in my hand, endorsed by the post office just below King’s Hall Refused by addressee. Return to sender’, and with the clerk’s initials - H.R. - marked on it. It was returned to the sender and the sender has put it in my hands so that it can be delivered to the Minister personally.
I do not want to argue the rights and wrongs of this case or what the Minister could do about it. I believe that much more should be done to see that the technical qualifications acquired abroad by people who have migrated to Australia are recognised here. I am told that the Minister endorses this view. I am astonished at the fact that this occurs because of some kind of attitude - I could almost say arrogance - and that the Minister refuses to receive a registered letter. I am told that in his electorate the Minister is believed to be quite a phony person; that he says all kinds of things; that he makes all kinds of promises; and that he holds himself out to be a humane man. Yet, here in my hand is this letter - I will deliver it to the Minister tonight - addressed: The Minister for Immigration, Mr Grassby, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600’. It was endorsed by the Post Office at Parliament House ‘Refused by addressee; return to sender’, I have been told - and I do not know what is inside the letter - that this has occurred not once but twice. We talk about beggars on horseback and things like that, but it seems to me that the Labor Ministry has got altogether above itself. When I was a Minister I certainly never refused to accept a registered letter addressed to me by any constituent, or indeed, by any member of the public. A Minister has a responsibility to every Australian, not just to his constituents. I see that my time has almost expired. I take the opportunity now of going down and personally delivering to the Minister the letter that he refused to accept.
– I have formally received the letter.
-The honourable member’s time has not yet expired.
– No, but I do not think it is necessary to add anything further. I will resume my seat.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Briefly, I am grateful to the Wentworth post. I will, of course, give the letter the attention it deserves. May I give the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) a little advice on registered letters. If a registered letter for me arrives at the Parliament House Post Office and I am not here personally to sign for it, it is not banded over; it is returned in my absence. At no time have I ever refused to receive any letter; in fact, this year I have received about 25,000 of them. I am sorry that the honourable member has been the odd letter out.
– What about your staff?
– It cannot be handed over to them. If it is addressed to someone personally, that person must sign for it. If I am absent, the Post Office as I understand it-
– What about your staff?
– The honourable member for Wimmera should come out of the bush for a moment and listen to me. I listened to him singing his anthem today. It is not a good system to write a registered letter if one wants it specially or quickly delivered because if the recipient is absent it is returned. At no time - and I think that the honourable member knows this - would I refuse to receive a letter. As I say, the honourable member for Mackellar is the odd letter out in 25,000 letters. I am delighted that he has delivered the letter to me personally, thus giving me an opportunity to clear up this matter. The other point I make is that the honourable member is quite right regarding recognition of overseas qualifications. After 25 years of a massive immigration scheme we still have not sorted out what ought to be done properly to recognise overseas professional qualifications. The Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications, which was set up by my predecessor, is making progress, but that progress is dependent on the States and the professional bodies within them. I ask the honourable member to use his influence with those States and with any professional body with which he may be connected to help speed the process of national accreditation. It should have been done. It is a national scandal that it has not been done. I am glad that the honourable member has raised this matter. He will receive a reply this evening.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)- On a point of misrepresentation, Mr Speaker-
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-I ask the honourable member to keep to the point on which he has been misrepresented.
– Quite, Sir, The Minister has forgotten that I inquired of the postal authorities in Parliament House and they assured me that it was not just the fact that the Minister was absent. I have no personal knowledge of this; I can pass on only what the postal authorities in Parliament House have told me.
– I participate in this debate this evening, and I am rather disappointed that I have to defend a company, that is active in my area, from the disparaging remarks of and the scurrulous attack by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) during question time this morning. The Prime Miinster under parliamentary privileges saw fit to attack Toowoomba Foundry Pty Ltd and the Premier of Queensland. On behalf of that company and the Premier I will not accept his arrogance. I share the opinion of many people in Australia that this man has no conscience whatsoever in matters of personal integrity. The Prime Minister said that the Toowoomba Foundry had exploited primary producers for decades and that the company had been shielded by the Premier. I take the opportunity to pay a tribute to the Toowoomba Foundry which since 1872 has made employment available to the residents of Toowoomba and the surrounding districts. It has operated on a continuing basis. It now employs 1,100 people. In fact the economy of Toowoomba - and of Queensland as my colleague the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) reminds me - depends to a large extent on this magnificent family partner ship.
