Monday, 17 September 2007
Health Insurance Amendment (Medicare Dental Services) Bill 2007
Thank you for your protection from the chatterbox. The fact of life is that all of these things were implemented because there was no money left. The Australian people and parliament had a debt of $16 billion in 1991. By 1996 it was $96 billion—it went up $80 billion. There was no hope of the Australian government under Mr Howard re-establishing a program that the Labor government of the day implemented for only four years. It was a catch-up program. The Labor Party did not want the responsibility. They will make Paul Keating a hero one day; they did it with Gough Whitlam—he was the last Prime Minister to be elected on an ‘It’s time’ platform. It only took Australia about 30 years to get over his first 28 days of government. Anyway, there is no blame.
Because of the chatting of the minister, I lost my thought for a minute. The facts of life are that, in response to the growth in the bulk-billing sector, the Hawke government reduced the intake to universities by 4,000. As everyone knows, 10 years is the minimum time for a GP to hang out their shingle independently. And you wonder why there has been a shortage thereafter. It is a matter of record how many new places have been opened up. But what are the state governments doing about trying to encourage people to enter the dental profession? It is fairly highly rewarded. They are doing nothing. And what do they say to the nurses and doctors whom they employ? ‘Take a two per cent wage increase.’ Half of those doctors and dentists that have been fully employed by Labor state governments would be better off going up to the Pilbara and driving trucks.
We are told that if we elect Labor all the workers at McDonald’s are going to get a pay increase. But what are they going to do for the dentists? What are they going to do for the nurses? There is a good reason why there is a high proportion of unionism in the public sector. They are primarily workers employed by state governments, and they think that they need a union to protect them. Those who choose a private sector employer have long had the opinion that they do not need a union. When we talk about union heavies—and they will populate this place in ever-increasing numbers after the election, whatever the outcome—we find out that the last two presidents of the ACTU, the incumbent and the other one who has already secured a position here, were school teachers. Where are the miners? Where are all those people who used to think that it was necessary to be protected by a union?
The whole presentation of the member for Gellibrand was about the blame game. Their colleagues in state governments, who—by their own decision 100 years ago—are obliged to provide dental services to the community, do not want to provide such services. They so grossly underpay their nurses, their incumbent doctors, their in-house doctors and their dentists that no-one wants to work for them. Then they tell the poor old Australian taxpayer: ‘Well, you stump up for it. We’ve got all the money from the GST out of you and it’s not enough.’
Since the advent of what I call the McGinty-McTiernan government, 18,000 public servants have been employed in Western Australia. A couple of former leaders of the Labor Party who were just frontmen found that they were dispensable. Change them over and you have a revolving-door process of state Labor government leaders. They build up their superannuation to a point where it cannot be improved and they get feelings of disability. Premier Gallop got worried about himself, for which he had good reason: about five or six of his ministers were going to get the chop after there had been accusations of corruption. They were all in the Burke faction. But the fact is that these people have a fundamental responsibility. It is not a blame game.
Let me say something about private industry. As a youth, I had the opportunity to apply for a cadetship with the scientific section of CSR. At that time this was a common practice, as there were no free universities and no HECS. You got a Commonwealth scholarship; otherwise, your parents had to put you through university. Industry stood up, as did state governments—in particular in forestry, as I recollect—and it provided cadetships. Cadetships meant that young people could go to university on a small wage, which was provided by their employer, and be trained. The employer paid the universities fees, whether they were government or private sector, but during the so-called holidays you went back to work for your employer. It was a wonderful scheme.
Then everybody got lazy when Whitlam said, ‘We’ll have free university training.’ You do not get free apprenticeship training; you get a wage that is usually inadequate—and, of course, you pay for your TAFE fees. That is how the working class is treated. We have seen argument after argument from the frontbench of the Labor Party that the elite, the people who go to university, need special treatment. But where is a state government dentistry cadetship? I hope the next speaker on behalf of the Labor Party, if they have one, will explain to us where they are.