Monday, 17 September 2007
Health Insurance Amendment (Medicare Dental Services) Bill 2007
I am pleased to hear it. I hope the next one who stands up to speak will tell us how they are going to deliver their policies. When it comes to the blame game, Paul Keating—who, as I said, might one day become one of their icons—said that whenever you have to give money to state governments make it specific. I plead guilty that our choice was to do otherwise. We took the political pain for the GST and gave it all, without conditions, to state governments. As I have said, in Western Australia there are 18,000 new public servants, but nearly all of them are in jobs where they are told, ‘Don’t come tomorrow.’ I will tell you what: they are going to stop that.
I was reading the BRW as I travelled back to Canberra and I found it interesting to see that Australian mining companies have now invested $18 billion in Africa. And I might add that the interest being shown to the mining sector by South Australia, to its credit—and there is no-one here to take that credit—now exceeds that being shown by Western Australia, the great mining resource state, because that state government has gone into lockdown. It cannot approve anything and it worries about everything. The Chinese communist president had to go there the other day to tell it to get its bureaucracy into gear. Fancy an Australian state government having to take advice on bureaucratic management from a communist. We like the Chinese and the man is only demonstrating that modern communism can have a business orientation. But it is pretty rough when one of our nation’s state governments has to be given a touch-up by the president of the communist Chinese about providing the Chinese with the opportunity to buy things off us—because that is all they want to know: ‘Can we buy from you?’ Of course, nothing is happening in Western Australia under that state government.
What are we talking about today when we talk about the blame game? A responsibility of state governments, under our Constitution, is to deliver dental services, but how can they if they have no programs to assist people to access such services? Past governments, Labor and Liberal, from my recollection, just to quote a case, used to employ forestry cadets—and I am sure that the member for Lyons would think that is a good idea, considering his constituency—but no more does that happen. However, when you get down to it, if state governments need workers, such as qualified medical practitioners in their hospitals, what are they doing about it?
I have to say that I am just as highly critical of industry. They thought the taxpayer would pay up. In these green chambers, you can make any promise that you would like to make, but each and every one of them is a burden on the taxpayers—and, of course, the massive union generated growth in wages has only benefited the tax office. When I was a youth, my father paid very little tax. He earned £6 a week, raised four kids and owned his own home. What have we achieved in this country since then? Anyone now in his job has to earn $1,000 a week and that is only half of what they need to keep their family—and those opposite will stand up and say, ‘We want more of that.’
But what are the government doing? They are showing compassion. Paul Keating showed some compassion. He thought he could put up some money for four years to let the states catch up. We thought we could put money to local government for local roads to let the states catch up, but the minute we provided the money they cut back on their contribution to local roads. This legislation is quite simple. What does it do according to the explanatory memorandum? The explanatory memorandum says:
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Health Insurance Act 1973 ... in order to increase access to dental treatment under Medicare for people with chronic conditions and complex care needs.
These people do not just need a filling. Maybe they should have that before they go to Bali. Maybe they should, because they are struggling families that are forced to earn 100 to 150 grand a year to survive, still notwithstanding the significant reductions we have delivered and the attack of the opposition on people in those wage brackets as some sort of wealthy elite. Everything I hear from the opposition on Work Choices is all about the McDonald’s economy. If you are working at Spotlight or McDonald’s that is the area of their care. But there are a lot of people with similar qualifications earning 150 grand a year in Western Australia working on mines—and we want to go back to the situation where those people are going to be dictated to by trade unionists so that we can lock up our customers from getting product for five and six weeks! I have seen it all. They say, ‘We’d better invest in Africa; we’d better invest in Brazil because you can’t trust Australia.’ Are we going back to that? Is that what we are voting about?
It struck me the other day that people better start giving more value to their vote, if the polls are correct, than selecting a babysitter. You would be very careful about who you selected to look after your kids, yet people seem to think they can offer the management of their country to a mob of people whom I referred to the other day as including an inexperienced public servant, an ambulance chaser and a rock singer.
This is good legislation and it is worth while, and it is going to help people in chronic need. It is not taking over responsibility of state governments. (Time expired)