The Prime Minister proved that he is an actor. He implied that he would be happier if 1,100 people in Toowoomba had no jobs. He does not want the foundry to operate. He does not want decentralisation. I hope that at the next election the people of Toowoomba remember that the Prime Minister endeavoured to close the foundry. I compare his attitude to that of my colleague, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), who, prior to the last election, saw fit to carry out an inspection of the Toowoomba foundry. He spoke to the employees and congratulated them on their work. He congratulated the management of the company on the combination of free enterprise and labour. The Prime Minister places no significance whatsoever on the families of these workers. He would rather see them have no employment. Today I received a telegram signed by one of the Board members of Toowoomba Foundry Pty Ltd. It states:
The directors of the Toowoomba Foundry Company of whom the majority are non-shareholders and joined the Foundry as boys strongly deny and resent any allegations made by the Prime Minister that the Toowoomba Foundry Company has exploited anyone by supplying their customers with goods at prices they have paid of their own free will in free competition.
The company supplies, in addition to farming and pastoral needs such as engines, pumping and irrigation equipment, casting for automotive industries supplied under contract through open competition. The foundry has never exploited the primary producer. Families for generations have dealt with the foundry on account of the known quality of its products and the economics of its price. This is a highly competitive field.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it proper for the honourable member to use the debate on the adjournment of the House for trade promotion for a company with which he has obviously been every closely associated.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The people continue to buy the products of the Foundry because they know they will get a fair deal with the customer always being right. The service is excellent. My family for 3 generations has bought products from the Toowoomba Foundry. I submit I would know a little bit more about the quality of its products than the Prime Minister in his ivory towers in Canberra, Sydney, and the other residences which he has. He would not know. As the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) reminds me, the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison) who is at the table, would not have a clue either. As far as primary producers are concerned many self-employed people scattered all over the farming areas of Australia served their apprenticeship at the foundry. This is a magnificent contribution by a magnificent company and a magnificent family to the economy of many rural areas. Incidentally, the tradesmen trained at the Foundry have reached a very high standard of tradesmanship and efficiency. Many firms have held the distribution agency for Southern Cross products since the last century. This reinforces the argument that the Foundry does not and will not exploit its customers.
The Australian Country Party completely dissociates itself from the remarks of the Prime Minister. The Country Party criticises the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues for their decisions on currency realignment policies which made it hard for export companies like the Toowoomba Foundry to compete in the markets of South-East Asia and America. We are concerned that the Prime Minister made these accusations under parliamentary privilege. This is disgusting behaviour. He should be asked by this House to send a public apology to the company for his character assassination and mischievous behaviour. It ill behoves him to make such sweeping statements which seek to deny workers the opportunity of employment. The Prime Minister simply does not care about the disruption of families and workers which could be caused if the Toowoomba Foundry were forced to close through pressure exerted by a centralist government in Canberra. It is no wonder that the gallup polls in Queensland show that this Labor Government is an utter disaster for the Commonwealth of Australia. The Toowoomba Foundry has made its way by the quality of its products, its concern for its employees, its competitive pricing and its dedication to service. I know, Mr Speaker, that as a man of outstanding integrity and character you would be interested to know that the Toowoomba Foundry maintains in Toowoomba for the exclusive use of its employees 19 acres of oval with a clubhouse, and the oval is equal to the very best in Queensland. The company has 12 acres of buildings and makes a magnificient contribution to the social, economic and business life of that very important city.
My final comment is to make a brief defence of the Premier of Queensland. The Prime Minister saw fit to include him in his reference to the Toowoomba Foundry by saying that he was aiding and abetting that company in exploiting the people. We do not accept that it is exploiting the people. In a positive effort to encourage decentralisation and to do something about halting the drift of rural people to the overcrowded areas of Sydney with the consequent problems of sewerage, hospitals, education, green bans and so on, the Premier of Queensland has seen fit to give freight subsidies on steel products from the seaboard to inland areas. He has seen fit to encourage the youth of this country to carry out apprenticeships with this family company to learn a trade. If this is the type of exploiting that the Premier of Queensland is encouraging in conjunction with such companies as the Toowoomba Foundry, Napiers and other companies in my electorate, it is the type of exploitation that I stand for - exploitation that is honest and just and encourages decentralisation.
That is what we stand for - a positive way of helping these people contribute in a very sensible way to the well-being of their respective areas. We are disturbed that the Prime Minister in a moment of peevish behaviour, because he was upset at a truthful advertisement that appeared in certain newspapers in Queensland, pointing out the fact of life that there is no necessity whatever to have control over prices and incomes in order to control inflation, and because he was upset that private enterprise in the premier State of Australia - as was admitted by the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) or whatever is his portfolio now; he seems to get the sack every second day-
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– After listening to the rantings of the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) I wonder whether he is so naive as really to believe some of the propositions and statements that he put before this House this evening. He has tried to wave aside casually a political advertisement that apparently was inserted in the Courier Mail’ by Toowoomba Foundry Pty Ltd. It was an advertisement loaded with inaccuracies and it was insulting to the best Prime Minister that this nation has ever known. It deserves nothing but contempt.
Opposition members - Ha, Ha!
– Honourable members opposite are so backward in their attitudes that they would not have come to realise and appreciate the wonderful work that has been done on behalf of this nation since 2 December. The Toowoomba Foundry Pty Ltd, a manufacturing firm in Toowoomba, has sought to enter the political arena and to attack the great Prime Minister of this country innuendo and suggestion. I do not wish to speak for the Leader of the Liberal Party and if the Liberals want to accept the insults which are being levelled by this firm at their leaders, it is their business. The very first passage in this advertisement about which the honourable member for Darling Downs is apparently so happy states: ‘Would you trust either of these or any other politician to control your private life, to control your freedom, to decide what you want to do, or to be, or to be paid?’ There is a photograph of our Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the leader of the Liberal Party (Mr Snedden) on opposing sides of the advertisement. When a firm indulges in this sort of gutter type advertising it deserves, the contempt of this parliament and the people of Australia. There was never any suggestion by the Prime Minister of this country that the Government would want to control the freedom of people or to make decisions about what people want to do or be. Therefore that particular passage is completely incorrect.
However, the advertisement goes further. One could imagine that it warns the people of Toowoomba and perhaps of Queensland when it claims that history has shown that price fixing produces shortages and black markets. I wonder if Toowoomba Foundry is indicating to the people of Queensland and the people of Australia that after the referenda are held next Saturday, and the control of prices and incomes is granted to the Federal Government, it intends to enter the black market arena and to do things which would bring about shortages in the nation? I wonder if this particular advertisement has any connection with another advertisement which appeared in the same newspaper on the same day and which was inserted by a bogus organisation calling itself SOS’, which I believe is an organisation based in the League of Rights which is spreading throughout Queensland and about which I will say something in a moment. As a
Queenslander I am deeply concerned about advertising of that type which contains incorrect assertions and levels incorrect charges.
I am deeply concerned about recent developments in my State, particularly in regard to the attitude of the Country-Liberal Party Government to the prices and incomes referenda. Only recently many Queenslanders were dismayed at the ruthlessness with which the Bjelke-Petersen Government - apparently the honourable member for Darling Downs thinks that great democratic government in Queensland is a wonderful government - bludgeoned through the State Assembly a resolution opposing the conferral of powers sought by this Federal Government under section 128 of the Constitution. The Queensland Government pushed that resolution through on the grounds that it would be inimical to the welfare of the citizens of Queensland. The resolution authorised the State Government to take action to defeat the proposals which are being submitted to the referenda. In speaking to the motion Mr Bjelke-Petersen said that it was a matter of great concern and interest in Queensland. He said that the people had a choice of free enterprise, an example of which was the past Liberal-Country Party administration or of centralised control from Canberra, the ultimate elimination of the States and the setting up of a republican Australia patterned on the communist way of life. I say that for a man who is supposed to be a responsible premier in the State of Queensland-
– He is.
– That interjection only indicates the backward thinking of people who agree with such statements. That statement by the Queensland Premier indicates that he will stoop to anything to try to make political gain for the minority party which he leads in Queensland. I point out that from the time this Federal Labor Government was democratically elected by the people of Australia, the backward Premier of Queensland has done nothing but attack it and make statements saying that he would not support any measures which come from this Government. He is a great democrat. His attitude is of the type apparently that Country Party members of the Opposition support.
His attitude to the price referendum, to which I have just referred, is rather curious. While we are told that this type of control is dangerous, in Queensland recently when petrol resellers and bread manufacturers intended to increase the price of their commodities the Bjelke-Petersen Government said it would introduce price control if those prices were increased. On one hand the Premier says that we should not have controls and apparently he supports the attitude of the type of individuals who insert the advertisements to which I have referred. On the other hand he issued the threat that he would introduce price controls against these people. It is rather amusing that the great democrats in the Government in Queensland stated - according to the ‘Courier Mail’ of 24 November - that they were angered because the announcement of proposed price increases was made prior to 8 December. Apparently they do not care two hoots if prices are increased after 8 December provided of course the referenda are not carried.
I wanted to say a lot about what is happening in Queensland, but let us examine the record of the Queensland Government because governments are best judged on their records of achievements and on their records of administration- The Queensland Government maligns the Federal Labor Government and decries every effort and endeavour it has made on behalf of the people of Australia. Queenslanders are waking up to their Government.
– Not many people vote for it.
– .That Country Party receives only about 20 per cent of the total vote. I am reminded of the old story of the country lad coming to town and the city slicker selling him the bridge or the town hall. The exact opposite has happened in Queensland. The smartie from the Kingaroy area has sold the Liberals down the drain and the Liberals are not smart enough to wake up to it. Since Bjelke-Petersen came to office in 1968 the per capita debt of the State has increased from $628.22 to $753.02 or by almost 20 per cent. This is in spite of the Commonwealth’s general revenue assistance increasing from $90.32 to $165.12 per head of population, or by 60.67 per cent. Semigovernment and local authority borrowings in Queensland are the highest in Australia. The per capita borrowings stand at $67.93 compared to $28.47 under the South Australian Labor administration. The total railway deficit will amount to $44.3m this year compared to only $21.6m in 1972-73.
Estimates for the Premier’s Department under Bjelke-Petersen have increased by 145.13 per cent to $5.54m over 5 years. Much of this is accounted for by his plane which cost $241,000 and which costs $35,000 a year to run. Further, he has the audacity to suggest that the Federal Government should cut back on its expenditure when his own State Government brought down a Budget which provided for an increase in expenditure of 22 per cent compared to the Federal Treasurer’s Budget which provided for an increase in expenditure of 19 per cent. While these innuendos and the acts which are endeavouring to malign our Government are continuing, Bjelke-Peterson and his backward Government in Queensland hope to pull the wool over the eyes of the people in Queensland.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is not often that one hears of a person coming from Queensland complaining about the finest State in Australia, the best governed State in Australia, a State which has a Government which has been returned constantly and a State in which the percentage of the Labor vote fell at the last election. Those facts alone would refute many of the arguments that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) put forward. Tonight I wish to support my colleague, the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), in his defence of a very successful company which has been operating for many years in the capital of the Darling Downs, the garden city of Queensland, Toowoomba. Toowoomba Foundry Pty Ltd has been a very successful company. Let me assure you, Mr Speaker, and let me advise those ignorant people who do not know that the volume of production of farming implements depends a good deal on the world markets and the prosperity of primary industry.
In my electorate of Maranoa, which honourable members opposite may have heard about, the biggest town is Dalby. The largest employer of labour there is a firm called Napier Brothers Ltd. It was on the verge of folding when Mr L. F. Diplock, the then State member for the area, took charge at a meeting which was held there when the company was thinking of winding up. That company would have folded. It was producing farming implements. It has just managed to keep going, by struggling along and by not paying dividends for a year of two. It earned an export award for Queensland. It has done a grand job. When Mr Diplock was Chairman of Directors of that company, he told me that if he were to consider the expansion of Napier Brothers and if he were to consider only the interests of the shareholders in that company, it would have to move to Brisbane. Because of his loyalty to the company and to the area in which it was founded, he said that he had no intention of doing that.
This attitude indicates the shallowness of the charge made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) against a company which is contributing as much as any company in the rural areas of Queensland or in the provincial cities of Queensland towards decentralisation. I refer to Toowoomba Foundry. We know the problems created by over crowded cities. Mr Speaker, as the member for Sydney, which you so ably represent, would be well aware of the great problem of pollution. The Government has tried very hard to distribute the population by setting up growth centres. The Government has adopted a pretty hopeless sort of approach to what is a good idea. Nevertheless, there- is a recognition by the Government - at least let me give it credit for that - of the need to have the population of Australia distributed more evenly. If one company in Queensland has contributed more than any other to decentralisation, surely it must be the Toowoomba Foundry. I support what my colleague, the honourable member for Darling Downs, has said about that company.
Let me turn for a moment to the work of the Premier of Queensland. He has been denigrated by Labor members throughout the Commonwealth, not the least of whom is the Prime Minister. We have heard threats that Queensland would not get its just desserts because of the courage and determination of the Premier of Queensland to put up a fight for the preservation of State rights in that State. Those of us who live there - surely the honourable member for Lilley should be one of them and the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), whom I heard attempting to make some interjection, should be another - ought to realise the need to preserve State rights. Mr Speaker, I know that you are the member for Sydney, and that is where you live. I appreciate that your electorate has the problems which apply to electorates in city areas. You do your best to serve the electorate in your capacity as member. But at the same time one of the great problems in Australia is the Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne axis. We should encourage the development of the States other than New South Wales and Victoria. I have no objection - as an Australian I welcome it - to the progress and development which is being made in those States, but we certainly need to have the States other than the 2 major States developed to their maximum capacity. There are companies which I believe are doing something towards achieving that end. I believe that the Prime Minister today reached a low level in his condemnation of companies which have had to battle against great difficulties to maintain viability to serve the community that they serve, and I condemn completely his attack on the Toowoomba Foundry.
I want to make one other point this evening about a very topical subject - the increased rate of crimes of violence. This matter is disturbing many people throughout the Commonwealth. I am pleased to see the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) in the chamber, as he represents the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy). I believe that there is a need for an Australia wide examination of this problem. There has been an increase in crimes of violence, as I know only too well. It is an unfortunate fact that it is only when these crimes get close, when you see them happening in your own area, that you begin to realise the great scourge coming over this country. - 1 am concerned about this matter because of the finding of a victim in my own area of Maranoa. A few days ago I received the following telegram from the VicePresident of the Queensland Country Party in that area:
In view of the increase in the incidents of murder and rape in this country and in particular the terrible crime committed at Collarenebri last Wednesday - this area beseaches you and the Federal Government to introduce penalties suitable for this type of crime and we remind you of the very unprotected position of women in isolated country areas.
– Why do you not try out your wonderful Government in Queensland? This has nothing to do with the Federal Government.
– The Minister says that it has nothing to do with the Federal Government. If he does not know that the Federal Government controls the Australian Capital Territory it is nearly time that he did. Again if he does not know that the Federal Govern ment can give a lead to the Ministers of Justice throughout Australia in an effort at coordination - the Government is always talking about that - and if he does not know that some responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Ministry in this Federal Parliament to try to do something about that which is concerning so many people throughout the Commonwealth, it is nearly time that he did. The Minister has made an admission, when I think it would have been very wise for him to have kept silent and not interjected. I believe there is no harm at all in this Federal Government’s giving a lead in something that will protect the citizens of this country. I expected better from a Minister of this Government.
I believe there is a need for some action and I appeal to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, if the Minister for Science has no sympathy for this matter, to consider the possibility of having some discussion with the Attorney-General with the object of seeing whether it is possible to have some consultation between the Ministers of Justice in the States. They could examine, as the Queensland Government is going to examine, the penalties for crimes of violence and have a look at the possibility of deterrents, because it is in that area that the greatest service can be rendered to the Australian people. It is not just because a vicious crime was committed in the northern part of New South Wales, the State represented in part by the Minister for Science, and the body of the victim was found in southern Queensland. I believe that it is necessary that we look at this matter from the national point of view.
I believe that every government in Australia should have concern about trying to provide some sort of deterrent, if possible. I know it is not an easy matter, but it does not excuse us for not taking some action. I hope that the Federal Government itself takes part in discussions on this matter. I refer briefly to the State of Queensland, the State which has been castigated this evening. The Queensland Government is appointing 5 Government members to report and recommend on the growing incidence of violent crime and pack rape. Contrary to the attitude taken by the Minister for Science, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) yesterday criticised the Government for not utilising the abilities of Opposition members through the use of all party committees of inquiry. This is a very different attitude from that taken by the Minister for Science tonight.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I sympathise with the honourable member for Maranoa, and I think that all members of this House would express sympathy for the victims of a recent rape and violent attack culminating in the death of a number of people near the New South Wales-Queensland border, in the honourable member’s electorate.
-Order! It being 11 o’clock, the House stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 11 a.m. or such later time as Mr Speaker takes the Chair.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
School Statistics (Question No. 998)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In a letter dated 10 October 1973, the Minister for Education responded to the request for statistics which the honourable member made in his letter of 9 August 1973.
Design Congress in Japan: Attendance by Australian Designers (Question No. 1031)
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
The average subsidy paid to designers was $400 per head and the subsidy paid to students was $750 per head with the exception that two students chose to intend sharing $750 and the Western Australian students received an additional $400 between them to assist in meeting fares from Perth to Melbourne.
The qualifications of the designers (as known to the Industrial Design Council of Australia) is attached.
Australian Capital Territory
Mr P. R. Chaplin ; Lecturer, Industrial Design, Torrens College of Advanced Education.
Mr Bob Francis ; Graphic Design Lecturer.
Mr A. Place Lecturer, Arts and Ceramics, Caulfield Institute of Technology.
New South Wales
Mr David Beale ; Industrial Designer.
Mr Geoffrey Atherden Architect.
Mr Barry Loftus - Lecturer, Department of Industrial Arts, University of New South Wales.
Mr Carl Nielsen, FIDIA Consultant Designer.
asked the Minister for Secondary Industry, upon notice:
Will he provide a list of the interdepartmental committees which have been established since 2 December 1972, of which officers of his Department are members.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. On 20 September 1973 my colleague, the Prime Minister, informed the right honourable gentleman in reply to a Question Without Notice about interdepartmental committees that, if he wished to know the composition and function of any particular Interdepartmental Committee, and for what period of time it had been active, the Prime Minister would be happy to provide him with that information (Hansard, page 1317).
I also refer the right honourable gentleman to the Prime Minister’s answer to his further Question Without Notice on this subject on 15 November 1973 (Hansard, pages 3373-4).
If the right honourable gentleman wishes to have information about a particular committee on which my Department is represented, I will assist him as far as possible having regard to the Prime Minister’s answers to Question Nos 964 and 1057 (Hansard 27 September 1973, page 1714 and 24 October 1973. page 2665).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
What are the circumstances under which educational film libraries may be obliged to pay duty or other charges on films imported for previewing purposes.
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
There is provision in Customs legislation to permit educational film libraries to preview any film free of duty and other charges prior to it being entered for home consumption.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
What steps have been taken to enable the migration programme to contribute to policies of regional development as indicated on page 38 of the statement on Immigration presented to the House of Representatives.
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
I have allocated a high priority to the role of immigration in regional development
At the Conference of Federal and State Ministers for Immigration on 9 November, general agreement was reached on the need to meet the special labour requirements of development areas.
The Department of Immigration has set up the necessary administrative machinery to obtain detailed information from Federal and State planning authorities and to develop proposals for future migrant programs in the regions. To this end, preliminary discussions have been held with Federal and State planning authorities.
Migration officers, before proceeding overseas, are thoroughly briefed on the requirements of regional development projects.
Western Australia: Tourist Development Authority: Maritime Museum (Question No. 1176) Mr Bennett asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
In view of the fact that the Council for Aboriginal Affairs was established by the late Prime Minister Holt to advise him on Aboriginal opinion, is it proposed to abolish this Council upon the first meeting of the National Advisory Council which is now being elected.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Council for Aboriginal Affairs was not, as stated in the Question, established to advise on Aboriginal opinion. Its functions were outlined by the late Mr Holt in his statement to the House of Representatives on 2 November 1967.
At the request of successive Ministers and of the former Office of Aboriginal Affairs the Council assisted in the process of consultation. However, with the establishment of the interim National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, the Council has largely withdrawn from the field of consultations.
asked the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is also an undeveloped area on Camp Hill where people at Parliament House park. It is not proposed to turn this area into a car park and there are no plans to provide lighting there.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question: <l) Yes.
Western Australian Industrial Commission: Preference Clauses in Awards (Question No. 1318) Mr Bennett asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
In establishing a departmental committee to review and screen all applications for loans, advances and grants for Aboriginal enterprises, did the Government include officials from the Department of Treasury and the Auditor-General’s Office to help the committee in its task; if not, why not.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
There are two committees established to screen applications for financial assistance to Aboriginals and Aboriginal communities. The first was established by the honourable W. C. Wentworth as MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs in 1969. It provides the Minister with advice on applications for assistance from the Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises. The Advisory Committee consists of Dr H. C. Coombs (committee chairman), Mr R. S. Elliott (General Manager, Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia) and Mr J. H. Garrett (Deputy Secretary, Department of Treasury). The establishment of the second committee, the Grants Review Committee was announced by me on 7 November 1973. It provides me with advice on disbursement of grants for Aboriginal community purposes from the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account. It is an internal departmental committee and, as such, it would not be appropriate for Treasury to be represented on it. As the function of the Auditor-General’s Office in this instance is one of review and examination of expenditure, it would not be appropriate for that office to be represented on either of the above committees.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What overtime and allowances have been paid since appointment to (a) Dr Peter Wilenski, (b) Mr M. Delaney, (c) Mr Graham Freudenberg, (d) Mr J. Spigelman, <e) Miss Elizabeth Reid, (f) Mr Evan
Williams, <g) Mr Eric Walsh, (h) Mr David White, (i) Miss Carolyn Summerhayes and (j) the 12 other members of his staff,
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Honourable members will be aware that Questions No. 138S and 1412 are similar in that they seek information about allowances paid to my staff and the staff of the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition respectively. I have, as a consequence, decided to amalgamate in one answer, the information sought by the honourable gentleman. In addition, to ensure that there is real comparability, as between the sums paid to the persons named in the two questions, I have indicated dates of appointment and, where it is payable, recipients of overtime. Given the honourable member for Gippsland’s interest in these matters, I have decided also to provide information about the overtime and allowances paid to the staff of the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Country Party in this House. The following tables set out the information.
Those persons whose names are marked with an asterisk are paid for overtime at an hourly rate. In the case of Ms Summerhayes and Mrs Dwyer the amount paid includes payments at an hourly rate prior to 28 June 1973.
asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In this case, after commencing work, the firm sought a price increase because of a rise in staff wages. In accordance with normal contracting practice the increase was refused.
On 17 September 1973 Mr Stephens formally requested cancellation of the contract. He proposed partial completion of the items required.
Staff of Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition: Overtime and Allowances (Question No. 1412)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What overtime and allowances have been paid since 2 December 1972 to (a) the following members of the staff of the Leader of the Opposition: (i) Dr J. Best, (ii) Mr J. Knight, (iii) Mr W. R. Sheppard, (iv) Mr J. Fraser, (v) Miss J. Thompson, (vi) Mr J. Goodfellow, (vii) Miss A. Fox and (viii) all other members of his staff and (b) the following members of the staff of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition: (i) Mr A. O. Hay, (ii) Miss B. M. Anderson, (iii) Mr K. Randall and (iv) all other members of his staff.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
See answer to Question 1385.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
While these offices have been listed for examination, firm decisions have not yet been made except for Cressy and Derrinallum which will be converted. The offices at Broadford, Elmore, Heathcote, Maldon, and Romsey are in the Bendigo Electorate. I have arranged for the honourable member to be advised before a change is made at any of these post offices.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I noticed that the honourable member in his question referred to the annual collection of $2m in Customs duties in that State, whereas the Professor apparently suggested a figure of $27m.
Customs duties would not be paid if all imports were admitted duty free. However, protective import duties are imposed to protect Australian industries irrespective of their location. These and other duties provide a necessary source of revenue.
If import duties were abolished, the necessary revenue would- need to be raised by some other means.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 December 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19731206_reps_28_hor87/>.